Must We Save Money?

A philosophical question: Is saving money a moral imperative? That is, given the means, are we all ethically obligated to save at least a small portion of our income, in case of emergency? Or are we morally free to blow every penny on impulse purchases, the future be damned?

Libertarians surely have an easy answer, as would strict Communists; and an adequate social welfare system could make the whole thing a moot point, I guess. I must admit I haven't much thought about the ethics of spending in this particular way before reading this XOJane piece today, in which Emily McCombs wallows in her habit of blowing all her cash and living paycheck to paycheck—not because of strict poverty, but because she "buy[s] a lot of stuff."

It's a great, nonsensical one-two sophistry punch. ONE: God, I'm so greedy and irresponsible:

My lifestyle expands to fit my paycheck. Every time I come into "extra" money — a bonus, a freelance check, tax returns — I intend to finally really start that nest egg I know I'm supposed to have, but watch myself fritter it away on nice things for myself instead. God I love nice things.

TWO: God, how dare you judge me?

The amount of judginess and even ANGER directed at women who dare to admit they don't have their shit together financially always shocks me. In the end, it's my money to use stupidly if I decide to, and it's not really hurting anybody else...

I don't think I should even have to justify it. I live paycheck to paycheck. So do a lot of other people, some of them because they have to and some of them because they like spending their money on what they want to spend it on and some of them because they just haven't mastered the skills of budgeting and saving.

"How dare you JUDGE ME based on the CONFESSIONAL ESSAY I've just published?" should be the XOJane.com editorial motto.

As to McCombs' argument, well—whether or not you're hurting anyone else by "stupidly" blowing all your money unnecessarily is the question here. We are not talking about poor people who can't save money. We're talking about people who choose not to save money. The ethical consideration comes when an emergency does happen, and the taxpayers ultimately pay to solve it. It's the same reason we're all required to have auto insurance in order to drive: if I, an irresponsible bum, fuck something or someone up while driving, and it's my fault, I (through my insurance company) have to pay for it. Not the public. I won't pretend to have a fully formed opinion on this subject ("No fully formed opinions after 4 P.M."=Internet rule), but there's a story about an ant and a grasshopper that seems applicable here.

Confessional first-person blogging is the only force powerful enough to turn me into a Republican.

[XO Jane. Photo: Images of Money/ Flickr]