TROUBLE SAVING? IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT

By in Saving | 16 comments

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Newsweek’s cover story, “Money Brain, the New Science Behind Your Spending Addiction”, posits a biological basis for overspending. Apparently, the brains of savers and spenders are different. That’s right, now you can blame your biology for your debt!

Call me harsh and unfeeling, but I throw that science in the same pot as the findings which purport that there is a “fat gene”, or an “addiction” gene. Not that I’m suggesting the science is not there. It probably is accurate. Nor would I be surprised if there was a “moneybrain” predisposed to instant gratification in lieu of delay.

Regardless of the biological underpinnings, a predisposition is not the same as a certainty. And even if there is a biological basis, it does not mean that we have no ability to control the propensity.

Neruoeconomist Paul Zak of Claremont Graduate University reminds us that “you develop willpower and patience through practice. If you defer gratification, the payoff can be greater than with immediate gratification, but you brain has to learn that.”

In other words, practice makes permanent. The more you practice something the more it becomes a part of your life. Practice eating healthy and it becomes a habit. Practice exercise and you become fit. Practice saving and investing and you become wealthy.

What if I Have the Brain of a Spender?

  • Do you feel as if you want to buy and have difficulty deterring spending?
  • Do you have a tendency to shop now, and regret later?
  • Is your closet filled with items with their tags still attached?
  • Do you have a big credit card bill that does not get paid off every month?

You may have a spending brain!

As with any predisposition, you must ask, is it working for you? If you can afford what you buy while still saving for your future. If you’re not in debt, then maybe it’s not a problem. Obviously, if your income is large enough, and you commit to some saving, then your spending isn’t dangerous.

But, if you are in debt and can’t seem to stop spending, then you need to change or risk great financial and personal distress.

I WANT TO STOP SPENDING, WHAT SHOULD I DO?

ACTION STEPS

Get a notebook and label it: “(your name) Personal Finance” and keep it by the computer. Use it for all of your personal finance thoughts, activities, and plans.

As with any type of addiction or bad habit, you need to decide that you want to change. There are multiple ways to stop overspending and start saving. Try these out:

  1. Automate your savings. Make sure you have a set amount taken out of every paycheck and transferred to a retirement, savings, and/or investment account.
  2. Don’t tempt yourself. Just as alcoholics are better off staying away from bars, you need to avoid malls, electronics shops, on line shopping, or whatever venues trigger your spending impulse.
  3. Substitute spending with another activity. Make a list of pleasant activities that don’t cost money. Playing games and spending time with family is something I recommend. Think about things that you and your friends and family can do together.

Spending gene or not, you have ultimate control over your life. Don’t squander it.

What do you think, is there a biological basis for overspending? Do you think you might have a moneybrain?

image credit; Pictorial Life

    16 Comments

  1. In cooperative Banks, we learned how to spend wisely the monthly income and they conducted lots of training so that you may able to spend wisely you money.

    Fred

    December 5, 2011

  2. When I was trying to become more patient, I journalized what triggered my impatience. It made more more aware and I was able to do something about it. This may work for spending too. If you understand what triggers it, you can change the habit.

    krantcents

    December 5, 2011

  3. I really like your option #3. Sometimes people go shopping because they are bored. If you keep yourself busy doing something free and fun then you will have no need to go shopping. This is something we have been doing lately and it works really well.

  4. I saw that article too (actually my wife pointed it out to me). Very interesting. I absolutely agree that it doesn’t mean it is absolutely certain and that automating your savings is a great starting point. You could also implement savings goals as an alternative. :) Keeps you excited about putting money away, if you ask me.

    20's Finances

    December 5, 2011

  5. @Fred, Training in saving and money management is so important.
    @Krantcents-That is a great idea. I did the same thing when I was trying to lose weight. It keeps your awareness up.
    @Miss T-there are so many fun activities to get involved in which don’t cost lots of money.
    @20′s-savings goals can be a good motivator for some. The key is to pinpoint what works for you.

    Barbara Friedberg

    December 5, 2011

  6. The best things in life are free. It’s true, sometimes we venture out to aleviate boredom and it often involves spending. A simple switch in thinking could save a lot of money.

    Hunter - Financially Consumed

    December 5, 2011

  7. Usually I take these studies with a pinch of salt! Like you, reminded me of the ‘fat gene’, ‘lean gene’ debate.

    Reinforce a good habit like saving and it’ll stick no matter what your gene is.

    MoneyCone

    December 5, 2011

  8. Oh Please… now our governments just have another excuse for spending our money… they’re simply wired that way. If this has any validity to it at all, then let’s require genetic/dna testing to ensure we don’t elect these spenders!

    Doctor Stock

    December 5, 2011

  9. I am SUCH a saver! Guess I lucked out…except buyer’s remorse on even necessities sometimes stinks. I guess it is all about finding the balance no matter what you are predisposed for.

    Amanda L Grossman

    December 5, 2011

  10. @Hunter-At the risk of getting too “touchy feely”, I admit I am a big proponent in attacking unhelpful thoughts and changing your mindset. Think about keeping on track with a “can do” attitude.
    @Money-Agreed, as a control freak, I believe we can do “almost” anything we want.
    @Dr. Stock-Now that seems like an excellent use for genetic testing.
    @Amanda-I think we’re cut from the same cloth!

    Barbara Friedberg

    December 5, 2011

  11. “Regardless of the biological underpinnings, a predisposition is not the same as a certainty. And even if there is a biological basis, it does not mean that we have no ability to control the propensity.”

    Couldn’t agree more, it is like if someone’s entire family had cancer, taking steps towards being healthier could keep that gene at bay. So if you are wired to spend change your fate!

    Evan

    December 5, 2011

  12. Big believer that the human mind is much stronger than we actually think. The whole quitting cold turkey is one simple example.

    JP @ Novel Investor

    December 6, 2011

  13. I doubt there’s a biological basis for being a spender in particular, but maybe some people are more prone to delaying gratification than others, and those tendencies get reinforced over time. I do believe people can change though, if they want to and keep at it!

    Jackie

    December 6, 2011

  14. I don’t think a lot of people are consciously thinking about their spending habits. First step to resolving spending problems is to know if whether or not you have it. Great tips here.

    dallas tx mortgage

    December 14, 2011

  15. Some countries are big savers while others aren’t so it has a lot to do with society and how you were brought up.

    Edwin @ Richest Nation

    December 17, 2011

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