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What Is the Difference Between Saving and Hoarding Money?

Hoarding money has no financial purpose but to simply obtain the most money possible.
Savings accounts can be established for a specific reason, such as a vacation or education.
Money hoarders may store money in containers throughout their house.
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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 24 August 2014
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Attention recently given to hoarding as an emotional disorder has raised the question of whether there is any significant difference between saving money and hoarding money. While the lines between the two situations may at times appear somewhat fine, there is one important distinction that revolves around the intent or reason for the accumulation of financial reserves. Depending on the reason for that accumulation, the activity may be considered responsible and productive, or be extremely detrimental to the well-being of the individual or family involved.

When saving money, there is normally a specific purpose or intent in mind. That purpose may be short-term or long-term in nature. For example, a family may set up a savings account as a means of saving funds for an upcoming vacation. Alternatively, a household may choose to consistently deposit funds into that account as a means of saving a down payment for a home, a new car, or some other goal. Saving for retirement is also considered a goal-oriented strategy that is productive and responsible.

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In contrast, hoarding money has no other purpose than to accumulate financial resources. There is no intended goal for the funds that are set aside, and no plans to make use of the money at some future point in time. People who engage in hoarding money will often forgo necessities in order to add a little more to their savings account, such as food or clothing. It is not unusual for a hoarder to forgo purchasing health or life insurance, even though these resources are likely to be beneficial at some time in the future.

Hoarding money involves an unhealthy obsession with the accumulation of financial reserves. Just as all types of hoarding illnesses prompt people to accumulate things they don’t really need, the activity of hoarding money is likely to trigger a short-term burst of good feelings. This is not unlike someone who hoards possessions when encountering a sale and making purchases that are at a deep discount. This emotional high is often followed by a period of depressed thoughts when the realization hits that the effort to save did not produce longer lasting satisfaction.

For people who suffer from any form of hoarding illness, it is important to identify the underlying causes for the activity. Once those causes are identified and the issues that led to the hoarding are resolved, the individual can begin to enjoy a higher quality of life once more. In the case of anyone who engages in hoarding money, this often means rethinking the way they view money and learning how to manage both saving and spending in a manner that is balanced, responsible, and does not motivate the individual to do without necessities or put aside money without establishing some type of eventual goal or use for that money.

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Discuss this Article

anon356369
Post 9

I don't think health insurance is worth it. I'd rather pay the dental fee then collect the income tax. It works out to less. And as far as life insurance goes, I have no dependents (yet) so why buy it?

I think that when you actually forgo dental treatment or say, not putting winter tires on your car because you want to save an extra few hundred here and there, then you have a mental disability that needs to be rectified.

anon342323
Post 8

I have begun to wonder if I suffer from something like this. I know where it stems from and I know why I do it, but I still get panic attacks when my funds dip below my "threshold".

It started because a woman I was with always kept us in the negative. Always overdrawn. Always broke. Once this relationship ended, I started saving money. It got to the point where if I reached $500 in my account I considered myself "broke". Then I got it to $1000, $1500, $2000. I was telling myself the money was a cushion for the unknown crap that is bound to happen.

Then I got married and suddenly, debt crept back into my life. I had a car loan, credit cards and a house note. On top of that "normal" stuff, my wife began having serious medical issues that have put her out of work. So I slacked on my cushion to $1,500 and tried to keep it there. Well, after getting some help and getting rid of some of our major debt I had it back over $2,500. I was feeling good about it and I decided I could leave it there since major bills had been taken care of. My wife, who is still out of work, still has the mentality that we are making a lot of money. Well, I get paid on the first and 15th. Today is the 19th and the paycheck is gone and my cushion has dwindled down to $2,000. This has caused me so much anxiety and stress that we fight about money all the time because I never want to spend it.

I reluctantly let her do things like her get her nails done or buy groceries (even though I know we need them versus eating out), while I fret about buying lunch at work or grabbing a beer on the weekend. I literally don't buy anything for myself anymore because I feel like I am "bleeding" money. I can't get my wife to look at it the same way, which causes a lot of the friction. I try to change my ways but I feel like we need the savings in order to deal with her medical issues and our normal bills because things like cars and home repairs pop up all the freaking time.

So, yeah, I guess I am a money hoarder. I know I can't take it with me but I need it right now. Typing this has made my anxiety spike and I am all ticked off again that I am below my threshold.

anon320048
Post 7

I wasted 15 years in the Nashville music "business". I struggled to make even $12K per year. Fortunately, I have a good mind and do more than merely play an instrument. I've been in software development now for 18 years, and play music as a mere hobby. I save 24 percent of my gross annual income, and have made up nicely for the wasted years. However, I think I've developed a neurosis about saving, such that I can't allow myself to spend $20K on decent used car. I find one I really want, then get all wound up over-analyzing all the possible problems. I then hesitate too long, and some lucky guy gets to buy what this silly, neurotic coward was too scared of to buy. It stinks. Maybe I should just become poor, pretend to be disabled, and get free "gubmint muny" like so many loser musicians I know.

anon304353
Post 6

I don't think there is such a thing as "hoarding money." Ask anyone on social security (fixed income) that didn't "save for the future" or simply couldn't afford it (lack of income, too many kids, irresponsible spending, etc.) It's not what you make, it's what you do with it! With the exception of "stashing it all" and never living with necessities. Save some more money. You won't regret it.

anon278184
Post 5

It's crazy that both my parents are hoarders. Both have lost teeth because they refuse "expensive" dental treatment. They have deprived themselves, others, and even family of "shared resources". My ancestors have been hoarders and more than a few have "donated" it to lawyers in will disputes by their equally greedy children.

I'm a bit of a spendthrift, though. I have my cars paid off, though. Funny that these hoarding relatives try to sponge off me for software, borrow my pickup, etc. I tell them no!

disposaphobe
Post 4

@Glasshouse: I have a mild hoarding problem that includes money (and stuff). And no, I don't have piles of dollar bills stacked to the ceiling in my house.

I can't speak for others, but for me, the underlying thought process underlying the accumulation of money and stuff is similar. For stuff, it's "I don't want to discard this because what if I need it later?" For money, replace "discard" with "spend".

I know it's irrational. But fortunately it doesn't impede me from leading a relatively normal life, outwardly; I just have a cluttered home and 19 (sigh, I realize it's excessive) bank and investment accounts.

aplenty
Post 3

@Glasshouse- It is common to associate obsessive compulsive disorder and hoarding in the same category, but there is much debate to this diagnosis. Hoarding is such a newly diagnosed disorder that it was prematurely categorized as a sub-disorder of obsessive compulsive disorder. With the research that is coming out, hoarding will likely be classified as its own distinct disorder.

The syndrome only shares a few similarities with obsessive compulsion. Recent studies have even concluded that hoarding syndrome shares no more similarities with obsessive compulsive disorders than any other mental health disorder.

Amphibious54
Post 2

@ Glasshouse- I cannot answer your questions about the exact behavior of someone who hoards money because it probably varies on a per case basis. As for the causes of hoarding, they are still unknown.

Researchers suspect that hoarding syndrome is partially attributed to genetics and upbringing, but they are not sure on the biological and environmental factors that play a role in hoarding. These factors definitely play some sort of role in the behavior, but they are not understood. Additionally, there is a range to the severity of the disorder, ranging from your common "packrat" to a hoarder whose disorder can be life threatening.

Glasshouse
Post 1

I never realized there was such a thing as hoarding money. I wonder if a person who hoards money actually puts it in the bank account, or piles it up in his or her house. It seems like someone who suffers from this type of obsessive-compulsive hoarding would want to have the money within arm’s reach so he or she could physically see it accumulating.

Is money hoarding the same as other types of hoarding where a person loses track of what they have accumulated, being more obsessed with just collecting the money rather than keeping track of how much they have collected? What causes this type of behavior? I think it would be miserable to suffer from this type of syndrome, especially if it meant that I would be foregoing living my life just to collect money.

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