definition of savings

The Definition of Savings: A Scientific Exploration


The other day I found myself enraged over a simple vocabulary issue. An advertisement touted the “savings” you’d get if you bought whatever BS they were selling. It got my ire up. Why aren’t there two different words for “savings” (discount) and “savings” (money set aside)? As someone actively trying to save while earning her money as a professional marketer, the dual meaning of “savings” is a sore spot. I decided to do some research. The results are illuminating.

There’s not a lot in this world more powerful than a professional marketing writer with a degree in science. Well, that’s total BS but that is indeed what I am. When I am faced with a particularly difficult challenge, I often resort to the scientific method to help me figure things out. For those not familiar with it, the scientific method is an organized system of steps to guide scientific research. It starts with an idea that can be tested (hypothesis) and moves through to a conclusion based on the collected facts.

And while investigating the definition of “savings” isn’t exactly high-science, it’s what I know. So let’s DO THIS.


While dual meanings for the word “savings” exist, it is my hypothesis that only one definition will be top-on-mind with popular society; specifically “savings” as money or assets intentionally set aside or accumulated.

definition of savings


I started where most of you would have started in finding a definition. The good-old fashioned dictionary. To be thorough, I checked 4 online dictionaries and came away with 6 definitions.

No credible researcher would rely on a sample size of 6. That does not reflect appropriate academic rigor–so I opened the research to all of my social media friends. I had initially thought to only interview my Twitter following, however, I assume that since my following skews solidly financially-focused bloggers, it might sway the results. If I only used my personal friends and family on Facebook, again, same potential for bias. So I decided to open it up to everyone.

The final tally was 24 from Twitter and 18 from Facebook. Not an exact split but a pretty close, I’d say. After accumulating everyone’s definition of “savings”, I organized them into categories. Why? Because it was more fun that way and science is fun. (No, really. It is.)

Results and conclusions will follow after a comprehensive presentation of the data.

The Data

Official Definition of Savings

Per Merriam Webster, “savings” is defined as:

a) the excess of income over consumption expenditures

b)  a usually specified lower cost —example, a savings of 50 percent
Please note that Merriam Webster prioritized “excess income” over that other spending-related savings definition. Yet, they don’t specifically allude to how or why “the excess” could be set aside, accumulated, or used in the future. Interesting.

Google’s definition of “savings” is:

a) an economy of or reduction in money, time, or another resource. –example, “this resulted in a considerable saving in development costs”
b) the money one has saved, especially through a bank or official scheme. –example, “the agents were cheating them out of their life savings
Google has the inverse prioritization of definitions. Huh. Plus, they speak directly to stashing money away which is nice. However, I have no idea what an “official scheme” is but I’m going to assume they are referring to investments. Maybe? gives us this solitary definition:

The portion of disposable income not spent on consumption of consumer goods but accumulated or invested directly in capital equipment or in paying off a home mortgage, or indirectly through purchase of securities.

Ha! See?!? BusinessDictionary only has one definition. It speaks to fun finance-y things like accumulation, investments, and securities. Not mention of the other definition of savings at all. says:

Savings, according to Keynesian economics, consists of the amount left over when the cost of a person’s consumer expenditure is subtracted from the amount of disposable income he earns in a given period of time.

Investopedia is similar to the previous entry and, again, no mention of the other type of savings.

Surveyed Definition of Savings

The “Remainder” Savers

  • The money that’s really still there after 2 months. – Mindfully Investing
  • That mythical amount of money that occurs after all your bills have been paid for the month. – Nikki G, from LA LadyGang
  • The difference between what you spend and what you earn. – Stephanie B.
  • The money left over after the “needs” are met and “wants” are dismissed – Andrea B.
  • Ideally, savings is what you should pay yourself before paying anyone else. Realistically, it’s whats left over after paying everyone else! – Leo S.

The “Prepper” Savers

  • Money you put away for a ‘rainy’ day in the hopes you’ll actually be able to use it. –Tiny Ambitions
  • Preparing for the worst and the best – Frugal Asian Finance
  • Money set aside to be used for a specific purpose, or in case of emergency. – Brigid W.
  • Short term savings: what you need to pay the bills, be generous and have fun. Long term savings: what you need when all hell breaks loose, when you are old or it becomes apparent your child is never going to be ok without your support. – Jodi C.
  • Magic pool of money I try and forget exists until emergencies happen. – Jessica V.
  • Savings: the FIRST item on any smart budget. A liquid account that reduces risk by giving you a cushion for the “just in case” scenarios. – The Code to Riches
  • The account that you always say you’ll start contributing next month and end up using to pay your cat’s dental bills. – Christiana J., from LA LadyGang

The “Identity” Savers

  • What will eventually change my blog name to We’re All Here. – We’re All Poor Here
  • Savings is your life’s financial decisions summed up in a single number. I hope it’s a positive one! – Zencents

The “Futurist” Savers

  • Heroically choosing future benefits instead of instant gratifications, both in personal finances and as a superhero. – Raggedly Rich
  • Savings is future spending thoughtfully planned for today. – I Dream of Fire
  • Savings is a gift from Current Me to Future Me. Because I’m awesome. – Military Dollar
  • Creating future options for our family. – Adventure Rich
  • A “savings” is an accumulation of money to be spent in the future for either planned or unplanned expeditures. – anonymous
  • A non-negotiable investment in your future. – Cathie W.
  • Investing in yourself to enhance your future. – Margherita K.
  • Future. – Joanna J., from LA LadyGang
  • Saving means being responsible today so you can be a little irresponsible in the future. – Smile & Conquer
  • Money you deliberately don’t spend and that, one day, future you will be immensely grateful for. – Tortoise Happy

The “Freedom” Savers

  • Set-aside money for rainy days, future plans, and freedom.  – She Picks Up Pennies
  • Savings equal freedom to say no when you’re expected to say yes. – Financial Muse
  • “Savings” is what you get when you cross a highly motivated Vigilante hero who thrives on productivity, freedom, and happiness with a market of any kind; it’s also kryptonite to a Villian, who can’t stand money in someone else’s hands. – I, Vigilante

The “Stanford Marshmallow” Savers

  • “Delayed gratification” in the form of money. – Do You Even Blog
  • Delayed gratification. – My Sons Father
  • Savings is the ultimate delayed gratification. For every $1 you invest instead of spend today you could have $2 in ~ 7-10years.  – All About Balance

The “Security” Savers

  • Saving gives me peace of mind. – Allie V.
  • Security and financial peace for the future! – Dinero Pro
  • Saving is a pure unselfish form of love if you have anyone depending on you. – The Frugal Gene

The “Career-Minded” Saver

The “Hands Off” Savers

  • An object or thought that is cherished enough for you to not want to part ways with.  – Chris R.
  • A stagnant asset. – Financial Grams
  • It’s like playing lava when you are a little kid, but it’s money you can’t touch. – Olivia Y., from LA LadyGang

The “Tactical” Savers

  • Save your 5$ bills. – Alexis B.
  • The extra money you make on purpose just to save.  – All About Balance
  • Be frugal with food spending. You do not need to over spend to eat healthy. Cook at home.  – Michol M.
  • Money you pay YOURSELF first before paying other parties. – Lynda M.


Results analyze the data and report key findings. Out of 48 total definitions collected:

  • Only 6% of collected definitions of “savings” as a reduction in purchase price. 94% of collected definitions associate savings with excess money set aside.
  • 98% of surveyed participants definition align with the hypothesized definition.
  • 67% of surveyed professional definitions align with the hypothesized definition.
  • An individual’s definition of savings may be predicative of their personality and sense of humor.
  • definition of savings


In popular culture today, the word “savings” has a dual meaning, largely due to the propagation of the “cost saving”  definition by the marketing and advertising realm whose job it is to persuade you to spend your money. This is in direct opposition to the more prevalent understanding of the word; money not spent and set aside, usually with some purpose (identified or non-identified.)

Sure, this researcher will admit that seeking discounts and shopping “sale” items is a completely appropriate and recommended behavior. But, remember, in the end, you are spending money. Maybe you are spending less but you are still spending. I propose we adopt a new word for this meaning.  However, “spavings” could be easily adopted as a hybrid of “spending” and “savings.” Further research would be necessary in this area and is outside the scope of this research.

In summary, if you come up on The Lady bragging about how much you saved on that hideous Gucci purse or how much savings you got from your shopping spree at the outlet mall, I’m going to punch you in the throat. In other less violent commentary, this investigator feels vindicated that the hypothesis is supported. Personally, I also feel pretty good that I am actively saving my money…in multiple official schemes, including FinTech apps and high-interest bearing bank accounts.

Did you want to know my personal definition of savings? Savings is the financial battery I use to power my profitable life.  – The Lady in the Black

Note: This is not actual science. It just plays one on TV. Here ends The Lady rant. Thanks to EVERYONE who participated. I truly loved each and every definition submitted. 

definition of savings

What’s your definition of “savings”? Research continues. 




  1. Great points! Admittedly, I’ve never thought about the distinction between a discount saving you money and savings of my income. I do not think they are the same thing and should be used interchangeable. I’d image the word savings in terms of discount on products is used to entice buyers to spend money thinking they would otherwise not “save” that money if they didn’t buy the product. #stupid

  2. Hahaha! Of course logically I know that the discount you receive on a purchase is savings, but it never occured to me to answer that way! I’m so proud of everybody for answering in the long term, money-smart way!

  3. This is so intriguing!! My joe-job store gets us to upsell cards, and I’ll always deliver the line, as well as: “it IS a time commitment to pick out that many cards – BUT it’s a really great deal if you ACTUALLY NEED six cards. Six cards is a lot of cards. Most people don’t need that many cards. But if you do, it’s a fantastic deal.” So many companies trying to get us to buy crap that we don’t need, or already have…

    Also a huge fan of this: “The shit I do to get out of work faster. – Miss Mazuma” Hilarious and yet so accurate.

    1. I’m in marketing and often right “an excellent value” or “great savings”…drives me nuts. BUT I have an intriguing follow-up post to this one. Stand by.

  4. Prepper for life!!! I had never really thought of the difference between a discount savings and a savings savings, but you’re absolutely right. You should apply the scientific method to other personal finance issues! I’m smelling a series coming on!

  5. Mr. G and I hear these commercials on the radio all the time and they get me crazy, especially when they’re for junk we don’t want in the first place!

    I have thought of the difference between a discount and saving. For me, the spaving takes place only when I identify something I need or want — and then I look to find a discount. The discount doesn’t find me.

    Fun stuff!

    1. Yes, I’m “scheming” a new idea based on this savings vs. spavings concept. Good for you for being so disciplined. I wish I had more self control.

  6. “In summary, if you come up on The Lady bragging about how much you saved on that hideous Gucci purse or how much savings you got from your shopping spree at the outlet mall, I’m going to punch you in the throat.”

    Keep fighting the good fight…I think!

  7. Great article and thank you for including us! Haha- we are Futurists! It is really interesting seeing all the ways we define savings, both broadly and specifically/personally… I love it!

    ~Mrs. Adventure Rich

  8. I think I am part of the spavings – like..I would by a gucci shirt for $45 (sale from $1000+) instead of other $20 shirt..but only 6%!? It’s definitely an wake up call for me and it’s time to be really saving instead of spavings.

  9. Savings is what one doesn’t spend. Spending is not saving, and when the grocery clerk shows me on the receipt what I “saved”, it shows simple training in marketing tactics.

  10. What a crazy ass bunch of savers we are!! I love that everyone has a different definition and purpose. That’s what makes the world go round, after all! 🙂 In the end, it’s all about being able to afford the lifestyle you desire. Thanks for including me and my simple definition. I can’t even imagine the feeling that will come when the day arrives that I am done saving and start spending (GASP!) instead!

    1. There’s a day for that? Let me put it in my calendar or I’ll totally forget! LOL Thanks the awesome comment. You are right. It’s being able to enjoy your life, past, present and future.

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