Are you a spender or a saver?
It always strikes me as surprising that two siblings can grow up in the same household yet one spends and one saves.
Or, to put it in the language of Nigel Latta, one wants instant gratification and the other delayed gratification.
Of course, we aren't evenly split as people. We sit on a continuum.
There are extreme spenders and extreme savers but most sit somewhere in-between.
Associate professor Lisa McNeill of Otago University, who researches consumer culture, says humans are pretty much born with leanings towards spending or saving.
Where we sit is controlled largely by the nucleus accumbens part of our brains, which affects spending behaviour, McNeill says.
This part of the brain is activated when a human perceives he or she is going to receive a reward.
"Imagine you are shopping and you see a beautiful pair of shoes. It stimulates that part of the brain," she says.
This reaction is balanced by the insula or "ouch" part of the brain, which feels pain when we spend.
It's how your brain balances those two competing forces that determines where you sit. A spender feels a greater level of reward from spending than a saver might. Likewise, the spender doesn't feel as much pain in spending as the saver does.
The classic research comparing spenders with savers was the Stanford marshmallow experiment in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Children had a marshmallow or other reward set in front of them, and were promised a second marshmallow if they could wait until the researcher returned before eating the treat.
The children were tracked through later life and those who were able to wait for the extra reward tended to have better life outcomes in education, health and other measures.
Financial educator Lisa Dudson is firmly in the save camp. Even when young, Dudson could see the benefit of delayed gratification and "put in the hard yards" to build her net worth, which has given her financial options and stability.
McNeill has noticed social media is making younger generations more image conscious, which is skewing their relationship between spending and saving.
"People [often] need to obtain material items and display an image consistent with what they see socially."
In generations gone by, says McNeill, children were exposed primarily to the values of their family and friends. The social network influencing young people is much wider today.
The main deciding factor in whether you're a spender or a saver is nature, but nurture can have a moderating effect.
For example, if a natural saver is overindulged as a child, that can push them towards becoming a spender.
A hard-wired spender who grows up in a family where spending is frowned upon may have their natural tendencies softened.
There are the misers and extreme cheapskates whose behaviour verges on disorder. Their brain is pained when they spend.
Sometimes the simple act of being self-aware that you have married someone of the other persuasion can help in that retraining, if you learn to live with each other's differences.
A spender can teach a saver to enjoy life, and vice versa.
People who sit too far along the spectrum in either direction for their own good, but are emotionally intelligent, can retrain themselves.
If you're a spender and want to learn delayed gratification you need to set savings goals, says McNeill. Add a structure around those goals to ensure you get there.
It's also important to be vocal about your savings goal. Tell friends and family what you are saving for. This way you are asking them to hold you accountable.
There is frugal and beyond frugal. There are the misers and extreme cheapskates whose behaviour verges on disorder. Their brain is pained when they spend. Often, but not always, money was short when they were young.
Frugal fatigue can wear people down. Those at the miserly end of the savings spectrum who can't spend anything probably need to learn ways to overcome the guilt associated with spending money.
Easing up requires an understanding of your relationship with money and how it might be affecting your life and even mental health.
Oddly enough, a budget is a vital step in learning to spend. It's not that extreme savers need help to spend within their means. What they need to do is prioritise a little bit of "me money" and plan to spend it on something that will bring them happiness.
A budget helps them do this and it helps overcome the guilt or fear of spending.
Then they need to actually spend this money. It might only be small, such as enough for a coffee and cake once a week. For some people that me money is best spent on experiences, not things.
Or instead of trying to buy the cheapest of everything, which can be unsatisfactory, buy quality and things of beauty that you can admire.