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Section 17
Materialism & Money Spending Disposition

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This research explored the relationships between materialism and money spending attitudes on impulse buying tendencies, attitudes toward debt, sensation seeking, and openness to experience. Students and other adults (N = 266) completed a materialism scale, portions of two money conservation scales, an impulse buying scale, an attitudes toward debt scale, a sensation seeking scale, and an openness to experience scale. Simultaneous-entry multiple regression analyses revealed that materialism and money conservation were predictive of impulse buying, sensation seeking, and openness to experience. Two marginally significant interactions emerged. Individuals less materialistic and tight with money had particularly negative attitudes toward debt, and individuals less materialistic and loose with money were particularly open to experience. Results are discussed with respect to how materialism may be related to a variety of individual difference variables, both at the main effect level and in interaction with money spending attitudes.

Tatzel (2002) proposed a taxonomy of "money worlds" in which she integrated the notions of materialism and money spending disposition. In her taxonomy, she cogently articulated how money spending penchants may combine with materialism to predict a number of other phenomena. The purpose of the current research is to empirically test some of the predictions she made.

Materialism is "… a value representing the individual's orientation toward the role of possessions in life, serving to guide the types and quantities of goods purchased" (Mick, 1996, p. 108). To a great extent, research on materialism has tended to focus on materialism as a main effect. However, at least two studies have examined interactive effects of materialism. Burroughs and Rindfleisch (2002) examined how ownership of material objects and its negative relationship with well-being is a function of other important life values. Also, LaBarbera and Gürhan (1997) found that people high in materialism with lower incomes had lower levels of well-being than people high in materialism with higher incomes. Materialism at the main effect level has been a topic of a comprehensive study of how materialism is related to spending tendencies, saving, and debt. Watson (2003) found that materialistic people tended to be more likely to spend money, more likely to express positive attitudes toward borrowing money for luxury purchases, and less likely to own vehicles of savings (e.g., mutual funds) than were less materialistic people. The paucity of research on the interactions between materialism and other phenomena warrants further research.

To better understand the different meanings that money holds for people, empirical research has focused primarily on the development of scales to assess such differences (e.g., Furnham, 1984; Tang, 1992; Yamauchi & Templer, 1982). These undertakings have each demonstrated that the meanings people ascribe to money are indeed diverse. For instance, in a factor analysis, Furnham (1984) found six distinct factors of money beliefs and behaviors, including obsession, power/spending, retention, security/conservatism, inadequacy, and effort/ability. In the current research, we were particularly interested in people's tendency to conserve (or not conserve) money, and how such a tendency may combine with materialistic values to predict economic attitudes (i.e., attitudes toward debt and impulse buying) and personality traits (i.e., sensation seeking and openness to experience).

Money Attitudes, Materialism, and Tatzel’s (2002) Taxonomy
Tatzel (2002) proposed a litany of outcomes based on individuals' materialistic orientation and money spending penchants. She outlined the characteristics of four possible combinations of these variables as seen in Table 1. With respect to people who are loose with money, Tatzel distinguished between big spenders and experiencers. Big spenders are highly materialistic people who enjoy spending money, often view higher prices as a quality signifier, and who enjoy owning nice possessions. In contrast, experiencers are less materialistic individuals who are willing to spend money on such things as travel or free dining, but do not seek to own expensive or lavish goods. Van Boven and Gilovich (2003) found distinct differences between purchases with the primary intention of acquiring life experience (e.g., a hiking trip) and purchases with the primary intention of acquiring material goods or objects kept in possession (e.g., a flat screen television). That is, some people may seek an outcome that is an experience (and therefore not tangible) and some people may seek an outcome that is a product (and therefore tangible). Other research (Holt, 1995) has predicted that those who are non-materialists have consumption styles conducive to experience and play. With respect to people who are tight with money, Tatzel (2002) distinguished between value seekers and non-spenders. Value seekers are highly materialistic people who dislike spending money, but enjoy owning nice possessions. Such individuals are often collectors, seeking a bargain to "show off." They are likely to save money so that they can buy products of high quality. In contrast, non-spenders are less materialistic, exhibiting anxiety toward spending money, and enjoyment in "watching" their money (Tatzel, p. 119). Such individuals are likely to be ascetic in their lifestyles and perceived by others as "misers" (Tatzel, p. 120). Whereas such individuals may have ample financial resources, they do not crave possessions, and prefer not to spend money.

Impulsive Buying and Attitudes Toward Debt
Impulse buying includes both a lack of planning or deliberation before purchasing a product and an emotional response accompanying the purchases. Instances of impulse buying often stem from buying products for 'non-rational' reasons, such as to relieve a depressed mood, to express identity, or just for fun (Verplanken & Herabadi, 2001). Such behaviors would seem to indicate looseness with one's money and materialistic tendencies (see Table 2 for a diagram of our predictions). Big spenders' low inhibition to spend money and highly materialistic orientation could lead to a buy-now-pay-later approach (Heslin, Johnson, & Blake, 1989), which would likely lead to a positive attitude toward debt.

In contrast, value seekers, with a "save-to-spend" mindset and a penchant to "bargain-hunt" (Tatzel, 2002) may demonstrate an aversion to debt and a tendency to shun impulse purchases. Likewise, nonspenders are also likely to be adverse to debt. They have no reason to borrow money to buy things and instead enjoy accumulating money, rather than spending it on possessions. Additionally, we speculate that non-spenders would seem unlikely to engage in impulse buying because doing so would mean not only parting unexpectedly with their money, but would also result in the accumulating of possessions that are not necessary to their existence.

Openness to Experience and Sensation Seeking
In the current research, we examined how money spending disposition and materialism might predict sensation seeking and openness to experience. Zuckerman (1979) defined sensation seeking as "the need for varied, novel and complex sensations and experiences, and the willingness to take physical and social risks for the sake of such experience" (p. 10). Openness to experience is a person's tendency to be curious, imaginative, and unconventional. Though they may tap into similar constructs, previous research (e.g., Zuckerman, Kuhlman, Joireman, Teta, & Kraft, 1993) has indicated that openness to experience and sensation seeking are not strongly correlated (r = .13).

Research has revealed a relationship between the constructs of sensation seeking and openness to experience with economic variables. For instance, Wong and Carducci (1991) found that high sensation seekers have greater financial risk-taking tendencies in everyday money matters, i.e., personal investments, household affairs, and gambling. Likewise, in an examination of farmers' business-related behaviors and personality traits, Austin, Deary, and Willock (2001) indicated that farmers who were more open to experience also displayed more production-oriented behaviors, i.e., behaviors that are indicative of a profitable business.

To sensation seek, e.g., by going surfing (Diehm & Armatas, 2004), or to enjoy new experiences, e.g., enjoying art and music (Rawlings, Vidal, & Furnham, 2000), would require one to be willing to spend money, but not on material possessions. Indeed, to "experience" a stimulus may mean one has to pay money for it, but cannot physically possess it. In the current investigation, we expect that experiencers, i.e., those loose with money but not materialistic, would be particularly high in sensation seeking and openness to experience.
- Troisi, Jordan, Christopher, Andrew & Pam Marek; Materialism and money spending disposition as predictors of economic and personality variable; North American Journal of Psychology; 2006; Vol. 8; Issue 3.
The article above contains foundational information. Articles below contain optional updates.

Personal Reflection Exercise #10
The preceding section contained information about materialism and money spending disposition. Write three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section in your practice.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 17
According to Meier, what is the difference between big spenders and experiencers? To select and enter your answer go to CEU Answer Booklet.

 

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The article above contains foundational information. Articles below contain optional updates.
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