You know the game show Family Feud? People are asked to guess the top answers given to a specific question. Some of their answers are very funny. You know one of the questions I’ve never seen asked? “What are the top five reasons people say why they don’t’ save?” I’d bet there’d be all kinds of good stuff with the number one answer being “no money!” But it isn’t true. According to research the number one reason why people don’t save is impulse control problems.
Turns out heaps of people are into immediate gratification and don’t see the point in setting aside any money for the future. That future with no money – the future pain – is so far away it doesn’t have any pull against the ‘Buy-me! Buy-me!’ of the present.
We know our brain chemistry rewards us for shopping; it’s a feel-good activity. If we don’t have a means of introducing a balance to that feel-good, we’ll keep on feeling good until we’re up to our eyeballs in debt.
Debt is a quicksand of sorts. It saps your ability to move, to reach, to progress to a new place. It keeps you struggling in one spot, maybe even drowning despite your struggle.
Everyone is susceptible to stepping into the quicksand of debt. It’s so easy with all the credit cards and lines of credit being offered to help you satisfy your every whim. But at the first sense of being sucked down, those who want a future will adopt habits that help to keep them out of the quagmire.
Stepping Out of The Debt Spiral
Perhaps the easiest of all is to avoid places where you can spend money. I’m not sure why shopping has become such a pastime, but it’s a dangerous one. Whether you’re heading into a shopping mall or a dollar store, if the impulse money is riding your back, you’re going to drop money you may later wish you hadn’t. If you don’t want to eat the cookies, stay out of the cookie jar. And if you don’t want to spend money, stay out of the stores. That includes all those on-line stores and those coupon and daily deal sites that lure you in.
When you do go shopping, do it with a list. Whether you’re buying groceries, a wedding present for your bestie or a new pair of boots for the kidlet, do not go into a store without a list. And never buy anything that isn’t on your list. No, you don’t get to use the excuse, “Well, I’ll only have to waste gas coming back.” If you see something you think you need or want, put it on your list and GO HOME. If you still want it in 48 hours, you can go back for it. I’ll bet you save way more money than you end up spending on gas for a second trip.
For people who just can’t stop shopping once they start, take only enough cash to get what you’re going for. Leave your credit cards and debit cards at home. If you don’t have the means to overspend, it’s amazing how much self-control you’ll show.
Put a rule in place that makes you stop and think carefully about what you’re buying. If, for example, every time you buy something, you must get rid of something of similar value, you’ll start to carefully consider your purchases. I love art. But I have to know where I’ll hang a new painting before it can come into my house. That’ll mean taking down something I already love. So if I love this new painting more, in it comes. If not it’s a no-go. This rule only works if you make it a like-for-like exchange. I can’t give up an old pair of socks for a painting! Thinking about what I’ll have to give up helps me to prioritize. What are you prepared to give up to have that new whatever?
Saving may not be as sexy as spending – at least not while you’re standing in the store. But If you don’t have the wherewithal to look past today, the last thing you’ll see as you finally sink in the quicksand of debt — blub, blub, blub — are all the things you could have done differently.