Some weeks ago I led a survey about how people spend their money. I expected more answers, but I believe most people are not at ease when it comes to talking about money. 20 people took the survey. I acknowledge that more answers would have given more accurate results, but I believe they are enough to draw some conclusions.
1. Basic information
Most respondents are between the age of 20 and 40, from western cultures, and have a College degree. About half went to a free University and the other half attended a University for which the parents paid fees in excess of €10.000. 5 persons benefited from a scholarship and 6 had a job. Although parents paid the fees in some cases, 5 students still had to take out a loan because they did not necessarily have enough money.
This introduction highlights certain major facts. First of all, if you attended a University, you are part of the smallest percentage of people who studied around the globe. Harvard University estimated that 6,7% of the world population has a College degree.
Education has a high price – money enables almost anyone in our western culture to have access to education. In France, a student attending a free university costs the state about €10.000 per year. The same student who went to public school from his or her childhood and graduated with a bachelor, cost the state about €100.000 (numbers from University of Provence blog).
The value we give to education is seen as a precious asset at many levels: work, social, personal growth, etc. This is the reason why some people are ready to pay the highest price for it. Money is a great tool to access education. It is a gift for which we should be more thankful in our societies.
2. What is money for you?
45% of people answered “pays the bills.” They acknowledge that money allows them to have a certain lifestyle: having a room, a bed, running water, food in the fridge and heat in winter. Compared to the rest of the world, we see another privilege money brings: the basic human needs that some people cannot even afford in many countries.
25% of respondents consider that money is “the fruit of hard work.” They probably think that working implies financial and material privileges. I myself believe that every work deserves a proper salary. How beautiful would it be if kids in poor countries could benefit from our laws when it comes to work? They sew clothes for miserable incomes and these items will later be sold in some of the big bargain clothing stores in our countries – where teenagers go to every Saturday.
25% of people say that money “doesn’t make happy but it helps.” They surely see that there is more to life than the material aspect of a fat bank account, as human interaction for instance. Money can neither buy genuine relationships, nor love or health. One respondent said it satisfies all his or her desires.
More generally, Oxford dictionary online says that money is “a current medium of exchange in the form of coins and banknotes.” Money is a tool. The sad part is that too many human beings treat it like a god – although it is mere paper.
3. How do you spend your money?
The way people spend their money illustrates once again how fortunate they are, being able to spend the most part on leisure (18 people), vacation (12), intellectual topics (11), physical care (10), shopping (9), hobby (9), pets (3), cigarette and/or alcohol (2). Only half of the respondents save a part of their monthly income.
For 12 respondents, housing and all associated bills represent the biggest expenditure. This makes sense depending on where people live. 3 people say it is the car, 3 others say it is food. When some say food, I hope they mean good quality (like organic products) and not big quantities. The only reason that could justify “shopping” as the biggest expenditure is to have no other cost and still live at home with the parents.
We can really say that most people seem to enjoy the benefits money provides. Again, compared to the rest of the world, all elements cited above are extras. We can safely underline that we live pretty well!
Not even half of the respondents save some money, and even fewer (only 6) invest in their future. It is an image of our carpe diem modern society. A good saving percentage should be at least 10% of the income. Nonetheless, 5 respondents have a vacation budget, and other 8 people have a budget for leisure activities.
An income is already a budget – so it makes little sense that someone does not have a single budget, which is the case for 5 respondents.
Giving is a beautiful part of life. Seeing that 3 people give more than 10% of their income to organizations is a touching example. It does not necessarily mean that these people make so much money that they give extra, but it means that these people chose to look beyond their own needs and decide to cut down on their own desires to help others. I hope this will inspire some more. 3 other respondents give exactly 10% of their monthly income. 2 people only give to homeless and the other 6 give occasionally. Hence, we can see that some persons need an incentive to show their charity and that they could do more on a regular basis but somehow do not. On the other side of the scale, I am somehow puzzled. After observing that most of the respondents live a pretty good life, 3 of them still give nothing away.
Did you know that it only cost €30 per month to support a child in another country through some organizations?
Almost everyone wants to get a good deal (18 people), but at what cost? A good deal sometimes (not always!) implies unethical practices. Remember the kids we talked about earlier? This is probably what the 2 people thought about when they answered “supporting ethical companies and boycotting unethical ones.” The cost of a good deal is sometimes (not always!) a matter of ethical awareness.
If most people are indeed living a good life, then spending money should be done in a way that adds positive value to life. In fact, “make other people happy” is an incentive for 12 of the respondents and “health” is another incentive for 12 people. As we saw before, “education” is important for several reasons. 5 respondents are actually willing to pay even more to get even more educated.
Fashion is an art and it brings beautiful inspiration. 8 people consider “fashion and trend” as a major incentive when they buy. Yet, at some point wanting to be always trendy at any cost is a luxury.
7. Last but not least! – Money and wisdom
70% of people believe they spend their own money wisely, but 30% think they could do better. Nonetheless, 90% of people believe that other people do not spend their money wisely – only 10 percent think they do.
These answers perfectly depict our society. We already saw through the graphs 6 to 10 that people spend their money in totally different ways according to what they think is more important to them. Yet, it is always the same pattern: you can only spend your money once and everyone spends it in a different manner. Also, we saw how people budget (or not) or how they give (or not) from their income. Some spend more on certain things, some other allocate a budget, still other prefer saving, and so forth.
Although a more proper research and survey should be led, it still provides a good overview of how people prioritize the way they spend their money.
There is not a right way of spending money. Every person is free to choose how to do it. What is crucial is to realize how blessed and fortunate we are compared to billions of other human beings. In that sense, there might be a wiser way of spending money.
Special thanks to those who took the time to answer the survey!