What Your Spending Habits Say About Your Personality Type

mbg Contributor By Jenni Gritters, M.S.
mbg Contributor
Jenni Gritters is a health journalist and certified yoga teacher from Seattle, WA. She has a degree in psychology from Bucknell University and a master's degree in journalism from Boston University.
What Your Spending Habits Say About Your Personality Type

Can someone figure out your personality type just by looking at your billing statement? It turns out, the answer to that question is a resounding yes.

In a new study published in Psychological Science, researchers analyzed over 2 million spending records from more than 2,000 people to try to figure out if people of certain personality types spend money on certain things. The social scientists spent weeks going through the money records and also gave each participant a personality quiz. After that work, they discovered something new: Everyone spends money on material goods, like food and housing, but it's our extracurricular (or discretionary) spending that really exemplifies our unique priorities.

"Now that most people spend their money electronically—with billions of payment cards in circulation worldwide—we can study these spending patterns at scale like never before," Joe Gladstone, a consumer behavior professor at the University College London and one of the lead researchers on the study, said in a news release. "Our findings demonstrate for the first time that it is possible to predict people's personality from their spending."

Here's how some of the most common spending habits were correlated with major personality traits:

  • Travel: If you spend a lot of your money on flights and travel expenses, you're more likely to be open-minded and open to new experiences.
  • Dining out and drinking: These are usually very social experiences, so it makes sense that people who tend to spend a lot of money on these types of things also tend to be more extroverted. 
  • Investing in savings: Do you put most of your extra money in savings? You're probably high in conscientiousness, according to these findings. People who were more careful and responsible in general didn't show a lot of spending behaviors outside of the basics and then saving for the future.
  • Charity and nonprofits: Donating frequently was associated with being a more agreeable, kind, easygoing person. No surprise there.
  • Nonessential items: Those who spent a lot of their money on things like jewelry or clothing were more likely to be high in neuroticism, which refers to people who tend to experience more anxiousness, negative feelings, and loneliness.

The researchers also noted that people who rated themselves as having high self-control did indeed spend less on bank charges, while those who were more neurotic spent less on mortgage payments, possibly because they were thinking more about short-term gains over long-term goals. These findings were the same across all income levels and ages, too.

If you're not so pleased with what your money habits say about you, don't panic—take a breath and start getting intentional. These findings suggest that it's important to think mindfully about how our spending reflects our values. For example, if you value travel but end up spending your money on material goods, it might be worth thinking through your values (are they really aligned with what you want?) and then shifting your spending accordingly. 

To shift your spending so it aligns with your personality type and your values, consider making a financial wellness plan like this one recommended by money and life coach Brianna Firestone. You can start by scheduling time to focus on your financial plan, making it a ritual either weekly or monthly. It also helps to talk about money with a small group of friends, and you might consider verbally and physically writing down your goals, so you can reach them. It's hard to know where you're going if you don't put it into words!

And if you notice that you're still not perfectly spending along the lines of your values, Firestone recommends setting a routine you can come back to, so you'll be moving forward even if you fall off the wagon sometimes: "Thinking of your wellness routine as a 'way of life' has done one amazing thing for you; it's taught you how to get back on track," she says. "If we aren't rooted in our practices and know what works, wandering off the path results in giving up. When we have a solid foundation, we usually know exactly what to do to get back on track.”

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