Everyone is almost unanimously agreed on the fact that spending money is just too easy. Between clever marketing tactics and exposure to constant advertising campaigns, it’s difficult to keep the pounds in your pocket.
Philip Graves from Psychology Today, states that “your unconscious mind is often driving your behaviour as a consumer: under the influence of basic evolutionary drives.” Essentially, some of us are just ‘wired’ this way. Being able to acquire new things to improve life goes back to behaviour we learned when we were hunter-gatherers. Good to know, but it’s not exactly helpful now, 200,000 years later.
As with all things, if you make purchases consciously, putting real thought into each thing you buy and why you’re doing it, you’re more likely to make better choices. Here’s a list of 5 ways in which you self-sabotage your savings and give in to impulse spending without even realising you’re doing it.
By being aware of these behaviours, you can build strategies around how to avoid falling into the same trap again and again.
1. ‘Treating yourself’
This one is a classic. ‘I’ve had a great/terrible day. I deserve this’. There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself sometimes. Ie. you got a new job, or it’s your birthday. These are well worth celebrating! However, when you routinely start buying yourself a ‘little something nice’ just because you managed to get through a Tuesday at work, or because you made your morning train, then maybe it’s time to take stock and reign back the spending to stop it becoming completely habitual. Once it’s a habit, it’s that much harder to break.
Coined in 2004 by a Harvard MBA, the term, meaning Fear Of Missing Out, is probably the most millennial thing ever invented (bar the now infamous avocado toast). In the age of social media and constant exposure and connectivity it’s difficult to feel like you’re living as full and exciting a life as the next person. Society, and every marketing, advertising, and merchandising company you can think of, has got us constantly benchmarking ourselves against the next man every second of the day. Because of this you are far more inclined to buy yourself some new clothes, spend money at that new restaurant, buy yourself that new phone, all because you can see that everyone else is doing it, and you don’t want to lose out.
The trick to surmounting this urge to self-sabotage is to just stop being so hard on yourself. Just because @xyz on insta has snapped a cocktail at the new sky bar in the city, doesn’t mean you need to run out and spend cash on doing something similar. If you do want to have a glamorous night out, or buy some expensive clothes then by all means do it; just do it consciously. Look at your finances, see what you can afford, budget for it, and then when you do do it; really enjoy the experience. Don’t get sucked in and do something on impulse purely because you think everyone else is doing it without you.
3. Sale shopping isn’t really shopping
Another classic! A lot of the time we can’t justify buying something if it’s too expensive. We’re can’t rationalise our way around it. And that’s a good thing. However, very often we make a little promise to ourselves: ‘if I see it in the sale, I’ll buy it’. Because we’ve seen it at full price, buying it on sale (no matter what price it is), it’s easy to justify the purchase because we’ve essentially saved money on it.
Clearly, that’s just not true. But it’s easy to talk ourselves round. Next time you see something on sale don’t look at the original price and think ‘what a bargain!’. Instead, compare it to what you think the item is actually worth, and what you can realistically afford.
4. £xx doesn’t make a difference to the big picture
Buying something small, for £10 or £15, is easily justified because in the big picture £10 isn’t going to break the bank or push my savings over into the millions. However, it’s really worth remembering the old adage ‘look after the pennies and pounds look after themselves’ in these cases. By looking after the small amounts you will slowly build up a larger amount of savings.
Similarly, if you fritter away small spends, like £5 or £10 at a time, then all that money starts to add up to a lot of money spent.
5. I’ll replace it when I get paid
This is probably one of the worst impulse spend habits when it comes to self-sabotage. You’ve worked hard, you’ve budgeted, you’ve carefully put your money away into your savings account, and then… You see a new pair of boots that you really ‘need’. So, what you do is, so as not to upset your budget or leave yourself short for the next week, you quickly ‘dip into’ your savings account to buy them, all with the promise of ‘replacing it’ when you next get paid.
By taking money out of your savings account instead of your current account it doesn’t ‘look’ like you’ve actually spent any money at all, so you don’t get hit by that pang of guilt. However, you’ve totally sabotaged yourself because that hard-earned money was being set aside for something else. Be it retirement, a holiday, or maybe even a big event like a wedding.
You need to stipulate that all spends come from your current account. You need to be able to feel the ‘loss’ of that money immediately, and see the impact it has on your everyday life. Ie. if you buy the boots, maybe you’ll have to cut down on the socialising for that month. Without this, you wont be able to gauge exactly what the spend ‘means’.
The easiest way to do this is to try and obtain a savings account that you can’t access online, or withdraw money from until after a set amount of time. Talk to your bank and see what they can offer you, or use your Oval Wallet.
It’s easy to justify spending money, but the more aware you are of your spending habits, the easier it will be to break the bad ones and start practising new ones.