Tortoise vs. Hare: What Type of Saver Are You?

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We all know that saving more is a good idea, but we each have our own unique way of doing it. Like anything else in life, savers develop methods that work through trial and error, by matching their personalities to their tactics, and by leveraging strategies that play on their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.

Through years of (quite unscientific) observation, I’ve noticed that regardless of age, education or background, savers come in standard varieties. And though they may tweak their approach over time, most fall loosely into one of six types:

1. The collector

Collectors subscribe to the “waste not, want not” approach to savings. They build their wealth by never tossing out anything that could possibly be reused or repurposed. From rubber bands to paper clips to hotel shampoos, collectors achieve stunningly robust savings accounts by minimizing their expenditures on the small stuff. Though it’s not an absolute, collectors tend to be made, not born. Often they pattern their behavior after a parent or relative who did the same thing, or they develop this strategy as a reaction to scarcity.

2. The die-hard haggler

Hagglers leverage their negotiation skills to get the best deals and build their nest eggs from the resulting savings. From cars to used lawnmowers and from bicycles to cellphone plans, die-hard hagglers know that price is often an abstract and flexible notion. Far from being embarrassed or intimidated by haggling, these folks revel in the process and relish their victories. The most successful hagglers also know that negotiation doesn’t have to be a win-lose proposition — that the best deals leave the seller feeling respected and the buyer feeling like he scored a bargain.

If you’d like to try your hand at a bit of friendly negotiation, start small. Ask if there’s any flexibility on pricing the next time you check into a hotel or buy something secondhand at a yard sale or through Craigslist. Once you have a few wins under your belt, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to build your skills quickly and expand your savings opportunities.

3. The tortoise

Forget the old children’s parable — both the tortoise and the hare can win in the savings race. Tortoises are slow, but they get the job done through their measured and methodical approach. With $1 here and $25 there, these types of savers accumulate wealth by watching every detail of their expenditures and socking away small amounts each and every month. Out of context, the tortoises’ approach may seem painfully tedious, but they have an uncanny ability to never lose sight of their financial goals and they can always make the connection between how small actions affect the big picture.

4. The hare

Don’t worry, this saver never naps on the job. Instead, hares focus on the big wins to build their savings by leaps and bounds (pun intended). Hares look for those opportunities to save hundreds or thousands in a single grand maneuver. This type of saver may not clip coupons or shop at thrift stores, but she will probably save her entire tax refund or bank her whole annual performance bonus. By nature, hares tend to save more sporadically than tortoises, but that irregularity is balanced by the shear size of each win.

5. The lifestyler

The lifestyler embraces everything about frugal living and saving. This is the person most likely to have both an “I brake for yard sales” bumper sticker on his car and a monogramed coupon organizer. Lifestylers believe that frugality is a virtue; they’re likely to openly discuss bargains and evangelize the frugal lifestyle with others. Rather than feel limited or confined by their frugal ways, lifestylers enjoy every minute of it, love the constant challenge, and celebrate the big and small successes.

6. The serial saver

Serial savers save aggressively — through a wide range of methods — to meet specific goals. Instead of adopting a permanent saving lifestyle, these folks view it as a means to an end and don’t get caught up in the philosophical or cultural aspects of frugal living. Whether they want to pay cash for a car, wipe out student loans or furnish a new home, serial savers have laser-like focus. As they meet each goal, they return to their previous spending styles and only revisit their saving strategies when the next target presents itself.

No matter how you define yourself or your saving style, the key is simple: Embrace what works. There’s no single type of saver that’s guaranteed to be more successful than any other; the important thing is to understand your motivations, have clear goals, a strategy that works, and the flexibility to change as opportunities present themselves.

So, what kind of saver are you? Have you evolved from one type to another or developed hybrid traits from more than one? Do you have one style while your partner has another? How do you balance different approaches within your family? Let us know on our Facebook page.

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