Today, I’d like to start off with a question. Have you ever bought anything that you know you really shouldn’t? I’ll bet there’s not one person reading this who hasn’t done that, including me. And do you know why that is? That’s because spending is emotional. What do I mean by that? Well, the truth is that we all spend with our hearts rather than our heads and whilst that can be fun, it can also get us into a lot of trouble.
If you take a moment to think back over the last few things that you’ve bought which, in hindsight, you wish you hadn’t, why did you do that? Quite often, we buy things not because we need them, but because something else is tugging at our heart strings: we might be feeling down and want to cheer ourselves up; there might a great promotion that seems too good to miss; or we might even be feeling peer pressure because we want to have the same kinds of things that our friends have. The reality is, this is why most of us buy 90% of the things we do.
Furthermore, and unfortunately for us, the marketeers also know this and that’s why every kind of promotion they run is designed to appeal to our hearts, rather than our heads, because they know that when we spend with our hearts, it's much easier for them to persuade us to buy something. When we spend with our hearts it’s much more difficult for us to say no because the rational part of our brain which might stop us, often doesn’t get a look in. That’s how successful promotions work and I should know – I spent two years designing promotions just like this for a large multinational conglomerate.
This is the number one reason why people stay in debt!
If you’ve ever tried sticking to any kind of financial plan, whether that be to get out of debt, build a solid financial future, or retire early, you’ll know only too well that it’s so easy for that plan to get derailed when you’re out in the real world, with all these temptations and great offers, and people around us persuading us to spend our money in ways we really shouldn’t.
So what can you do to combat this? Simple. Start by trying this one powerful, yet incredibly simple tip which is going to take five minutes, no more. I want you to think back over the last month about the last five things you bought which, in hindsight, you wish you hadn’t, whatever the reason. It could be ‘stuff’ you’ve bought, or it might be money you’ve spent on a night out or other activity. Once you’ve identified these, I want you to think about what made you buy those at the time. Was it how you were feeling? Were you under some kind of pressure? Was there an offer too good to miss? Whatever the reasons, jot them down in a piece of paper.
Finally, take a minute or so to look over that list and ask yourself “What could I do differently over the next 30 days to prevent me doing that again?” Then I want you to put this list of actions somewhere prominent (perhaps the fridge, bathroom mirror or on a post-it in your purse or wallet) and try to stick to them for the next 30 days. Then, at the end of the month, repeat the exercise and continue to do so until you notice a change in your behaviour.
I’ll be honest with you - sometimes you’ll be able to stick to this plan and sometimes you won’t but actually, that’s ok, because what’s happening subconsciously is that you’re beginning to replace you bad spending habits with good ones – and that’s the key to lasting change.
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