By Kelsey Owen
Looking to save a little money? You may want to try “tricking your brain.” According to a new report from Chase Blueprint, a specific section of the human brain lights up when we face a choice, such as, say, spending money on something that we know we shouldn’t. The report goes on to say that, “Only 25% of us are born with the ‘good’ variant of that gene. Some people are simply better than others at self-control, and neuroscientific studies have shed light on why this is the case.”
While science (read: SCIENCE!) shows that our brains are more likely to choose the self-indulging choice, there are ways to “trick our brains” into being smarter about money. Not convinced? Lifehacker has put together a few scientifically proven strategies to be a better financial version of yourself than you ever thought possible.
Adopt a new mantra. For this exercise, you’ll be using the help of a fancy scientific term known as a “heuristic,” which is essentially a rule of thumb that you live by to make decision-making easier. You probably already have many money heuristics that you abide by every day—whether you’re conscious of them or not. If you have bad money habits that you’d like to improve—from getting zinged by bank fees to overspending on gifts—come up with a specific heuristic to help you combat each one. Psychologists have found that we tend to feel poorly about ourselves for breaking the rule, even if we created it. Weird, but helpful.
Make saving a no-brainer. In an experiment called Save More Tomorrow, employees were asked to save more for retirement by signing up for a 401(k), then voluntarily increasing contributions by a set amount every few months. The results? Over the course of 28 months, the average participant’s savings rate jumped from 3.5% to 11.6%. By having the money come directly out of their paychecks, before it hit their bank accounts, the participants never missed the money. Essentially, they bypassed the portion of their brains that loves temptation and activated the slow-thinking region that promotes self-control.
You, too, can apply this bit of trickery to any savings goal. Simply pick a start date, set calendar alerts for set times when you want to up your contributions, and then sit back and watch your balance grow. Certain banks and brokerages will even automate the process for you by letting you program a percentage amount by which you can increase your contributions over time.
Pick a plan and stick to it. Have debt to pay off? There’s a way to outsmart your brain here too. Researchers chalk the success up to three factors: choosing a particular plan, committing to the idea of allocating a certain amount to repayment each month and engaging peer support (read: those telephone or email reminders from friends). Once again, effort trumped any underlying genetics.
Spend on your best self. To make your money behave the way you want it to, you need to first decide who you are and then make your budget obey that identity. It can be hard to just “save” blindly or “not spend so much” when you don’t have a larger goal driving you. But if you’re someone who believes that providing for your children is important, you’ll be a lot more likely to make financial decisions align with your principles. Humans have a desire to see themselves in a certain light, and we’ll reject anything that conflicts with that reality. It’s a phenomenon known as identity reinforcement theory. In other words, you can override bad money behavior by adopting good habits that reflect the person you really want to be.
To read the full article, visit lifehacker.com/how-to-trick-your-brain-into-banishing-bad-money-habits-952152494.
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