Why We Spend The Way We Do

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Why We Spend The Way We Do
One should not judge another for their money choices unless the person is getting impacted by it
Larissa Fernand - 30 April 2023

Let me start by sharing a real-life experience and the reaction that followed on social media.

The story begins with an individual ordering a sandwich on Swiggy. Let’s call him Kiran.

Kiran was telling me how one has to budget for a higher amount when opting for the convenience of an online delivery. And yes, convenience comes at a steep cost. This is what Kiran showed me on a food-delivery account:

  • Sandwich: Rs 138.09
  • Packing: Rs 25
  • Delivery Partner Fee: Rs 51
  • Taxes: Rs 6.90
  • Tip: Rs 70

I posted this on Twitter with just one statement: A Rs 138 sandwich is now Rs 291!

Well, the comments were brutal. Not surprising, as people love to outrage on social media. People questioned as to why the individual could not make a sandwich at home; also labelled the person as lazy. They wondered who would order a sandwich that costs so much. And I was even accused of spreading “fake news” and maligning the food-delivery app.

While I was flummoxed at the judgement received, I want to focus only on one aspect—the money angle. The majority had a huge problem with the tip of Rs 70. There were sarcastic remarks about it as well as Kiran being called stupid (for being so generous).

This incident reiterated what I always believed; that money is a touchy subject filled with value judgements.

Now let me give you the other side of the story by telling you something about Kiran.

He is a well-to-do senior citizen whose children reside elsewhere. He could not step out due to a sprained ankle and was in a fair bit of pain. He does not have a car or a driver who he could direct to go and pick up the sandwich for him. The house help who comes during the day was ill. The cook only comes thrice a week and that was her off-day.

Kiran really felt the urge to have a grilled veg sandwich and decided to order it. I guess that demolishes the accusation of him being lazy. But the bone of contention was about Kiran paying Rs 70 as tip for a sandwich that costs Rs 138.

I know Kiran, and I do know that he firmly believes in using money as a means to give back to society. Kiran is of the opinion that if he does not help the individuals who make his life easy, he is being selfish and self-centred.

I have seen Kiran tip the Urban Clap staff lavishly. He is always sending food out for the watchman. When the municipal workers were doing up the road, he ordered samosas for all of them. He also pays the house help well.

The default tip set on the app was Rs 70. The logic being that whether the dish costs Rs 1,000 or Rs 100, the individual had to make the effort to go and pick it up and drive in the hot sun and traffic to deliver it at your doorstep. He believes that they deserve at least Rs 70 as the tip.

Hold Back The Judgement!

It is because our relationship with money is complex that it gets manifested in various ways. This is why one should not judge another for their money choices, unless you are being directly impacted by it.

It is not just about spending, it is also about investing. Have you realised how many of our investment decisions are justified by emotion, and not logic? So many times I have seen individuals invest because they “have a good feel” about a stock. Or, the next big theme has caught their attention and they get carried away by the frenzied narrative. Or, they sell in haste because they are afraid that they will lose all their money.

In Kiran’s case, there is something else. “I think about these young men who deliver the food to my house, and they cannot afford to eat such food or even buy it for their children. How bad they must feel,” he told me.

I obviously saw that he is a sensitive person, but I also picked up something else. I believe there is some amount of guilt about his privilege that motivates the lavish spending on those lower down the economic ladder.  

I have no intention of debating whether Kiran’s intentions are driven by ego or empathy or altruism. But I have every intention of pointing out that our relationship with money is deeply personal and has many layers and facets to it. There is an intricate web of motives, interests, passions, desires, needs and compassion that come into play.

Understand Your Relationship With Money

Since our relationship with money is personal, it is also emotional. Hence, it cannot be ignored or treated with disdain. Answering these questions will help us in getting a better comprehension of the money dynamics in our behaviour patterns.

Why Am I Working So Hard To Accumulate Money?

Money is a tool—like a hammer, like a chisel, like a pair of scissors, like Zoom. It is there to serve a purpose.

Money is a transactional tool. Its purpose is to get us what we desire. It could be status, security, lifestyle, experiences, convenience, a home, a car, a holiday, an iPhone, or even mental peace.

Money is never an end in itself. If money is an end in itself, then we will never have enough of it. We will never be satisfied. The purpose of money is to support our well-being and empower ourselves. So, we should ask ourselves, what is it that we want from our money?

How Do I Feel When I Spend Money?

The way we spend and manage our money is individualistic. It is shaped by our experiences, upbringing, emotions, how we view society, and our religious beliefs. We may feel absolutely no guilt at buying a bag that sets us back by many thousands, but we will cringe at spending on replacing the old and worn out upholstery at home. Ask yourself why. You may enjoy blowing up money at a restaurant and running a gigantic bill, but will not pay more than 10 per cent as a restaurant tip, however large the bill or great the service is. Dig deeper.

Where Do I Get The Most Satisfaction?

Don’t be swayed by what someone else is doing. You may get joy when you use your money to help others. Others may find fulfilment in spending on numerous outings and vacations in a year. A few may prefer just spending it on wining and dining.


Be honest when answering the above. There is no judgement. It is your life and your money. And being aware of your relationship with money will help you to get the best out of it.

Knowing the source of your emotion and the drivers will help you get to the root of the issue and improve your relationship with money.

The author is an Investment Specialist at Morningstar India

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