How to Work Financial Willpower Into Your Day

The mind works in mysterious—and expensive—ways. But you can pump up your willpower or trick it into helping you spend less.

from Reader's Digest Magazine | May 2011

The mind works in mysterious — and expensive — ways. But you can pump up your willpower or trick it into helping you spend less. Farnoosh Torabi, author of Psych Yourself Rich (FT Press, $22.99), explained a few mental approaches on Huffington Post:

Think it through.
Pressured? Rushed? You’ll spend more recklessly. Infomercials are designed to take advantage of this brain quirk.

Take stock regularly, even if you don’t have to.
Is your budget fine the way it is? So-called status quo bias means you’ll keep paying what you’re paying — cable bills, credit cards — unless you have a compelling reason to change.

Saving money is all relative.
Duke behavioral economist Dan Ariely says we’re bad at making comparisons: We may readily pay $3,000 to upgrade to leather seats in a new $25,000 car because it’s a relatively small percentage of the total price, but we’d think a lot longer about paying $3,000 for a new sofa that we’d sit on every night to watch the latest Charlie Sheen interviews.

And Ramit Sethi, who runs the website I Will Teach You to Be Rich, gave some tips on increasing willpower (financial and otherwise) to the Bucks blog of the New York Times:

Automate everything.
Pay bills automatically to avoid late fees.  Channel a portion of your paycheck to your 401(k) and savings accounts.

Will yourself to be happier outside the office.
“Identify one thing you want to do more of,” Sethi suggests, whether it’s reading the novels of Charles Portis or rowing an hour a day. Add a weekly reminder to your calendar until it’s a part of your routine.

Do a little bit all the time.
If you’re overwhelmed by choices, it’s easy to do nothing. “Instead of trying to save a little bit on everything,” he says, “focus on your two biggest discretionary expenses,” like eating out and drinking, in his case. “Over the next six months, cut each down by 25 to 33 percent.”

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  • Your Comments

    • http://www.personalfinance180.com Jamie

      It is so true that our spending is relative.  When we bought our first house, it was easy to rationalize spending an extra 10-12k over what we had planned to get the house we wanted, because “we’ll be paying it over 30 years”.   But if I had to write a check for that amound, I’d freak out about it.

    • http://twitter.com/CalogeroMiraEng Calogero Mira

      Finance? Thanks.