Chrometophobia: I Bet You’ve Got It Too, Just Like Me

I’ve always labelled myself frugal, thrifty, even a money-hoarder, but it wasn’t until recently that I discovered I might actually suffer from chrometophobia.

What on Earth is Chrometophobia?

What is chrometophobia you ask? No, it isn’t the fear of chrome (though I’m not really a fan if I’m being honest). It’s the fear of spending money. Yes, there really is a fear for everything.

And Why Do I Think I Have It?

Here’s the thing, I love money. I love making money, I love managing money and most of all I love saving money. But I don’t like spending money. To the point where I’m almost bitter when I have to part with it. Some people have a hard time not spending it, but I’m the anti-shopaholic.

Case in point, I recently applied for a new credit card. This is the first credit card I’ve applied for that required me to pay an annual fee. I’ve never been a credit card churner and I’ve always been too damn cheap to pay for a credit card (the credit card companies are rich enough!).

But I realized I was using my credit card every day, and if I got the card just above mine and paid $40/year, I’d get double the points. Seemed like a no brainer, so I applied for it.

Not surprisingly, my new credit card arrived in the mail in less than a week. I was happy to finally have a credit card that would get me better rewards, but I just couldn’t let go of the fact that I had to pay for it.

I mean, the credit card companies are seriously making a killing, I’ve never been late on a payment, and all my investments are with the same institution I got the credit card from. They literally already have all my money, couldn’t they spare me the damn $40?

So I made a call. I asked them to waive the first year’s fee. They said no at first, but eventually I convinced them that it was in their best interest to waive it. There are a number of other credit cards I could get, and they should just let this one go. And they did.

Does that sound crazy to you? In retrospect, I can agree that it is. But honestly the idea of giving up $40 for something so ridiculous gave me anxiety. Chrometophobia 1, sensible frugality 0.

Need Some More Convincing?

Here’s another example. I’ve been working really hard at my job and on my side business, so this past weekend I decided it was time I treat myself. For the longest time I’ve been wanting to buy myself a new purse. Nothing overly pricey like a Louis Vuitton bag and nothing too basic like a Coach purse, but something in between. I’m talking like a Kate Spade or Rebecca Minkoff type situation.

Saks Fifth Avenue just opened up downtown, so I thought this was the perfect opportunity to check it out and feel a little luxurious for an afternoon. The minute I stepped foot in there, I wanted to run away.

It wasn’t just because of the smug looks I was getting from the staff. I was seriously too afraid to touch anything in there for fear of their “you broke it, you bought it policy.” I spent maybe 2 minutes in there then walked right into The Bay as if that’s where I’d intended to go all along.

Luckily The Bay had a pretty good selection of purses at my preferred price point (I was going to let myself drop $300-$500 on a bag). I spent honestly almost an hour there, checking out every single purse, researching reviews on my phone, and I even got close to make it to the register a few times. But I just couldn’t do it.

Maybe it was because in essence it’s completely ridiculous to drop that kind of money on a purse. Or maybe it’s because every time I considered actually buying one I remembered how hard I’d worked to afford such a purchase. No matter the case, I ended up leaving with the conclusion that I might never feel comfortable spending money on something so expensive. Even if I could afford to.

So What Does All This Mean?

I think this means that I’m mindful with my money. Maybe labelling is chrometophobia is a bit of a stretch, but the thought of spending $40 on a credit card and $500 on a purse did give me some serious anxiety.

That being said, I do spend money on things and don’t feel anxious every time money leaves my bank account. I just choose to spend my money on things I value more, like food, wine, social activities and travel.

Those are the things that bring me joy in life. As much as I like my Kate Spade purse that I got for $200 at an outlet mall in 3 years ago, it doesn’t bring me any joy. It holds my wallet, glasses and keys. That’s pretty much it.

Do You Think You Have Chrometophobia?

Have you ever felt anxious when you’re about to spend money? Has there ever been something you’ve wanted to buy but just couldn’t do it?

Showing 27 comments
  • Jordann

    I do this all of the time! I start thinking to myself “I’d like a new wallet/dress/pair of boots” or whatever, and then when I actually go to spend the money, I can’t bring myself to pull the trigger. I just don’t get enough joy out of shopping to make it worthwhile.

    • Jessica Moorhouse

      Yup same here. I get a ton of joy when I buy myself a $2 coffee, but not much joy when I spend $50 on a shirt.

  • Andrew

    I’m guilty of this. I’ll go to a store and think “Yeah I’m going to treat myself to this” then I’ll look at, try it out, talk to the sales person and eventually walk out thinking “Ahh, I’ll wait just a bit longer”or I’ll start asking myself “Are you really going to get $1200 worth of use out of this TV?” I think I get more pleasure out of waiting and anticipating buying something than I do actually buying it.

    • Jessica Moorhouse

      I get way more pleasure out of window shopping than real shopping, or just the anticipation like you. 🙂

  • Rob

    Jess, I wouldn’t sweat the small stuff if I were you. Many like you (my wife and myself, included) handle spending in the same way.

    In all the years I’ve never used a credit card where I have to pay an annual fee. Just won’t do it. I read about peeps who do have such cards (because of the air miles rewards points) but then I read how many of them still can’t travel at the times that THEY would prefer to, but rather at the convenience of the air lines. No, I use 2 credit cards, both free, and both that give me cash back points (or employee discounts) for my loyalty business.

    As for purse buying, my wife waits for sales. The other day she went into a Danier Leather store (they’re currently going out of business) and bought a nice leather purse at half price – under $200!

    The only time that we ever felt anxious was when we bought our first house in Montreal, many years ago, a raised ranch bungalow, 2 car garage, on a 60 x 90 ft lot. The price: $23,900. At the time, just married for a few years, we were wondering if we were doing the right thing! Crazy, eh? 🙂

  • Keith

    Super relatable post – it goes to show that even money-smart people are tempted to spend, and that how we react to the temptation is pretty telling about us as consumers.

    In the 90s, a $200 purse was reserved for the wealthy. Think, Pretty Woman. It was a symbol of privilege. Consumer culture now tells us a $200 purse is expected of you, to symbolize worth. Not buying it is responsible and a reflection of an ability to prioritize – values that actually contribute to one’s worth instead of a vanity-driven marketed product. There’s no ROI or ‘experience’ to back it up a $200 purse, just more stuff.

    In my opinion, $200 can offer you mega-memorable experiences (a road trip with friends, a new activity, a show, an amazing meal, host an incredible party etc.) that are worth far more than a material item. My struggle is much the same, but I tell myself I’ll spend once everything else is set up. ie. Retirement Accounts fully funded, 20% saved for a down-payment, debt eliminated, fully funded emergency fund etc. As I’m sure you can imagine, that’s light-years away, so even I question myself and worry that I’m not ‘living’ right now. It’s all about that balance we hear so much about – plan for the future, but don’t let life pass you by.

    As a Mo Money fan, I’d be shocked if you bought a $200 purse! But don’t be swayed either; if you still find yourself wanting it after some time has passed, it might just be worthwhile after all.

    • Jessica Moorhouse

      Haha my husband thinks I’m a bit nuts when I talk about dropping a few hundred dollars on a purse, and it’s true, it’s a crazy amount of money for a frickin’ purse! I’ve been telling myself that I’d treat myself and buy myself one for about two years now. Not sure if it’ll ever happen at this point.

  • Heather @ Simply Save

    I can relate! I’ve wanted new gutters for year (not as exciting as a purse) and so I’ve planned and saved and am ready. I actually NEED new gutters now. But there’s just something about parting with that money that is making me drag my feet…better get to it soon before they cause problems though…which would cost even more!

    • Jessica Moorhouse

      Girl, get those gutters. That’s for sure a need, don’t feel guilty! 🙂

  • Jen @ Frugal Millennial

    I feel anxious every time I spend money on non-essentials, but that’s because I’m buried in student loan debt and can’t afford it. Still, I bet that I will retain a lot of my frugal habits even after my debt is paid off in a few years. One thing I’ve learned is that I don’t want to waste money on things that don’t truly provide value or bring me joy.

    • Jessica Moorhouse

      I bet you’ll still have some of those feelings lingering after you’re debt free, then again that might not be such a bad thing. It’s kind of a blessing to have a voice telling you “You don’t need it, move on and spend your money more wisely.” The downside is it’s sometimes hard to let go and enjoy the money you’ve worked so hard to save.

  • Kayla

    I did the exact same thing with my credit card! I opted for a free card with .05% bonus dollars instead of 1%–even though it’d be worthwhile to pay the fee! I am also avoiding getting cable/internet because I cannot stand how it seems so expensive these days–I’m coming up with a speech to give Shaw asking for a discount before I take the plunge.

    I have similar experiences when buying ‘treat’ things for myself, no matter how small. I find I feel guilty or shameful when I spend instead of save, so I tend to opt out to avoid it–I have this premonition that my emergency fund can never be big enough!

    • Jessica Moorhouse

      I totally encourage you to get rid of your cable. Maybe not internet though. I haven’t had cable for I think 5 years now and it’s totally fine. Netflix is a godsend though!

      • Kayla

        I am already cable-free! And Netflix-free (I would totally get obsessed, and then not do anything else). My worry is that so many of my friends who have had internet for years get amazing deals (under $50/month), whereas a new customer like myself is looking at $100+ per month for basic internet from Shaw. I’m considering going without altogether, on principle! (Ask me about this in 2 months though…ha!)

  • Jessica

    I always feel guilty about buying something for myself, so I get where you are coming from. Transferring money to my saving or investment accounts never feels like anything (it’s just numbers moving around, so it doesn’t seem like “money”), but the idea of pulling out my credit card for a “me” purchase is another story.

  • Amanda

    Lately, I’m finding that unless I’m dropping my cash on mandatory bills, basic survival expenses or ETFs, it’s becoming MUCH harder to part with. Last week I dropped $150 on new work clothes, which I so desperately needed (pilled fabric and holes are not in line with dress code). I have to continue to remind myself that work clothes do need to be replaced occasionally, and thanks to the popularity of minimalism, I’m using the ample resources to start working on a capsule wardrobe. Today I plan to buy a new quality pair of everyday shoes, which I know will be costly, but my last pair are completely totalled.

    As for purses, this is a category I’m super cheap on. I’m still using a $20 MEC tote that I bought six years ago: not even remotely fashionable, but so long as it holds my wallet, keys and sunglasses I really don’t care 😉

  • Karen

    Funny enough, I have slightly “high-end” purses, only because I get them as birthday or x-mas presents. I have a Kate Spade and Michael Kors purse. I haven’t had to buy a purse for the past 5 years.

    I don’t think I’ve reached the point where I can consider dropping a few hundred on a purse. I automatically think of how many groceries I can buy with it. My husband also thinks it’s crazy to spend that kind of money on a purse.

    I remember spending about $400-$500 on work clothing (including shoes) when I got my first professional job out of school. I barely had any business casual clothing, so I had no choice to buy. I remember feeling really anxious when I had to pay for everything at the register.

  • Reply

    Spending money gives me anxiety, but I actually don’t regret big-ticket items nearly as much as $20-$40 things when I do get around to spending money. If I shell out for something, in addition to the cost-per-use being reasonable, I make it a priority to use weekly, if not daily. But fast fashion is so easy to ignore because it was “only $5”. Plus, the resale value of a designer item will always be much higher than something that wears out or was inexpensive to begin with. But yeah, actually pulling a trigger on a purchase seems to take an act of Congress most of the time 😉

    • Heather

      Yes! I feel desensitized to spending less than $40. The big ticket purchases get put off for ages, even though I’ve done all the research and arrived at the same decision obsessively, I often still can’t pull the trigger. But all that future garbage I order on Amazon because it’s cheap seems inconsequential, and then I don’t even end up using it half the time.
      Just got a library card to help cauterize the book buying and movie renting, so that’s a start.
      The one time when I don’t bat an eye when spending large amounts is vet bills. It always costs more than I first think it should. But then I mentally calculate how much joy I get every day from living with happy, healthy pets and I can’t think of anything I would rather use our money for.

  • Devon

    Ha! I feel the same way. Especially when it comes to clothing. I work part-time in retail and our discount is cost plus 10% which is about half the retail price. It’s nice when I need athletic gear but makes shopping for other things really hard knowing how much money the retailers are making off us.

    To try to counteract this feeling, I always save up for my purchases but it’s always difficult to follow through. I see $300 saved up for some new spring clothing and I think of how nice a $300 boost would be to my TFSA. It’s a constant tug-of-war.

  • Katie

    Since being fired on the 4th, I’ve come to realize that I own approximately seven casual shirts, all of which are t-shirts. I worked for a very fashionable boss and now that I’m out on my own and have a lot more time to wear casual clothes, I feel the need to dress up a bit more. This week, I went to the mall and just could not justify spending the money! It was terrible! Luckily, I have a few gift cards, so maybe I can purchase online (which is easier for me. My new job also has a uniform, so that takes some pressure off as well.

  • Giovina

    I feel the same way sometimes. I have avoided pretty much every kind of bank fee or interest charges because that kind of thing is a waste of money, and whenever a fee is applied anyway, whether it was my fault or not, I call and get them to take it off. Since I’m a good customer, it always works. I have a little list of things in my phone that I want to buy, but I space them out, and carefully consider it, and make sure I get a good deal before I act on any of them. I would rather pay a little more once than have to replace something too soon, but after a certain point more money doesn’t add quality, so there is a limit. I could never drop 300 on a purse, that’s just beyond what I consider necessary.

  • Mrs. SimplyFinanciallyFree

    Although you may be different than the average American I think you have it figured out. You have figured out what actually brings value and joy into your life (food, wine, travel) and spend money on those things and are able to avoid the wasteful spending. I know I personally couldn’t spend hundreds of dollars on a purse but a ski trip out west, sign me up!

  • taylor

    I’m anticipating an event like this coming up. I’ve been saving for a down payment on a (reasonably sized/priced) house for more than 2 years. The thought of parting with all that cash feels terrible– even though it’s something I’ve consciously set aside for specifically that purpose and it’s something I really want! I know that’s crazy, but it is what it is!

  • Kurt

    That people who don’t spend mindlessly could be labeled with a phobia is a sad commentary on modern consumer society. Save on, you’re healthier than most! 🙂

  • Liz

    First- I was so happy when the link on Rockstar finance led to you! I’ve been listening to your podcast, but hadn’t yet had time to check in your blog. The stars have aligned and here I am!

    And, yes, I totally have anxiety around spending money that I have worked hard to earn (and save!) even if it is on something I can actually identify and need. Case in point: I run 4-5 days per week , which broken down to a $/run cost is pretty good, and my shoes are once again breaking down. But parting with the $150 to replace them is one of the most difficult challenges I’m having right now.

    30Km race in 2 weeks, no problem! $150 for new shoes….let me think on that!

  • FF

    Yes! I think the fact that I consider Coach fancy and most of my purses come from the thrift store or very occasionally Target qualifies me ha. It’s good to save money, but it’s a little anxiety inducing to worry so much about parting with it.

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