It’s a mark of our consumer economy that we use the word save in connection with our spending.
I saved $15 on this blouse.
That’s well and good for today. You bought something you wanted, or maybe even needed.
But unless you put the savings aside for later, you did nothing more than spend somewhat less today, without thought for tomorrow.
Your savings on today’s purchases won’t be available to buy necessities in your old age. The money you “saved” is gone, spent today on something else.
Our language doesn’t help
We are aided and abetted in our savings mind-game by English usage. Saving is a virtue we applaud.
But “save” has two, almost opposite, meanings.
According to Merriam Webster, save means both
a: to put aside as a store or reserve : accumulate
- saving money for emergencies
b : to spend less by
- save 25 percent
Don’t confuse the two.
The more meaningful savings are when money gets set aside for use later,
-to pay for an emergency
-to fund a big purchase
We suck at savings
Actually, lots of us are good at “saving” in the Definition B sense. We comparison shop, we follow the sales, we use coupons and garner reward points.
It’s the savings as creating a reserve that we flunk. Too many Americans couldn’t handle a $400 emergency. Half of Americans have less than $1000 in savings. Half of Americans have no retirement savings.
What will we tell ourselves in our old age about our prowess at saving? Will we have a slick word-game that puts food on the table or gas in the car?
How about making Definition A our go-to plan for savings.