Deferred gratifiers are prepared to wait. Instant gratifiers less so. Fine when it comes to chocolate, more of an issue when it comes to high end consumer durables and credit cards.
Why spending money feels good
Chocolate and money are not so very different in terms of the impact they have on our brains. Think about our response to chocolate as it melts in our mouths… Long before chocolate has actually started to act on our body at a physical level, we start to release those feel-good chemicals in anticipation of the sugar rush to come.
The same is true in the case of alcohol. We’re very good at imagining the high – pretty rubbish at imagining the hangover or those extra pounds when we get on the scales.
In the case of money it’s the feel of the notes (in particular) against the skin of our hands, or the tiny raised edges of the information embossed on a credit card… the sheer pleasure that comes with browsing for a little treat, online or in store.
Again, for those of us who enjoy a little spending spree, and that is most of us; those feel-good chemicals actually kick in in anticipation of the spending. Imagining spending feels gooooooood.
Unfortunately, few if any of us tend explore the full extent of the emotional journey and the point, a little further along the narrative arc, when we go overdrawn, or the credit card bill lands with a bulky thud on the doormat.
The fact is we find it easier to imagine good things. This, sadly, is very human. Our bodies and our minds are conditioned to avoid pain. Sabre tooth tiger – avoid it. Blood soaked axe murderer – avoid. Official looking envelope with red letters showing through the window…
We don’t actually know how much we owe
A recent survey revealed that 23% of us don’t know exactly how much we actually owe. If you are one of the several million people who would rather not open bills and statements and just hope the direct debits and standing orders are taking care of everything, it’s worth trying to visualise – not the pain of doing your accounts, but the feeling of smugness and superiority that comes after you’ve gone through your accounts and you know you’re on top of everything, or, at least, tackling any problems.
It’s like kickboxing – think past the pain.
Talking about pain…
One of the ways you can train yourself to avoid the temptations of impulse spending (and thus the pain of opening scary bank and credit card statements) is by using the simple rubber band. “Rubber band therapy” is a proven behaviour modification technique.
Trying placing a rubber band around your wrist and just leave it there. then, every time you feel the desire to impulse spend, snap it lightly against your inner wrist and think of a positive alternative, such as, how pleasant it will feel at the end of the month not to be overdrawn again or how not spending now means more money towards the holiday you deserve next year.
So long as it is a positive replacement thought it can be about anything you choose which is meaningful to you.
You can also try wrapping a rubber band individually around credit and debit cards you carry with you. Simply having to remove the band to use the card can make you think twice about your spending impulse. Let us know how you get on.
Employee financial wellbeing workshops – introductory offer
The insights and techniques above are amongst those that feature in our employee financial wellbeing workshops, as well as practical tips and information. We are currently offering a 15% discount on group employee wellbeing workshops booked before December 18 2015 and delivered before March 31 2016.