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”.

Monday, 16 December 2013

7 Signs that you are suffering from Gift Creep

OK, so you've finished your Christmas shopping . or have you? 

Will you be tempted to buy your friend that 'little extra'? Or find you've bought more presents than you needed and add to the relatives' pile?

Can't stop at one gift per person? 
You may be suffering from gift creep.

People rarely seem to give each other just one present these days. We hedge our bets and give two, or even three, gifts in the hope that one of them will hit the right note.

More than a third (35%) of people say they're disappointed with how the gifts they've bought look when wrapped up and fall victim to 'gift creep', splashing out on last-minute additions, according to research by Currys & PC World.

And nearly a quarter (23%) of people in their survey reported worrying that the other person has spent more, which can lead to nipping out for that little 'extra something'.  

It seems some of us just don't know when to stop shopping!

I've called this behavioural phenomenon ‘gift creep’ and this week, as we get closer to Christmas, is the danger period when we can fall victim to it and start piling on the presents. And that can really add to the cost of Christmas.

Here are my 7 signs you are suffering from Gift Creep:

   1.   You’ve finished your Christmas shopping but still buy little ‘extras’ every time you go out

   2.   You worry someone won’t like what you’ve bought them, so you add another gift (like some luxury chocolates) on top to soften the effect

   3.   Before someone visits at Christmas you look around to see if there’s anything else you could give them

   4.   After wrapping all your gifts you feel anxious that the size and number of parcels looks a bit on the small side

   5.   You lie awake at night totting up how much you’ve spent on people - then try to even up the numbers so as not to appear stingy

  6.   You’re all spent out …. but can’t resist those last minute stocking fillers at the till

   7.   You buy a gift for someone, forgetting you've already bought them something, and end up giving them both

So if you've finished, try to draw a line under the shopping and say 'enough's enough'! 

Otherwise, gift creep creeps up year-on-year until it reaches unmanageable, and un-financeable, levels.

To help present buyers, get their presents right this Christmas, Currys & PC World has launched a special Gift List service. The online tool makes getting the right gift easy and, as well as helping you pick the best presents, every day someone will win their entire Gift list throughout the festive period.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Buy, give and give again!

Is there someone in your life who’s ‘impossible to buy for’?
Or a person who deserves an extra special gift?

How about the gift of happiness?

Do Something Different (the movement co-founded by Professor Karen Pine) has teamed up with Action for Happiness to create Do Happiness. It’s all about less moaning and more appreciating.  Less rushing around and more stopping and smelling the mince pies. More turning frowns upside down.

And when you buy one happiness programme you automatically create a free one for someone who can’t afford it. So it’s smiles all round.

Do Happiness is a six-week programme of small personalised actions (Do’s) designed to supercharge your happiness levels - and spread happiness to others.

How does it work?
It’s simple. The Do-er does a quick online happiness questionnaire. Then they are sent daily Do’s: powerful actions designed by psychologists, and picked especially for them, to act upon. And access to a Do Zone in which to log and share them.

Do's are small positive actions that arrive by text and/or email

How much does it cost?
Do Happiness costs £15 for a six-week programme – a total of 32 daily Do’s sent by email and/or text. That’s less than the cost of a massage for something that lasts much longer and isn’t so oily. Each programme that’s started automatically releases one free of charge to a less-fortunate person on the list. That’s the first act of kindness. And there are more smile-generating acts to follow.

Show your friends and family some happy love
Plant some extra happiness in your own life, or that of friends and family, and watch the happiness blossom and grow right into next year, one Do at a time.