Getting very personal about finances

A protector constantly monitors finances, checking bank accounts, budget or financial transactions multiple times a day.

A protector constantly monitors finances, checking bank accounts, budget or financial transactions multiple times a day.

Published Apr 21, 2024


Small Changes for Big Results, by award-winning financial planner Warren Ingram and global clinical and consulting psychologist Marc Rogatshnig, provides clear steps to take control of your finances.

The book contains real-life case studies of people who overcame financial difficulties, and highlights the small steps they took to change their lives.

No matter what your income level or financial background, lasting change begins with small, consistent actions, taking small, cumulative steps towards meaningful behaviour change. By identifying with their stories, you can adopt similar strategies.

This is not an exhaustive list of profile types and you might recognise yourself or people you know in a combination of these.

The underspender clutches onto cash, fearing their money will disappear, or get spent or even stolen, and they have a profound dread that they won’t be able to earn more.


“I don’t want to spend money because I worry that I will run out one day.” The underspender holds on to money – preferably cash. They fear their money will disappear, or get spent or even stolen, and they have a profound dread that they won’t be able to earn more if they let go of their income-producing time, skill or asset. They apply austerity measures to all parts of their lives.

Identify whether you are an underspender:

Review your financial habits and assess whether you are consistently not spending enough on essential needs or depriving yourself of a reasonable and enjoyable lifestyle. This could include:

  • Sacrificing quality: You consistently choose the cheapest option, even if that means compromising on the quality of the products or services.
  • Difficulty enjoying leisure activities: You find it challenging to treat yourself to recreational activities or experiences that could enhance your life.
  • Refraining from social activities: You avoid social gatherings or events because of financial concerns, even if you can afford the outings.
  • Feelings of guilt or anxiety about spending: You often experience guilt or fear when making necessary purchases.
  • Prioritising others’ needs over yours: You often prioritise the financial needs of others over your own well-being or necessities.
The eternal optimist feels no need to stay within budgets and frequently loads up credit cards, believing they will always be able to pay off the balance later.


“I don’t need to budget or save because I am very confident that I can earn more money whenever I need it.”

This type of person has a limitless belief in their ability to earn an income over time and under any and all circumstances. Sometimes their attitude is driven by their mastery of a sought-after skill or profession and an unbridled belief in their ability to sell, make deals or grow their business. They can be suspicious of financial advisers and often overestimate the extent of their control over their financial security.

Identify whether you are an eternal optimist. Assess whether you are consistently optimistic about your ability to earn money. Here are some indicators:

  • Ignoring budgetary constraints: You consistently overspend or fail to adhere to your budget because you believe everything will work out financially.
  • Relying on future income: You frequently make purchases based on the expectation of future income or windfalls without considering potential uncertainties.
  • Overusing credit cards: You rely on credit cards to finance your purchases, believing you will always be able to pay off the balance later.
  • Not planning for long-term goals: You neglect your long-term financial planning, such as retirement savings or investments, because you assume that things will work out in the future.
  • Borrowing from the future: You regularly borrow against your assets to fund current expenses.
  • No contingency plan: You don’t often make backup plans to protect against things not working out as expected.
  • Disregarding advice: You often ignore advice or warnings because you believe everything will turn out okay.
Buying things makes a compulsive spender feel better, even if it adds to their financial burden. | BLOOMBERG


“Buying things makes me feel better.”

People who match this profile often use the instant gratification of a purchase to lift their mood, which may be generally low or anxious.

They might resort to “retail therapy” when they feel down or need some comfort. Instant-reward spending cycles can be addictive and could therefore become compulsive.

Identify whether you are a compulsive spender:

  • Frequent impulsive purchases: You often make unplanned and impulsive purchases without considering the consequences or whether you can afford them.
  • Emotional spending: You go shopping to cope with negative emotions, such as stress, anxiety or boredom.
  • Shopping as a distraction: You use shopping as a distraction from personal problems or to avoid dealing with emotional issues.
  • Feeling a rush from buying: You get a temporary sense of excitement when making a purchase, followed by feelings of guilt or regret afterwards.
  • Hiding purchases: You need to hide your purchases from family members or friends to avoid feeling embarrassed or ashamed about your spending habits.
  • Accumulating debt: You regularly get into credit card debt or borrow money to support your spending habits.
  • Neglecting financial responsibilities: You avoid financial responsibilities, such as paying bills on time or saving for essential needs, in favour of spending on non-essential items.
  • Shopping addiction cycle: You are caught in a pattern of going shopping, feeling guilt or remorse, and then going shopping again to alleviate your negative feelings.
  • Relationship strain: Your spending habits cause conflict in your relationships or affect your family’s financial stability.
  • Unable to stop or cut back: You find it difficult to control your spending and are unable to stop yourself from buying things, even when you know it’s not in your best interest.
The Rolls-Royce Spirit of Ecstasy is a status symbol and would be very attractive to a big spender tying to impress or prove their worth through material things. | BLOOMBERG


The person who spends to impress often lives by the mantra: “I earn well; I work hard; I deserve all I am able to buy.”

The primary aim of earning money and spending it can be to create an impression of success, achievement or status.

In many cases, big spenders try to impress to prove their worth through material things. They use these exterior trappings of success as a means to feel more confident about themselves.

Extensive marketing and advertising campaigns target such spenders, who often suffer from low self-esteem and lack of self-belief and can easily be hooked into spending on material objects, which links with the need for personal validation.

Identify whether you spend to impress:

  • Self-reflection: When you reflect on your spending patterns and on the reasons for your purchases, are there instances when you bought things primarily to impress or gain approval from others?
  • Social media influence: In your social media activity, including posts and pictures of purchases or experiences, do you tend to showcase material possessions or expensive outings to portray a certain image to others?
  • Comparison mindset: Do you have a tendency to compare yourself with others based on material possessions or lifestyles? Do you find yourself trying to “keep up” with others or feel envious of their possessions?
  • Seeking validation: Do you often seek validation or approval from others based on your purchases or lifestyle choices?
  • Financial strain: Do you consistently overspend or go beyond your budget to maintain a certain image?
  • Understanding motivations: Are your purchases driven by genuine personal interests and needs, or are they primarily motivated by a desire to impress others?
  • Peer pressure: Are you influenced by peer pressure or societal expectations to own certain items or participate in specific activities to fit in or be accepted?
  • Happiness and fulfilment: When you evaluate your overall happiness and sense of fulfilment, is your self-worth largely tied to material possessions or external perceptions?
  • Honest conversations: Ask close friends or family members for their views on your spending habits and behaviours. Trusted people within your social circle might be your best barometer to help you determine whether you spend to impress.
No matter what your income level or financial background, lasting change begins with small, consistent actions, taking small, cumulative steps towards meaningful behaviour change.


Protectors tend to be attentive to sources of information they believe will help them remain safe.

They will often admit that mainstream and social media make them worry about dangerous politicians, global conflicts and how to protect their family from all these things. A protector’s worldview is based on a fear of the future and of uncontrollable future events.

Their main impulse is therefore to attempt to predict, pre-empt and prepare for an uncertain and scary future.

Their survival instinct allows little scope for consideration and consultation with others; instead, they develop tunnel vision and become impulsive.

Identify whether you are a protector:

  • Constantly monitoring finances: You find yourself checking your bank accounts, budget or financial transactions multiple times a day.
  • Fear of financial instability: You tend to be preoccupied with the possibility of financial disaster, even when there is no immediate threat.
  • Difficulty making financial decisions: You struggle to make decisions about money for fear of making the wrong choice or experiencing negative consequences.
  • Avoiding financial risks: You are unwilling to take any financial risks, even those that are calculated and reasonable, because you have a fear of potential loss.
  • Anxiety about the future: You feel overwhelmed with worries about your future financial stability or retirement to the point that it interferes with your daily life.

If you recognise yourself in one or more of these personality types, the information in this book will help you to understand yourself better and enable you to find the right path to change the behaviours that are preventing you from moving forward with your life.

This extract has been edited for space constraints. It is published by Penguin Random House and the suggested retail price is R290.

Independent on Saturday

Related Topics: