San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Spenders vs. Savers

As you know, people come in two flavors: savers and spenders. The former are so different from the latter that any visiting archaeologist from Arcturus 2 a million years from now might well assign them to different species, so I am writing to help him out when he uncovers my remains.

Jack O’Brien

Jack O’Brien

Savers are economical people in every sense of the word: They spend as little as possible short of starvation; they make sure that every penny saved is prudently invested; and they watch like a hawk to get every possible discount. They are truly lovable people. A saver friend of mine carries around a dead cockroach in a matchbox; if forced by chance to eat out, he orders salad for dessert and at the right time carefully inserts the roach under a leaf and calls for the manager. Most times he gets a free meal.

Asked why he waited for dessert, he explained that, for obvious psychological reasons, the manager then feels compelled to absorb the whole cost of the meal, while if the insect were discovered at the start he might feel compelled to replace only the offending dish, albeit with humble apologies that cost nothing.

Of course, there are different grades of saver, the most extreme being the pack rat, who never throws anything away. When he expires, the authorities have to tunnel in to him through a mass of old newspapers and discarded furniture before setting fire to the premises for sanitary reasons.

The spender, on the other hand, has no obvious excuse for his existence, except that without him the whole economy would collapse in a pile of desiccated financial advisers. It is dangerous to be caught eating with a spender; unable to decide what to order, he will select three or four of the most expensive items and swallow just a forkful from each before suggesting you eat elsewhere. The spender naturally has no way to pay for the meal, leaving you to foot the bill yourself.

The true spender can get through cash and credit at an amazing pace. My spender friend recently lost his wife and picked up a million bucks in life insurance, so it was no surprise when he called me a month later for a loan. I suggested he mortgage his house, but it turned out he was already on his third mortgage and still had nothing left to pay the staff.

One interesting fact is that spenders tend to marry savers, which is just as well. I suspect that the whole business cycle of boom and bust is largely due to changes in this perfect balance after any unusual number of divorces.

Meanwhile, have a good trip back to Arcturus 2.

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