Thursday, 16 September 2010

Do Something Different with Money

When did you last Do Something Different? Let's face it, we’re all creatures of habit at heart. I know I feel I can’t start the day until I’ve had my tea in the morning. Earl grey. With soya milk. One sugar. In my Billy Childish mug. Then I can sort out my tasks for the day while I sip it.  

Psychologists estimate that up to 90% of what we do and think every day is a repetition of what we’ve done before. That’s  because the brain operates on an efficiency principle. Why waste precious energy, it says, coming up with new ideas and re-inventing ways of doing things? Might as well bring out the old ones that we know and like.

No surprise then that when we're asked to come up with a decision or get something done, we act in a ‘here’s one I made earlier’ kind of way. Because fresh ideas take a huge effort. And new behaviours require that we knock ourselves off autopilot and get in the driving seat.

Do Something Different (DSD) is a powerful technique to change behaviour. It now underpins all the behaviour change work I get involved in and brings about some amazing transformations. Put simply, DSD works because to change we first have to become unstuck. Unstuck from our old ways. Unstuck from our usual habits.

That applies to financial behaviour too. Our attitude to money will have become ingrained over years and years. There will be areas of finance with which we’re comfortable (maybe managing the family budget or settling bills on time). Then, lurking deeper, those which are outside our comfort zone (perhaps dealing with taxation or pension issues).

Doing Something Different (DSD) is a way of dipping a toe into the discomfort zone of your finances. That’s why we have lots of DSD exercises in Sheconomics
Here are just a few:

Scared or intimidated by financial jargon?
DSD and look at a website that demystifies the world of finance e.g. for just 10 minutes every day. Or make a habit of flicking through the financial pages of the weekend papers. Get comfortable with money talk and money facts. It's not rocket science, honest.

Held back by a contempt for money or feeling you don’t deserve it?
DSD and go somewhere that feels out of your league. Maybe have a coffee in a posh hotel, tell yourself you've every right to it.  Test drive a top-of-the-range car and see how it feels.

Head-in-the-sand and then hit by big expenses?
DSD and divert a sum via direct debit every month into an emergency fund. Folk who are financially savvy have at least enough stashed away to cover three month's living expenses. Then if a job-loss or big expense hits, there's less chance you'll dive into debt to deal with it.

Trapped by salary creep (earn more-spend more)
DSD and pretend you didn’t get your next pay rise- divert the difference into a savings account. Use the human habitual tendency to your advantage and automate savings and funds. You won't miss what you haven't had and it'll grow without you doing anything.

Living for today and ignoring the future?
DSD and get a current value on what your pension will bring you. That's all, just call up your provider and ask for the estimated annual amount payable. Divide it by 52. Then try living on that amount for a week. How does it feel? When you've recovered from the shock go and talk to an expert about how you can boost your pension.

Overwhelmed by the financial tasks left untackled?
DSD and organise your paperwork into neat orderly files. You’ll find you start feeling in control immediately. Those big problems won't seem anywhere near as overwhelming.

Whenever you're feeling stuck or that you're not getting what you want from life, just ask yourself 'What do I usually do?' Then try doing the opposite. As Einstein said, it's crazy to keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result. To get something different you have to do something different. That applies to your financial behaviour as well as to other areas of your life, like health, relationships or work.

The Do Something Different journal contains a hundred ways to DSD (see panel on the right). For a daily DSD you can follow it on twitter (


  1. Brilliant advice! Particularly the emergency fund...particularly if you are self employed!Have ordered Sheconmics and looking forward to reviewing it soon. Finance, like so many old institutions, designed around needs of men, so really looking forward to a different perspective!

  2. You have a great idea in terms of handling your expenses. Women nowadays are more careful in budgeting their finances especially with their family's finances, like my wife does. My wife has even a personal estate lawyer in Ottawa which she asks for consultation from time to time regarding our family's finances.


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