Category Archives: Think

Ways to Trick Yourself into Spending Less

This post is in collaboration with BetterHelp.

Woman's hands holding a bunch of $100 bills fanned out.

It can be hard to save money, especially if the autopilot on your decision-making process is set to ‘spend.’

There are ways you can override that autopilot, though. Here are some practical ways to trick yourself into spending less money and saving more.

Practice the 72-Hour Rule

Those with a shopping habit may want to practice the 72-hour rule. When you see something you want to buy, you don’t purchase it right away.

Wait at least 72 hours. Most of the time, the urge to purchase will fade. You might even forget you wanted to purchase the item in the first place.

If this rule helps you, you’ll want to stay away from advertisements for flash sales. Don’t open the ‘Promotion’ portion of your email inbox unless you’re intentionally shopping for something you need and want to find a promo code.

If you just can’t stay out of the ‘Promotion’ tab, you may want to unsubscribe from email newsletters altogether.

Practice Mindfulness

Simply noticing your thought patterns can stop your spending cold in its tracks.

When  you notice the urge to spend, stop yourself and ask yourself why you want to purchase. Be honest in your answer.

If the answer is,

I want to buy this because I need it, have been watching sales, and this is a good price. I can afford it and it would add value to my life.

Then by all means, purchase.

But most of the time, you may find that if you’re honest with yourself, the answer is something more along the lines of:

I want to buy this because I’m sad and the shopping high will help me feel temporarily better.

I want to purchase this because there’s money sitting in my account and I fundamentally feel that when I have money, I need to spend it because the event of having money is so rare and fleeting.

Financial goals feel too overwhelming. Because the future is so overwhelming and I don’t have a long-term plan, I look for every last immediate ‘win’ I can get in the present moment. Including the temporary shopping high I know this purchase will give me.

Financial Therapy

If you’ve got a lot of unpacking to do with your thought programming around money, it can be helpful for some to seek assistance from a therapist.

Some therapists may come from an orientation that believes plasticity and the ability to interrupt your own thoughts indicates that the mind is a separate entity from the body. This is called dualism.

Other therapists believe the mind and brain are one entity. This is called monism. Your therapist’s view on monism vs dualism may affect the therapy you receive, though Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the most common treatment in these situations.

Earmark Income Streams for Savings

Waiting on your stimulus check?

If you’re one of the lucky who doesn’t need the small boost to catch up on day-to-day needs, consider earmarking this extra money for your savings goals.

You can do this with all surprise ‘extra’ money.

If you have multiple income streams, you can use this same principle. Maybe all your day-to-day needs are covered by your nine-to-five job, while the money from your side hustle goes into your emergency fund or gets set aside for a ‘want’ like a vacation.

Automate Savings

A great way to trick yourself into saving more cash is to not even give yourself the option. Let’s say you get paid on the 1st and 15th of every month. You could set up an automatic transfer from checking to savings on the 1st and 15th of every month.

By removing the mental labor of making a decision on payday, you’re giving yourself less opportunities to fall through on yourself.

 

 

 

Recognizing Reverse Psychology in Advertising

This post is in collaboration with BetterHelp.

The shadow sillohettes of a girl and boy crossing a crosswalk. The way the photo is shot, it lookslike the girl's and boy's bodies are upside down while the shadow are upright.

You know that feeling when someone tells you that you can’t do something?

That feeling in your gut that just wants to prove them wrong? 

That feeling is a version of reactivity, and is often the result of reverse psychology. Today, we’ll take a look at some of the ways advertisers use reverse psychology to try to get you to buy stuff.

Direct Reverse Psychology

In 2011, Patagonia launched its initial ‘Don’t buy this jacket’ campaign: A full-page ad featuring the Patagonia jacket you weren’t supposed to buy. The company took things to the next level, claiming the ad was meant to highlight its eco-friendly ethos.

If consumers are encouraged to think twice before they purchase, the company reasoned, they would ultimately buy less stuff. When consumers buy less, you would hope less would be produced, thus easing the burden we place on our planet.

When you buy higher quality, you don’t have to buy as often. So while you should think twice before purchasing, Patagonia’s hoping that when you do, you’ll remember their ad and high-quality product.

That complex reasoning may be well thought out.

But at the end of the day, you remember the ad because it’s different. It tells you to do the opposite of what they’re hoping you’ll do, and harkens back to the type of reverse psychology you and your friends used while you were children.

Most reverse psychology in advertising isn’t as blatant. Because if you recognize it, you might alter your behavior.

Exclusivity

One way to use reverse psychology in marketing is to not only not advertise, but make it difficult for potential customers to find your storefront. When businesses do this, they put off the air that they don’t necessarily ‘need’ your business, and that their product is only for an exclusive group of people.

When you’re told you’re not allowed in the in-group, your gut reactivity may push you to want to join even more. Businesses that  put off these exclusive airs can attract people who want to be included or those who want a unique, special experience.

NYC is known for its difficult-to-find clubs hiding behind common storefronts. For example, if you know where to find the secret door inside UES Ice-Cream Shoppe, you’ll find the Storage Room. The Storage Room is a cocktail speakeasy.

Selectivity

Subscribed to too many email lists? You’ve likely seen reverse psychology delivered straight to your inbox.

Some newsletter managers will send out emails actually encouraging people to unsubscribe. If you’re not going to engage with the newsletter, they tell you, they don’t really want to keep you on it anymore.

Do some people unsubscribe?

Yes. But those are generally viewed as people who would not have bought anyways.

And it does something else to the people who choose to stay. If the reverse psychology works, they may engage with the newsletter more. After being told their lack of engagement could get them kicked off the list, they engage more, making them more likely to purchase.

Direct Sales

 

The Wilt Chamberlain VW commercial is one of the classic examples of reverse psychology in advertising. First they show you that Wilt Chamberlain won’t fit in the car. It’s not a good product for him.

But they’re not trying to sell the car to Wilt Chamberlain. They’re trying to sell it to you, and most of you are 6’6” or under.

If you purchase something from a salesperson, you might encounter this same type of reasoning. Let’s say you’re the salesperson. A common tactic is to first show a product that you know provides more than what the consumer needs. It’s also likely way outside their budget.

When they tell you so, you show them a second product. It has less bells and whistles, but no one needs that many bells and whistles anyways. Plus, compared to the initial product you showed them, it’s way less expensive. It’s feels like an acceptable alternative, and they purchase.

The salesperson always meant to sell you the second product, not the first. VW always meant to sell its cars to people 6’6” and under, not Wilt Chamberlain.

Reverse Psychology in Real Life

Examples like Patagonia and VW show instances where companies used reverse psychology and the consequent reactivity from consumers to grab attention. They tell a joke and let you in on it. By letting you in on it, you’re more likely to trust them.

But reverse psychology is often more manipulative. We expect advertisers to try to manipulate us. When we learn more about the methods they use, we can make more conscious spending decisions.

We expect advertisers to manipulate us, but we don’t expect the same behavior from those closest to us. If reverse psychology is happening in your personal relationships, you may want to seek help from a therapistLearn more about why and how at BetterHelp.com.

What Neuroscience Says About Making Financial Decisions

This post is in collaboration with BetterHelp.

Picture of a hard, plastic brain in a blue room. The brain is lit up mostly red with one section near the back lit up green.

Over the past several decades, our knowledge of neuroscience has skyrocketed. With it, our understanding of mental health has also expanded

Understanding how our brain works physically has major implications in the field of psychology. Understanding how our brain is physically wired can help us rewire mental workarounds. It can also tell us what medication may help alleviate the physical chemistry going on in our brains when necessary.

Because so much of our financial behaviors are based on our psychology and past experiences, this increased knowledge in the field of neuroscience can also help us make better decisions with our money.

Neuroscience and financial decision making

A 2017 study sponsored by Northwestern Mutual measured neural activity during the decision-making process. Some of the study participants were given assistance as they were making financial decisions. Others were left to make those decisions on their own.

Those that did not receive assistance experienced:

  • 20% more stress and difficulty when making a decision.
  • 28% less understanding of their financial decisions.
  • 21% less relaxed when making those financial decisions.

The study even included brain scans, visually showing the difference in brain functioning between the two groups.

The neuroscience shows that simply having someone to guide you through the process lessens your anxiety levels when making financial decisions. It helps you understand those decisions better, and can thus result in better results.

Ways to get assistance with financial decision making

How does one get this assistance that the neuroscience showed to be so important?

There are several ways to seek financial assistance. The best one for you will depend on your budget and the specific financial decision you’re trying to make.

Financial advisors and coaches

If you have money to spend on professional help, you can look for people with letters after their name.

For example, if you want help filing your taxes, you could look for a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or enrolled agent (EA) with the IRS.

If you’re planning for retirement and have a complex array of financial products, you may want to find a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) or Certified Financial Advisor (CFA).

If you just need help getting your day-to-day money on track and want one-on-one attention, you might look for a coach who has their Certified Financial Education Instructor (CFEI) or Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC) certification.

Purchasing a home

If you participate in a first-time homebuyer program, you will often be required to complete a first-time homebuyer education course.

This may seem like just another hoop to jump through. But it’s often a positive thing for you as a buyer. You get access to that assistance that neuroscience has shown to be so important. And you get it through a unique process you’re only likely to go through a couple times in your life.

Day-to-day finances

You might need specific help with a specific financial problem. But if you just need general money advice, turning to financial influencers you trust can be a good way to get the support you need.

For example, when Tiffany Aliche launched the first Live Richer Challenge, she did so using her background in early childhood education. She gives participants one thing to do per day. A bite-sized task instead of a list of overwhelming decisions.

By the time you get to the end of the initial course, you have a budget, a finger on the pulse of your spending habits, and an idea of what it will take to get out of debt.

The Northwestern study showed that this tactic achieves the goal of alleviating stress. Your brain doesn’t have to worry or get overwhelmed with big decisions. It can focus on the one task in front of it, increasing your motivation as you successfully complete each task, building momentum and confidence along the way.

How Your ACE Score Affects Your Money Habits

This feature by Eugenié George is the latest in the Intersectional Money series. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek your physician’s advice or another qualified health provider with any questions regarding a medical condition. 

Economic inequity takes on many forms. One of the forms it takes is through trauma. This article will discuss Adverse Childhood Experiences and how they can affect Women of Color’s economic inequity. We will also cover steps to address the past with the present. 

Money Triggers

Imagine grocery shopping one sunny afternoon. You have all the right ingredients in your grocery cart, and you’re ready to purchase. 

But you have a taste for Honeycrisp apples. 

You look at the price tag and see that the apples are $3.49 a pound. That’s, like, a dollar more than any of the other apples! You have money to purchase the product, but you experience a weird uneasy feeling in your gut. Your brain is running several ideas: 

Girl, don’t waste your money on that! You can get cheaper apples at Kroger.

But on the other hand, apples are healthy, and you know what they say about apples and doctors.

You don’t have any money at all. 

If I had a man (or woman) who supported me, I could buy apples. 

I bet White people don’t have this problem. 

We can’t afford that because papa is looking for a new job. 

Now in the 35,000 thoughts that we run through our brain, which thought was the weirdest?

It was probably, “We can’t afford that because papa is looking for a new job.” 

Why was that thought in your brain, you might ask?  It’s because even though we are deciding on an action in the present, our minds can be triggered by Financial PTSD

Our money triggers can help us.

We experience money triggers from our traumatic experiences in the past. In many ways, these triggers help us avoid a lot of terrible situations. 

When I was little, my family told me never to walk in a check-cashing business because many of them engage in predatory lending. 

And I’m glad that they did because, according to the National Associates of Consumer Advocates, payday lending could ruin your credit and charge you five times more than cashing your check at a bank. 

This warning was given to be because my family did go to the check-cashing place and learned from their experience. 

Our money triggers can hurt us.

On the other hand, our money triggers can hurt us. They can stop us from getting the things we want. 

It can be as little as not purchasing Honeycrisp Apples — even though you can afford them. It could manifest as accepting less pay than you’re worth, even though you’ve attempted to negotiate your pay. 

Trauma and Money Habits

On a personal level, the most challenging thing as a writer is to convey to readers the urgency around money and trauma. Using trauma as a reflective-interactive tool can help Women of Color process their cultural beliefs around gender and race. 

As I was looking for more scientific research to support this case, I stumbled upon a TED Talk by Dr. Nadine Harris Burke entitled Adverse Childhood Experiences.  

What is Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES)? 

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are the traumatic events that occur during childhood between the ages of 0-17 years. Some examples of these traumatic events are: 

  • Experiencing sexual, physical or emotional abuse — including neglect. 
  • Witnessing alcohol and drug abuse.
  • Divorce or family separation.

ACE scores are formulated on a one to four scale. A score of one means you’ve experienced one form of childhood abuse. Four or more means you had many hardships to overcome. 

It’s also important to know that ACE scores don’t talk about racism. They don’t talk about coping strategies or how someone overcame adversity. 

So if someone has a high ACE score, they can also be dealing with environmental trauma, such as gender and racial inequity.

The Center for Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente investigated childhood abuse and how childhood abuse and neglect can impact adults. It turns out that most adults have experienced trauma in their life. 

According to the Center for Youth Wellness, about two-thirds of study participants had experienced at least one ACE category. The higher your ACE score, the higher the likelihood of developing long-term health problems like heart disease or cancer. 

Could ACE Scores be the missing link to personal finance?

When I stumbled upon this research, I kept asking my personal finance friends if they had heard of ACEs, and many of them scratched their heads in disbelief. This research meant that we could find out adults’ long-term health habits if we learned about their trauma. 

It also meant that I could find the relationship between ACE scores and socioeconomic patterns.

A 2014 study explained that the monetary hardship on women who had an ACE Score of two or more had a history of economic adversity. A UK study found out that women with an ACE score of two or more have a higher risk of premature death than women with lower scores. Many of these women had premature deaths from lack of health planning and budget prioritizing.

So what does this mean? 

It means that our trauma can have an economic impact that can affect our future lives. When we experience trauma as children, it can create barriers around future health and opportunity if not addressed early. 

The pathways associated with ACE scores could increase the likelihood of adopting harmful health behavior, impacting one’s ability to achieve upward mobility (i.e., education, employment, and income.) It also means that our ACE score can create an awareness of how vital social connections are to our overall health. 

Because we know that most Americans have experienced trauma, we must start the conversation around our behavior and emotions. 

My Family’s ACE Story

In my book, Our Money Stories, I go through a journey of understanding my ACE score through my father’s eyes. It occurred to me that my father had a high ACE score. Still, he managed not to endure all the adverse outcomes associated with high ACE scores: Violent behavior, incarceration, and premature death. 

But my dad did have one addiction that I was able to identify: His soda addiction. 

Coping with one’s emotion through addiction is a common practice. According to reporting done by Tulsa World, soda and cigarettes help people soothe and regulate emotions

The larger problem is that many adults with high ACE scores didn’t develop the ability to soothe and control emotions when they are stressed.  So as adults, they create ways to relieve their feelings either through food, soda, or cigarettes. 

On the economic side, the cost of any addiction is expensive AF. When I sat down with my father, it occurred to me that my dad spent money on soda every day. 

How ACE Scores affect your spending 

Prior to 2016, money was the number one cause of stress in America. The American Psychological Association reported that 72% of Americans stressed out about money at least some time during the previous month. 

ACE scores are the aspirin to your money headache. Why is this? 

It’s because the way we handle stress stems from our childhood. The adversity that we experience as a child — like divorce or neglect — can alter how our body reacts to all situations. In a recent discovery, ACEs Too High explained that our ACE scores could create long-term changes in our bodies without us even knowing it. 

Let’s go back to our example earlier in the article:

If I had a man (or woman) who supported me, I could buy apples. 

We can’t afford that because papa is looking for a new job. 

These ideas may stem from ACEs. 

Thought The potential link to ACEs
We can’t afford that because papa is looking for a new job. Because the family dealt with financial insecurity, the child feels neglected.
If I had a man (or woman) who supported me, I could buy apples. You might be a child from a divorce who fixates on ‘what-ifs’.

Our past can unconsciously help us make decisions. Paying attention to our thoughts and behavior patterns with money can help us create reflective money habits. Sometimes we have to dig a little deeper to find what’s going on.

3 Action Steps to Understand Your ACE Score 

Take the ACE Test 

Let’s be real: Taking the plunge of learning your ACE score can be a traumatic experience. 

Sometimes many of us block our traumatic experiences. They can be overwhelming. If you are comfortable taking the ACE test, you can do so here. You can also take it with a therapist or a specialist. 

Write in a Journal

One of the most healing forms of understanding one’s trauma is by writing it on paper. Take out a piece of paper and start writing about your past. Hannah Brame, author of The Year of You wrote a series of money journal prompts, and we’ve found the best ones to get your ACE brain activated:  

How do you talk about money with friends and family? (Do you?)

What does it mean to you to have “not enough” money

What does it mean to you to have “too much” money?

Write a Money Brain Dump 

A quick money stress reliever is creating a money brain dump list. 

A money brain dump list is the act of setting a timer and writing down all of the things that are bothering you. You can make your brain dump money-specific and write out a list of financial stressors. 

Getting your fears on paper can relieve your current money stress. It can also help you make a mental note of why you are stressed, so you can work through it and process your stress in new, healthier ways. 

Eugenié uses her 10+ years’ experience in tech, education, and finances to lead high- achieving individuals to understand their money habits. She works as a financial wellness strategist and is the author of Our Money Stories.

More from the Intersectional Money Series

Black woman sitting in an altered background that looks like a vortex of wind, inhaling deeply.

How Your ACE Score Affects Your Money Habits

Our past can unconsciously influence our decisions. Paying attention to behavior patterns with money can help create reflective money habits.

Black woman wearing a white shirt with black trim smiling. Background is blurry trees.

Why Representation Matters in Finance Media

Sometimes, all it takes to spark the confidence that you can be successful is seeing just one person who looks like you represeneted in the media.

Black woman wearing black sweater typing at a blue keyboard

A Lesson Learned: The Black Tax

When I first heard of the Black tax, it was often described in the context of Black Americans and immigrants who are having to deal with the financial and emotional pressure of supporting family members. I connected with that assumption, but learned that I was wrong.

domestic violence advocate

The Intersection of Islamophobia and Domestic Violence

Nour Naas shares her important story and perspective on domestic violence and how marginalized groups face additional barriers when it comes to reporting.

Therapy Options that Won’t Break the Bank

This post is brought to you and written by an outside writer.

Who couldn’t benefit from a few therapy sessions in 2020?

It’s been a challenging year for most people. We started off an election year quickly with the COVID-19 pandemic, and not long after began experiencing additional trauma and anxiety over racial injustice around the country.

The headlines alone are enough to cause many people’s anxiety to shoot up, but it doesn’t end there.

Many are facing financial challenges from lost jobs, health challenges during a worldwide pandemic, and loneliness or depression due to social isolation. It’s fair to say that it’s been a rough year all around.

Getting professional help from a licensed therapist might sound like just what you need. But one of the main obstacles that stands in the way of people seeking help is the cost. Therapy tends to come at a high price that many insurances don’t really cover.

So, what are you supposed to do?

Affordable online therapy

If you’re working hard to stick to that budget and keep your finances in order, therapy might feel like it’s out of your reach. But BetterHelp might be just the solution that you’re looking for.

BetterHelp provides online therapy from licensed professionals. And it’s more affordable than many private practice therapy practices.

You can pay a set monthly price and have access to therapy sessions with the therapist you’re match with via:

  • Video.
  • Phone.
  • Chat.
  • Messaging.

The best part is that you can do it all from the comfort of your home. Not only does this make it easier to squeeze appointments into your busy schedule, but it also stops you from needing to go out at a time when people are being encouraged to stay home.

Who can online therapy help?

Online therapy can be a great option for you if you’re struggling with things like:

It’s an effective option for many people. However, if you’ve been diagnosed with a severe mental health disorder, are hurting yourself, or find yourself in a crisis or emergency situation, online therapy isn’t the right fit for the moment. In these cases, you should seek care and treatment in person.

If you are interested in exploring your options with BetterHelp, you can learn more here

Other options for affordable therapy

Online therapy isn’t the only option that you have if you’re looking for affordable ways to address your mental wellness. Here are some other options.

Check with your insurance company

If you have health insurance, there are instances where your insurance will cover therapy. However, this likely comes with restrictions and it’s important for you to understand what is actually covered.

Some insurance companies will cover a certain number of sessions while others will only cover if you’ve been diagnosed with a mental health disorder. However, if you have health insurance, it’s well worth the time of making a call or jumping online to explore your coverage options.

Find a support group

If you’re struggling with a specific challenge, you may benefit from joining a support group. Traditionally, these types of groups were held in person. But many began providing virtual options this year when the COVID-19 hit.

These groups can cover a wide range of challenges from anger management and anxiety to grief support. Some groups are led by licensed therapists and others are put on by local nonprofits and even religious organizations like churches.

To find a group in your area, you can begin with a simple online search such as “support group for [fill in topic]”.

Talk to a religious leader

If you attend a church or are involved with another type of religious organization, you may have access to counseling through your connection. Some churches have groups to help with grief support or addiction. Or your pastor may offer counseling sessions for a free or reduced price.

It’s important when pursuing these options to remember that it’s likely the person that you’re working with won’t be a licensed mental health professional, although they may have some type of counseling training.

DIY ways to address mental health challenges

While this is not a replacement for professional therapy, there are some things that you can do at home to supplement help that you’re receiving. Some of these things include:

  • Meditation – Learning to meditate can help you work towards overcoming things like anxiety and depression. It can also help you process difficult emotions that you may be experiencing.
  • Exercise – Getting in physical activity on a regular basis can help boost your mood and relieve stress.
  • Getting enough sleep – Lack of sleep or too much sleep can have an impact on your mental health. Work on getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night by creating and maintaining a sleep schedule.
  • Journaling – Writing in a journal can help you process your thoughts and emotions to deal with them in a healthy way.
  • Connect with a support system – Spending time talking to trusted friends and family members can help boost your mood and take your mind off of your stress or anxiety.

Remember, 2020 has been a rough year on everyone. There is no shame in getting help when you need it.

It doesn’t have to break the bank, either.

Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.