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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?
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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