Financial Psychology Worth Sharing

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This tip is really healpful to get around your own negative financial psychology.!

The other night, I fully intended to workout after I put my kids to bed. I had my playlist cued up, my stationary bike was waiting….everything I needed to fulfill this intention.

Then I came out of the bedroom. It had been a long day. I’ve been on this TED Talk kick lately, and entertained the idea of plopping on the couch and watching one instead of working out. I knew I shouldn’t, but the more I thought about it, the more appealing the idea sounded.

Eventually, this was my inner dialouge:

“I love me, and want me to be happy. Screw the workout. I’m going to watch something interesting.”

My YouTube search turned up a talk by Monica Lewinsky on public shame and cyber bullying. Was actually pretty darn interesting and heartbreaking.

At this point, maybe I should have gotten off the couch. But I didn’t. I had already committed to mindlessly doing what I wanted that night.

The next talk that automatically cued up was this one:

At 14:28, she says this:

“If we do that which we are not supposed to do, then we feel like we are really doing what we want.”

I paused the video.

I got all Neo and was like, “Whoa.”

She was talking about me! No, I’m not cheating on my husband or even considering entertaining the idea, but that night, I had fallen into the same behavior pattern as adulterers.

What was I supposed to do?

Get on the freaking bike.

Did I do it?

No.

Why?

I wanted to do what I wanted to do.

But did watching TED Talks really line up with what I wanted?

No. Because what I really want is to get fit.

But because I knew I wasn’t supposed to sit on my butt and watch TV, it enticed me. I convinced myself that was really what I wanted, even though it didn’t align with my goals.

Then I realized that this happens to people a lot. This one, simple thought process can deter us from getting what we actually want out of life, and, of course, there is an application to our finances.

Shopoholics

I’ve never been a big shopoholic, but from what I understand, the behavior develops because buying stuff is perceived as a type of therapy.

Even if you’re a shopoholic and know you shouldn’t hit up the mall for new clothes you don’t need, you’re probably going to do it anyways.

In fact, because it is a no-no, you may be more drawn to do it. You convince yourself that you’re exercising your free will as an adult, and it’s going to make you happy.

But just like a cheating spouse doesn’t like the consequences of a destroyed marriage, you’re not likely to be happy with the credit card bill you receive later that month.

Long-Term Savings

Saving for a goal that’s a long way off is hard. You don’t see immediate rewards, and may get distracted along the way.

Let’s look at saving for retirement. You know you should be doing it. You know that 65-year-old you will be so happy that you consistently contributed in your youth, allowing compound interest to make you rich.

But Beyonce is touring. And Lemonade was mind-blowing. Tickets are expensive, and you don’t have enough in your budget this month to both go to the concert and contribute to your IRA in the amount you’ve promised yourself you would.

You know you should sacrifice current wants for future needs, but it’s so much more appealing to do what you shouldn’t. You really want to go, so you do. You have a great time.

And then something comes up next month.

And the month after that.

Your youth was full of immediate gratification, but by the time you’re 65, you’re broke with massive health problems you can’t pay for. Heck, you can barely afford rent.

Is that what you really wanted? Or did you only pursue immediate gratification in your youth because you knew you shouldn’t? Because it was a forbidden fruit you just couldn’t resist?

Recognize the Thought Process Beforehand

By being aware of this psychological pattern, we can stop ourselves in the moment. We can ask ourselves, “Do I really want to go on a shopping spree right now to buy more things I don’t need and get stuck with a crazy huge credit card bill later? Or do I only want it because I’m not supposed to do it?”

When we recognize how our brain is framing things, we can circumvent our potential bad behavior and get on the damn bike.

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27 thoughts on “Financial Psychology Worth Sharing

  1. kay ~ the barefoot minimalist

    Hard not to go “YOLO”. It’s so much easier and pleasier than long haul thinking. I think your article is a sign for me to stop Netflix binging and get back to being more productive. Best wishes with your fitness goals Femme! 🙂

    Reply
  2. Latoya @ Life and a Budget

    Whoa! Yes, mind blowing indeed! And I think it’s interesting how we put our “wants” (or temptation ) above all else when it goes against every thing we want that involves hard work now. Take Beyoncé for instance. What she is doing is hard work and I’m sure she doesn’t want to do as much as she does in any particular day, but she puts in the upfront effort to reap the benefits later. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t jeapordize her future over immediate gratification, so I don’t see why we should jeapordize ours to see her in concert (although I would love to be there, lol).

    Reply
  3. Amanda @ centsiblyrich

    “If we do that which we are not supposed to do, then we feel like we are really doing what we want.” What an interesting way to think about it! And true. Doing something now to reap the benefits later is really difficult, but when you start seeing results, you’re often motivated to work a little harder.

    Reply
  4. Nicole

    That’s a very good point. I’ve been trying to break myself of the “just this one time” thought process when it comes to snacking because if it’s “just this one time” every day then I’m never going to lose weight!

    Also, to help push me to work out more frequently, I add YouTube videos to a playlist I’m only allowed to watch while working out. Maybe that would help motivate you as well.

    Reply
  5. Gary @ Super Saving Tips

    Mind-blowing and yet such a simple concept. Often that thing we wanted to do doesn’t make us happy at all. I’m definitely going to start asking myself about what will really make me happy and line up with my goals, with money, fitness, and more.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Exactly. A lot of times it’s just a way to procrastinate doing what we know we’re supposed to do in order to get what we really want. Best of luck with your goals, Gary! We’ll have to be accountable to each other.

      Reply
  6. Tyler @ I Am The Future Me

    I should have read this article a few hours ago. The wife is out of town and when she goes I have to go out and buy all the food I’m not “allowed” to have. So I just spent 40 dollars on food that I don’t need even though I have plenty of food at home that would have done just fine till she got back. The fact that I “can’t” have it is really the reason I “had” to have it too.

    Reply
  7. NZ Muse

    I’ve listened to that TED talk before actually but I’ve never been much of an audio person. Seeing this line written out hit me right in the gut:

    ““If we do that which we are not supposed to do, then we feel like we are really doing what we want.”

    This could apply to so much in life and money, huh?

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Oh, man, you know it. I’ve been super conscious of it since I heard it, and it’s definitely put off some bad decisions.

      I hear you on being more visual. And this particular talk was jam packed with so many nuggets I’m sure there were some other revelations I didn’t cue into that first time around.

      Reply
  8. Prudence Debtfree

    What is it with forbidden fruit? I wonder if it’s as simple as immaturity? “Mom won’t let me eat the cookies, so I’m going to sneak 3 of them.” Maybe we never lose that rebellion completely – and I can definitely relate to it. I’m trying to get rid of a stubborn baby-bump (with no baby), and I talk myself into dessert almost every day. I’ll have to pay closer attention to the deception in my brain framing.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      It does start in youth, and I’m sure it could be framed as immature, but I truly think it can happen to any of us regardless of age or past responsibility levels! After retrospective reflection, I’ve noticed that this behavior crops up throughout my life, even if I’ve previously crushed goals. Life comes in waves, and for me at least, so do thought processes!

      Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Touche! Usually I do this awesomely fun and embarrassing thing I call dancerbiking. I listen to music while biking with my lower half, and dancing with my top half. So I get super cardio and a full-body workout. And stay motivated.
      But if my choice is not biking at all or biking and changing up the dancerbiking thing, I should probably just listen to TED talks while I’m burning calories.

      Reply
  9. Visionary Money

    At the end of the day we end up where we ultimately desire….even if we think to ourselves “this is not what I wanted in life.” Well then why didn’t you change the compass at some point earlier in life. Hard to always be proactive and have direction in life.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      I agree. In fact, I wrote a whole post about exactly that quite some time ago: http://femmefrugality.com/regrets-in-life/

      As I’ve gotten older, my tenacity for change has weakened. Especially since having kids. It takes more courage and gumption than it once did. But I still think it’s a necessary part of the growing process. The motivation or clairvoyance to see how to make that change can be illusive, but once you’ve found it, even for a millisecond, start running with it before it escapes.

      Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      I love this! Reverse psychology on yourself! The thing is…if you can make yourself REALLY believe it, I bet it could work. Or, if you have an outside source telling you that you CAN’T or SHOULDN’T, it may be easier to rebel against that authority. I know a few people that have reached incredible success with debt etc. using the latter method.

      Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Haha smart people! I’m going to direct you to my response to Mel’s comment above. Pretty much, the forbidden thing was sitting on my butt doing nothing, and TED talks were background noise. Usually I Dancerbike, but watching TED talks while I bike is not something I’m opposed to.

      Reply
  10. Free to Pursue

    “This one simple thought process can deter us from getting what we actually want out of life…” So true.

    Our lizard brain loves to distract us from what we know we should be doing to provide ourselves with long-term security, a strong sense of self and self-actualization. Add to that the little voice that says we’re not good enough or smart enough and there you have the human condition. Good thing we have these things called hope and drive/passion to help us overcome these other factors.

    Reply
  11. Taylor Lee @ Yuppie Millennial

    I came to a similar conclusion sometime last year when I realized the stuff I was “treating myself” with when down (junk food, idle Netflix binges) was actually (1) making me feel worse and (2) not actually something I wanted in the first place. For me, I thought of it as a failure in moderation thinking. For example: “Eat sweets in moderation” implies that sweets are moderated because they are something that you always want. By extension, during “exceptional” times, i.e. periods of depressiveness, I would turn to these things that I had been trained to think that I always want. Even if they made me feel pretty rotten.

    Nowadays instead of thinking “how can I treat myself” I ask myself “what do I and what does my body want?” If I am antsy after a stressful day of work, I choose jogging over greasy chicken wings. If I am sad, I try sleep before chocolate cake and TV. There are still times when the answer to “what do I want” is to spend money or eat something unhealthy or just to sloth about, but making the conscious choice based on my actual feelings as opposed to how I am supposed to feel has made all the difference.

    Reply

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