Turn the TV off and put the laptop away

We are bombarded with advertisements and sales pitches on a daily basis. Our senses are overwhelmed by the hmmm of someone telling us we should buy more or shop until late.

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If you can tear your eyes away from a screen long enough you may even be able to hear the noises of cars not actually consuming in some shape or form but simply driving. Of course, while spending. Fuel doesn’t just grow on trees after all.

So, is there any getting away from spending? Sure, there are ways to detox from the materialistic world. Think India, where the price of transport, either by motorised contraptions or the extremely reasonable metro, linking most of the city for mere pence’s in the pound. Or if the chimes of Latin America are calling – the price of a bed at the Massiosarse El Hostel will cost you £3 per night.

So why when I go to these cheap places do I still spend the same amount of money if not more?

This phenomenon is yet to be explained, but Andy Webb from The Money Advice Service has a unique perspective on it:

“If you enjoy spending money of course you will do more of it if it’s easier to do. That’s just common sense.”

So what ways can we curb this enthusiasm for spending?

Only take cash with you

There’s a reason why casinos use chips to represent money, it’s because chips don’t look like real money. When you swipe your credit card, it doesn’t feel like you’re spending money. 

When you pull a twenty-pound note out of your pocket, it feels very real. This psychological difference is the reason why so many people experience success spending less when they spend only in cash. 

Scott Williams from loan lender SimplePayday is a firm proponent of using cash over credit to save in the long-run.

“Cash forces you to plan ahead because you can’t spend more than the money in your pocket.

It forces you to pay for 100% of your purchase right this moment, not 0% now and 5% each month for the next ten years because of interest. It’s that trade-off – do I want the money for later or do I really want to buy this?”

Send your cards to deep freeze

The best example of how to create a barrier to spending is freezing your credit card in a block ice. People who have gone to cash only usually apply this technique to their credit card because they want to force a delay in spending.

If you want to buy something with a credit card, you’ll have to wait until the ice thaws and you can get to your card. It’s a clever idea because it adds two important barriers to the spending process:

  • Time
  • Headache

If you make it harder to spend money, you’re less likely to do it. There’s a reason why so many online stores want to store your credit card information for later use. 

They tell you it’s a good idea because then you won’t have to fish for your credit card next time, which is very true. However, it removes one of the biggest barriers to the buying process – paying! If you had to wait a few hours (for the ice to melt) before every purchase, chances are you would spend less and that’s what I’m driving at. 

Create barriers to spending and you will spend less!

Back to the TV

Ever wonder why there are an inordinate number of beer and pizza commercials during football games? 

Or how about restaurant ads right before dinner? 

It’s because the advertisers understand the idea of priming. Priming is when earlier stimulus influences our response to later stimulus. In the case of beer commercials during football games, Budweiser and Miller want you to think of them the next time you are thinking about football. Dominoes wants you to savour better ingredients, better pizza… perhaps at half time. 

Is there any getting away from it? Is it a cycle that we cannot escape?

Snap out of it and turn the television off. You could go for a lovely walk or a stroll by the river. Just don’t eat or drink anything on the way.

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