Tuesday, 31 December 2013

3 ways to control your spending in 2014

Science has thrown up some fascinating facts about how the brain operates when we're in consumer mode, and the processes at work when people over-spend. 

Apply some science to control your spending

There are three main factors at work - and to watch out for - if you want to keep spending under control in 2014:

1. Biological Factors: Don’t go shopping if you’re hungry, pre-menstrual or have just emptied your bladder.

You may not realise that your physiology is affecting your behaviour. But when you're hungry you will buy more food and make higher calorific choices at the supermarket. When in an anxious state you will be more likely to impulse-buy. That's because the physical state of high arousal leads to a depletion of the resources that govern self-control. And fluctuations in activity in the brain’s orbitofrontal cortex during the menstrual cycle will make you more likely to go on a spending spree when premenstrual. And more rational and controlled post-ovulation. Even an empty bladder affects your brain’s control mechanisms. Science has shown you’ll be more likely to (sorry) splash out if you’ve just spent a penny. So pay attention to your body before hitting the shops, it may be telling you to hold fire.
Try timing shopping trips with your menstrual cycle and avoid the pre-menstrual phase
2. Emotional factors: Don’t shop if you’ve just had a row, a stressful day or been dumped by your boyfriend.

People experience a range of emotions (anger, fear, sadness) in their daily lives and engage in all sorts of behavioural responses to keep them in check.  Some women find shopping gives them an emotional outlet, the way that alcohol or drugs can do for others. It distracts them from negative feelings and provides comfort in the form of a treat or reward. In fact studies of compulsive buying have shown that its prime function is to repair mood. So spot when emotions are running high and find an alternative way of releasing them. Find  distraction through exercise or relaxation, or seek social support by spending time with friends. Concentration, whether on gardening, painting or rock-climbing, is also a good way to absorb negative emotions. And the Do Something Different approach to behavioural change could help see you through the tough times because it's all about about breaking habits and increasing behavioural flexibility.
Buyer's remorse is like a shopping hangover
3. Cognitive factors: Don’t go shopping with low self-esteem and an “I deserve it attitude”.

Impulse purchases can trigger a lot of self-justification in the consumer, to assuage the guilt of over-spending. Their thoughts echo with the messages that have been implanted by constant brain-washing and bombarding marketing campaigns. Thoughts such as “Why shouldn’t I have it?” “I work hard I deserve it” “My friends will love me for it” and so on. Self-talk can also shift the focus onto the wrong things, “I’m saving £100 by buying this in the sale” (instead of, “I’m spending £200 I don’t have") or even "I'll show him!" Some cognitive reframing can help here. Relabel your credit card your debt card. Silently answer the ad-men back. Recall when you last had buyer’s remorse and tell yourself how you’ll feel tomorrow. And find ways to boost your self-esteem so that you can resist the constant bombardment of persuasive messages. 
Few people greet a large credit card bill with the words, “Because I’m worth it”.




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