Pulling the string: Learning the real reasons behind bad spending behaviour

Whether you are adolescent, a young adult or richer in years, there is much to learn from others where money is concerned. Although we learn through experience – something we accrue as we age – we can still look to other experiences to help us build perspective.

This is particularly helpful when we start looking at the deeper causes of our spending habits. Even if we’re actively working on our safety nets or have a budget that is working well, it’s common to have niggling habits that hold us back financially.

These habits are often rooted more deeply in our psyche than they may appear, and by learning to review our present situation and past behaviour we can begin to draw them out and resolve them.

Today we’ll be doing just that; two examples of how a surface habit can be caused by an often-hidden issue. There’s serious benefit to this process, and it could make your life better in a major way! Read on.

Stress release: poor habits can keep us going

We can all think of a relevant time in our lives where this is concerned. Common sources of stress, such as having a toxic work environment, can lead us to be rash with our money as a way to vent unreleased frustrations and negativity.

Picture a scenario. You’re not in the best working environment. Things could be better and come lunch-time you zip straight over to the local store to buy treats and food you know you shouldn’t. Why do we do this, and how does it help on the surface?

The answer often comes down to stress. Even behaviour we know to be harmful can have the effect of releasing and relieving stress in the short-term. A sugary drink isn’t going to help find a better job in our chosen scenario, but it serves as a means of making the present moment more bearable.

The take-home here? A little analysis of your habits goes a long way, and by doing so you can begin to identify your ‘triggers’ with money. But it can be even better by doing one more thing: Thinking about where you are mentally and physically at the time of the impulse buy. By doing so, you may uncover the reason behind the buying, such as the aforementioned example of releasing stress while working a stressful or toxic job.

Willpower: A limited resource

Recent scientific research on willpower has provided fascinating results. The key finding? Willpower is like a muscle, and we have a limited amount of it to use each day.

This is profoundly important where saving money is concerned. Instead of feeling down for making a bad financial decision, we can review the day and begin to understand how our willpower is distributed throughout it.

Let’s use an example. You have a busy work schedule, and you plan to do a weekly shop after work. By the time the evening comes around, you’re tired physically and mentally. Stress may have occurred during the day too, making it more likely that you’ll be out of willpower and more inclined to perform that ‘stress release’ action by making a bad decision that rewards you in the short term.

Once we look inwards and identify a situation like this, we can correct it. Food is a great example; healthy eating gives us a longer life and more energy during the day, among other things. We need to get it right as responsible adults.

In this hypothetical situation, we could avoid the depleted willpower problem by moving our food shop to the weekend, or by shopping online in the morning. Suddenly, we’d be making important food decisions at a time in the day or week where we are at a willpower peak, instead of a trough.

Understanding willpower in this way is a fantastic thing to learn, as we can apply it to many areas of our lives. In time, we can become experts at planning around our limitations. It can be life changing, so give it a serious thought!

We hope we’ve helped

Two points today, covered in a little more detail for your benefit. The psychology behind spending is interesting and valuable to understand and we hope you’ve found today’s blog helpful.

Share this post