"The future depends on what we do in the present."
I'm at a tavern with a college friend having some pizza and beer. We're sharing some laughs and having our usual friendly debates. We can't find a place to sit, so we're standing among the crowd. All of a sudden, all the TVs started showing the news, and everyone's phones started ringing. It's 2007, and the I-35W bridge going over the Mississippi River just collapsed at rush hour. Everyone was deeply concerned. Many of us found out later that we knew people, or at least knew of people who either just got across the bridge or were stuck in traffic before the bridge.
Sometime in the next several years, it's possible, but not likely, that there could be an earthquake, drought, flood, or typhoon in China. If something horrible like this does happen, it's less likely that the same people who felt high compassion in Minnesota will feel the same intensity of compassion (note: people can and will still feel compassion, if the story gets reported, but it won't be at the same level as it was for the people on the bridge).
The difference is the psychological distance for the China disaster is far greater than for the Minnesota disaster. It's the same thing for China residents. They will be far more concerned with a disaster striking their town than they will with a bridge collapsing in a city in the United States.
In her book, Loaded, author Sarah Newcomb says that "You will care more about what will definitely happen to you in the here and now than what might happen in the future to a stranger on the other side of the world."
What does this have to do with money? If you think about yourself in the future, that person is a real person. Yet, we don't often think about future us. The psychological distance between us and future us is so distant that our future self is unrecognizable to us. Thus, saving money instead of spending it can feel like giving money to a stranger.