A recent post by Frugal Scholar about dipping into her emergency fund got me thinking about hoarding.
One of my GFs said that her mother hoards bras. "She must have nearly two dozen new bras in her drawer, why does she do that?", she asked.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder aside, we hoard mostly because of fear, and sometimes because of love. We are either terrified of running out, or so enamoured of the object that we think owning more will exponentially increase our pleasure.
Types of hoarding
1. The Stockpile
You can't bear to run out: a favourite discontinued lipstick you can only get on eBay, the perfect gel shoe insert, a brand of long-lasting candle.
Or the item is rare: you can only get it when you travel, or when lucky enough to find it, so you stock up. Example: Ayurvedic toothpaste sold in India for one-quarter the price charged here.
We also stockpile when we find a bargain, which frugal-livers remind us is wise only if we are certain to use the item.
2. The Stash
You don't need the item much, but you can't throw it out, so your hoard builds. The stuff is often free: perfume samples, toothbrushes from the dentist, advertising fridge magnets.
When not free, the stash is usually low-value: odd sheets of giftwrap, twist-ties, computer paper, Ziploc bags. My mother stowed enough note pads to last seven lifetimes.
3. The Obsession
This is where it gets interesting: hoarding driven by love, or at least lust. The hoard is sometimes called a collection. You must have more of it and there is never 'too much'.
For a decade, I was in love with cookie cutters and collected one of every shape I could find: bat, tulip, '50s abstract shapes, lips; you name it, I have it. Eventually, I quit. Sometimes you get over an obsession and purge, an ending as painful and liberating as a necessary breakup.
What do you hoard?
We can become very attached to our assets; this attachment may be unconscious. We might not realize how welded we are until we must dip into our savings.
Money can assume the quality of hoarding when we grant it an inviolate sanctity, refusing to spend, which depletes the hoard, or invest, which subjects it to risk.
When the rainy day comes, how do you feel about spending from savings?
Some feel anxiety or guilt when they spend even a few thousand out of a $50,000 fund. Like the pulling of one brick out of a wall, they imagine everything will tumble, their security in jeopardy. Few of us can dip into our slush fund without a twinge, but a hoarding mentality infuses the spending with deep angst.
I see savings as a resource, like the stock of pasta sauce in the freezer. I made it, I use it, and I'll make some more, some years more than others. While it provides some peace of mind, savings offer limited protection from life's most challenging difficulties. "If your problems can be solved by money", my Dad used to say, "they aren't problems."
The well-known words from a Bible verse (1 Timothy 6:10) is often misquoted as "Money is the root of all evil"; it is in fact, "For the love of money is the root of all evil."
Love of money engenders worry, greed, and a meanness of spirit. When someone loves money, behaviours include accumulation through continual denial, the use of money to manipulate and, saddest of all, the futile attempt to buy respect or affection. Loving money more than people is a sure path to estrangement from one's self and others.
Hoarding at 50+
The tendency to hoard can become more pronounced with age for two reasons. First, sticker shock hits. How often I exclaim to Le Duc, "Can you believe the price of that?" and he replies, "You sound just like your mother."
Sixteen dollars for an ordinary pair of tights! So when I see five for $7.50 each, better stock up.
Second, shopping exhausts me. Occasionally it's a good tired: "What fun; I'm beat, let's have a glass of wine", but often it's an "I can't believe I wasted a day doing this" stupor.
So when I find the right tee on sale, why not buy four, two for this summer and two for next? Then I don't have to go back. I'll just put them in the drawer with... oh look, the three I bought last summer.
My godfather, an astute and successful merchant, used to smile at this logic and say, "Let the store carry the cost of the inventory, and keep your money till you need to spend it."