Do You Have A Hoarding Problem? Five Points To Identify That You Do

Are you a crazy hoarder?

A funny thing is going on in San Francisco right now. After Uber hired Goldman to raise $1 billion in a convertible debt sale, Uber launched a $5 UberPool campaign for a limited time on rides anywhere in San Francisco. UberPool is Uber's carpooling service where they charge an even lower rate than their UberX offering. $5 to go anywhere in SF is truly a game-changing move that makes me not want to ever drive again in The City. The traffic has turned horrendous with unemployment below 4%.

It takes me about 30 minutes on average to drive downtown from Golden Gate Heights in rush hour traffic plus parking. There's of course the cost of gas, potential tickets, and the risk of accidents I've got to deal with as well. I'd totally pay $10 roundtrip for the 3X a week I go downtown and leave Rhino, my sexy beast, at home.

But guess what? I haven't called a single UberPool because I've currently got 10 free rides, each worth $20 – $30, sitting in my account! I'm not going to burn one ride that now only costs $5 with one of my $20-$30 credits, no sir! I'm going to hoard my free rides for when I go to the airport – a $30-$35 fee from my house. You see, if a ride only costs $15 and I use one of my $30 credits, I lose the other $15. And even if the app is smart enough to let me use the $5 promo on UberPool, instead of automatically applying one of my $20-$30 credits, I'm still not willing to risk it.

Like any good frugal person would do, I told my friends to book an UberPool instead, and take me along for a ride. Genius!

How did I get all my free ride credits? That's easy. Each person who tries out Uber using my referral code gets a $20 free ride and so do I. All you gotta do to replicate my Uber credit galore is spend 25 hours a week writing for five years in a row and you're good to go!

Too bad the promotional value is only $20 a ride now, down from $30 in 2014. But they've now smartly shifted the promotion strategy to subsidizing drivers with their $5 UberPool to get consumers to try their carpooling service. If you haven't tried Uber, it absolutely makes transportation cheaper and easier.


For one day, everybody was talking about the amazing $5 UberPool promotion until the very next day Lyft came out with an even more amazing offer. Lyft's version of UberPool is called Lyft Line Rides, and also for a “limited time only,” Lyft Line is offering an amazing promotional offer of only $2.25 a ride!

Lyty LineThe marketing move is brilliant because not only is $2.25 half the price of UberPool's $5 promotion, $2.25 also equals the current bus and MUNI fair. Nobody in their right mind would take a dang crowded bus when they could just take a Lyft to and from home.

So did I use Lyft Line? NO! Because I've got one more Lyft credit worth $10 when I signed up for some random promotion over the holidays. I'm not going to spend my valuable $10 Lyft credit on some cheap $2.25 Lyft Line promotion! Come on now.


Given I consult in the marketing departing of several financial tech companies, I absolutely love the marketing ideas that giants in Silicon Valley come up with. The recent promotions by Uber and Lyft have reminded me that perhaps I have a hoarding problem. In order to figure out whether I actually do have a problem, I've written out five signals.

Let's review some of the issues around hoarders. Each point has a subjective 1-5 rating, with 1 being “this does not relate to me stupid” to 5 being “holy crap that is me!”

1) You collect things you don't use. This is the essence of hoarding, whether it be cat food from Costco that goes bad, to airline miles that expire. Hoarders tend to also be packrats with apartments or houses full of junk. “Buy more save more” is a common mentality.

2) You can't get yourself to part with the things you collect. Even though you know there's a six month expiration to use the credit, you wait until the very last minute to use the credit. Given you often wait last minute, you sometimes lose the credit completely. Despite the loss, there is some satisfaction knowing that you owned the credit for as long as possible. Hoarders have a difficult time giving their things away to other people.

3) You feel anxiety when you start running low. Even though you can simply take a bus or a taxi home, you might start feeling anxiety if your 10 Uber credits dwindle down to only two or three. More is more for hoarders.

4) You gain a greater sense of worth the more you have. Maybe hoarders went through some tough economic times before, but hoarders tend to feel better about themselves the more stuff they can accumulate. There's a greater sense of security that everything will be OK.

5) You don't let anybody know what you have. Due to the insecurity of running low, a hoarder doesn't allow people to witness what they've collected. There's a fear that other people might ask or take. Why do you need 1,000 Beanie Babies? Can't you part with just one? A hoarder doesn't want to be put in a situation where they are forced to act.

If you have a total point score of between 12-16, you are a borderline hoarder. A score of 17 or higher means you are hogging the world's resources and need to start letting go! Maybe some therapy is in order too.


I'd like to think that I'm highly rational with my Uber credits and don't have a hoarding problem. Given I fly at least three times a year, that's six trips in which I plan on utilizing my Uber credits for maximum value. But perhaps hoarders also like to justify they are economically rational as well? Some people I know buy crap loads of stuff from big box stores and have forgotten what they've bought years later!

But now I'm wondering about all those retro Nike kicks I've hoarded that are tucked away in boxes somewhere in the upper shelves of a closet. I hoard them because I couldn't afford a single pair as a child. It was always the rich kids who had the latest Jordans. I can't get myself to wear some of them because once I do, I'll scuff up the soles and lose the new shoe smell that I love so much!

The battle between Uber and Lyft has truly been amazing to watch. Venture capital and private equity money is flowing into the city like MAD and consumers are benefitting from both lower prices and more jobs. I've never had more career fun than right now sitting in the thick of things!


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26 thoughts on “Do You Have A Hoarding Problem? Five Points To Identify That You Do”

  1. Adam @

    I think the great success of the storage unit business shows American’s obsession with keeping things they can’t use. We have the largest homes in the world but still pay to keep our extra crap that we clearly don’t need sitting in warehouses.

  2. James@StartingNegative

    I’m generally good about not hoarding, easily donating/selling/giving away things I don’t need, even if they have some sentimental value.

    My other half, on the other hand…let’s just say there’s a battle in our natures. And I’m losing.

  3. I’m guilty of hoarding reward points but other than that I don’t hoard anything else. I don’t like seeing things piling up in our home.

  4. Great point. I think many people in the financial blog community who constantly advocate frugality, sometimes to the extremes, have a hoarding of savings mindset. I wouldn’t call it a problem unless these folks are constantly denying themselves of some material wants and experiences just to save a buck. I understand doing this when young to build a sizable savings, but don’t understand people who continue this behavior well into their 40s and 50s. It makes no sense to me that some people who only have between $2k to $4k monthly expenses at most and don’t feel deprived of anything at that spending level feel they still need to save up multimillion dollars. There’s no point in earning money if you can’t spend it on experiences and things you want to with the people you want to when you want to.

  5. If you’re a frugal hoarder, to fix the hoarding, you just have to be in a situation where hoarding has a higher carrying cost. For example, when I lived in Hong Kong, where apartment spaces are small and expensive (kind of like San Francisco), I had a chance to get a smaller apartment for $650 less a month if I could fit my stuff in it. In examining each of my physical possessions, I realized almost nothing I owned (except my bed and computer) was worth paying $650 a month to keep. So, I just purged the physical stuff (which costs money to hold) in favor of saving money (which is free to hold).

  6. If I’ve learned one thing from binge-watching “Hoarders” on Netflix, is that hoarders tend to associate “things” with “memories.”

    The psychologist tries to get them to throw something out–like a shoebox full of baby toys for their grandkids that are now in college–and the hoarder just goes bananas.

    Memories live in your head, not in the item.

    This obviously doesn’t apply to “mementos,” which are things you purchase specifically for the memory (like my wife and I get a shot glass from every place we visit).

    My two cents. Thanks for the article.


  7. Even Steven

    In a way I’m a hoarder with sports cards, I have not bought any since I was very young, but I still have them, thanks to my parents storing them for 20 years and giving them back when they came to visit….thanks I think.

  8. Does it count as hoarding if you hoard points and miles since they are not physical objects?

    We “hoard” digital pictures. Take 15 pictures of the baby and only one looks good? Keep them all… deleting pictures of the baby means you don’t love him.

    On a related note, I tried Uber Black for the first time today. Amazing. I’m behind the times on this, I know. Forgive me, I live in St. Louis. Let’s just say Missouri tends to lag when it comes to adopting “new” trends… Uber, high cigarette taxes, not being racists…

    Anyway, great experience and I hope they expand the service into the entirety of the St. Louis area.

    1. Yes, absolutely! The Hoarding Committee designates your activity hoarding for sure. Taking thousands of pictures and never looking at them, sharing, or publishing them is a big sign of hoarding demonstrated by one of my good friends!

      Uber Black? You are a big baller! I stick w/ UberX. Much cheaper. I haven’t taken a taxi in a year thanks to the ridesharing companies. So much better and more convenient. I love tracking the cars coming to me on my phone and giving me an ETA. No more waiting outside in the cold, flagging a car down, or having a car flake!

      1. A baller i am not… More like a lack of options. Uber only offers Black service here and I had free rides… better than paying $30 for a cab round trip.

  9. We hoard hotel rewards points and toilet paper. These are two things I never want to run out of. Beyond that, we’re (relatively) rational people.

    The hotel rewards points get used up in huge spurts anytime we travel internationally, so I’m OK with watching them rack up. And the toilet paper gets used on a daily basis, so I’m OK with our stash of 20 or so rolls down in the basement. Just knowing it’s there brings me comfort.

      1. This is a tragic situation and one that has indeed occurred on several occasions. Fortunately, the other person has always been home and able to gallantly retrieve some TP from the basement. That’s true love right there.

  10. I would never hoard because I hate cleaning and extra stuff means more cleaning.

    Are those Uber drivers offering the discount ride just turning their phones off and saying they are unavailable? How are they making money on $5 rides unless it is a block or 2 on a rainy day? Do they all drive vans and the cost is $5 per person?

    1. Nope. I think the Uber drivers make the normal fair, and consumer just pay the lower $5 promotional fair. Uber is subsidizing the riders but keeping the drivers paid whole.

      When you can raise billions of dollars in funding, you can spend billions of dollars on marketing and promotions! Consumers win.

  11. I take great pleasure in donating clothing which i do not wear anymore. I also love going through my belongings at least once an year and tossing out anything of no value that I do not need/use anymore. I think this stems from the fact I live in an apartment in NYC, and therefore it makes my life easier to have less!

    1. Ah yes, definitely some upside of living in a smaller place. It does feel good to have less and be minimal with STUFF.

      But with other things like digital Uber credits, I can hoard an unlimited amount!

  12. When you combine hoarding with frugality it can be the path to madness. I’m not too afflicted with the former providing I know that the hoarding will eventually pay off when I get to spend my points. But I can deprive myself with misplaced frugality to the point it drives me nuts. How many good books have I spotted at the bookstore and then forgotten what they were by the time I get home to order them off Amazon and save a pound? (Or a dollar – I live in the UK). Or refuse to order a second coffee in a lovely cafe, that I’m really enjoying being in, just because it feels like largesse (again, in the UK, a free refill of coffee is like getting a hand job off Emma Watson; it’s not going to happen.) I’ve frozen my backside (butt) off at countless late night bus stops in order to save a few quid on a taxi (outside of London, Uber is yet unknown). I probably would hoard Uber credits if I could get them, but only because I’d still be taking the bus, or even better, the bike. That would then feel like a double saving. How do we wean ourselves off this?

  13. I hoard airline miles! I do eventually use them, but it takes me a while. I take great pleasure in watching my balances grow and bragging about it to my husband because he’s the only one who cares.

      1. Oh, you have no idea how spoiled he is. I cook. I clean. I even mow the grass. I work 50 hours a week, and even plan and take him on epic vacations all over the place!

        He mostly just sits around and looks adorable. But hey, who could be mad at those dimpled cheeks?

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