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Good Housekeeping
Charlene J. Owen, Contributor
January 30, 2013

Your Spending Habits as an Adult are Affected by Your Childhood Experiences

Are you thrifty or lavish? A recent study shows that how you handle your current monetary affairs can be traced to your childhood. By Charlene J. Owen

Ever wondered about the factors that affect your spending habits? According to a study on, your current income and expenses aren't the only factors that dictate how you keep or let go of your cash. It actually goes farther back than that--specifically, back to your childhood.

Vladas Griskevicius and his colleagues from the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management based the premise of their research on the “life history theory,” which suggests that events in an organism’s life are guided by its need to produce the largest possible number of surviving offspring and is dependent on its environment. They hypothesized that how a person uses money during dire times is affected by their lifestyles during their younger years.

In two experiments, volunteers were asked to complete tasks related to risk-taking with the premise of experiencing economic recession. Those who grew up in low-income homes tended to be more impulsive; they gravitated quicker toward luxury goods, and were loose with money whenever they had a lot of it. On the other hand, those who grew up in financially stable homes were more cautious; they gravitated less toward luxury goods and believed in delayed gratification.

It’s good to remember that neither strategy is good nor bad when done with appropriate timing and with conscious regard to possible consequences. As Griskevicius concludes, "Lots of research assumes that delay of gratification is always a good thing, but the current research suggests that it's sometimes smart to be impulsive… and maximize present resources and opportunities."

(Photo by Zürich Tourismus via Flickr Creative Commons)

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