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Mary Hunt

Whether you’re aware of it or not, you have a money temperament. Everyone does. It’s the way you naturally think about money, behave with money or react to money. To loosely assess your money temperament and to have a little fun with it, consider the following scenario and choose the response that’s closest to what you would do.

Your rich uncle learns you are in desperate need of transportation. In a surprise move, he comes to your rescue with a gift of $15,000 and the instruction to buy a car. What do you do?

A) Make a $15,000 down payment on your dream car.

B) Pay cash for a $15,000 car.

C) Exercise extreme patience, flexibility, consumer savvy and negotiating skills to find a dandy used, late-model, low-mileage, well-maintained car for $7,500 and then stash $7,500 into a savings account.

Putting aside your humble columnist’s obvious bias, let’s analyze the options.

Twice the price

If you responded A, you are prone to living your life for twice the price. You don’t mind paying interest and taking on monthly payments because that’s the way to get what you want. You’re just doing the best you can to maximize your income so you can drive a reliable car.

You depend on consumer credit to bridge the gap between your income and your expenses. It’s easy and convenient. Because you pay double-digit interest rates on your revolving debt, you end up paying twice the amount, or more, for the goods and services you charge. You don’t think about paying double. You live for today, assuming tomorrow will take care of itself.

Full price

If your response was B, you are OK with the full price. When you have money, you don’t hesitate to spend it. You’re a cash buyer, not a wheeler-and-dealer, and you prefer to just pay the asking price. No hassles, no problems. You have a cash mentality.

You pay as you go. If you like it, you buy it. If you don’t, you wait.

You don’t pay attention to prices that much. As a result, your income matches your lifestyle. You don’t live beyond your means or carry credit card debt. Still, it takes every penny to pay the bills. You live from one paycheck to the next. It seems as though you never can get ahead.

Half the price

If your choice was C, your temperament is geared toward live your life for half the price. You enjoy the challenge of living below your means. You try to never pay the full price. You get a thrill whenever you beat the system. You earn more than you spend and save the difference.

You know your prices. You’re patient. And you know how to pay less than the going price for just about everything. In fact, you pride yourself on living your life for half the price.

You live an understated lifestyle and find great satisfaction in being prepared for the unexpected. You live below your means, and that means contentment, joy and a financially stress-free life.

Back to reality

Of course, no one pays twice the price for everything, nor can anyone be assured of never paying more than half. My point is with every spending opportunity comes a choice. You can choose to go into debt; you can choose not to spend more than you have; or you can work hard to pay half the price.

We are not bound by our temperaments. The way we naturally think about, respond to and behave about money or myriad other things is simply our first response. We have control over those thoughts and behaviors. Sometimes our responses are those of bratty kids who need some adult supervision and discipline.

Mary invites you to go to EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at everydaycheapskate.com/contact, “Ask Mary.” Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.”