5 Psych Tricks to Avoid Spending Impulses

Psychologist have long referred to our subconscious as a fight between the elephant (our irrational, impulsive side) and the rider (our analytical, reasonable side). The elephant is the one who wants the new phone that just came out, while the rider knows that we just bought a new phone 6 months ago and don’t need a new one.

How Do We Keep the Rider in Control?

1. Prepare for Impulsiveness

If you know your elephant tends to get the better of you when you spend, here are some things you can do to prepare and not let it take over:

  • Prep your grocery list in advance, and do not go off script
  • Write down your total budget for your shopping trip and commit to it
  • Prep ingredients or menus in advance to avoid that late night Uber Eats order
  • If you know you shop when you are bored, pick out a show to binge on instead

2. Preempt Excuses

If you know your elephant makes excuses to do naughty things, like not paying the bills, set yourself up to avoid an opportunity for an excuse altogether. Here are some examples:

  • Set up auto-pay on accounts you can afford
  • Direct funds automatically to your 401k or IRA through your employer (5-15% of your paycheck)
  • Set up a percentage of your paycheck as automatic direct deposit to savings

3. Outside Motivation

Keep the things that motivate you on display, while hiding away the things that will trip you up. For example:

  • Make an inspo board for the house, vacation, or whatever aspirational purchase you’re working towards
  • Put post-its on your laptop or another visible place with the words “Keep going!”
  • Put your credit card in a far away drawer or shelf
  • Put cash into envelopes and stuff them away for a rainy day

4. Commit

The simple art of committing is an awesome way to do the things you need to do. Here’s how:

  • Put a block in your calendar once a week to go through your budget and check your balances
  • Tell your spouse that you plan to reduce you spending
  • Tell yourself right now, “I commit to paying off debt”

5. Treat Yourself

Your elephant will get antsy if they are repressed for too long - you can’t keep it down entirely. It’s like cutting out sugar completely while on a diet, it doesn’t work long term and makes you more likely to give up. Here are some treat ideas to cheer up your elephant:

  • Pick a specific time every month or every week to treat yourself, whether that’s a pizza, a massage, or a movie
  • Pick a max budget for your treat so you don’t go overboard

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