It’s a cold fall day in Salt Lake City. You’re downtown with friends and pass by a storefront where you see a beautiful new jacket. You take a look at your own (you’ve had it for a while now) and think to yourself, “Sure, it’s only $75, I think I can cover it.”
If you’ve been in that situation, or one like it, you’ve tripped a spending trigger. Spending triggers are psychological pushes that encourage us to get rid of our money. Like most things in our brains, they can help or hinder us depending on the circumstances.
When we’re sitting well in the black, it’s good to spend and keep money moving around the economy. When we’re in the red we need to be able to hold back. Here are a few common spending triggers and ways to avoid them. You can break these cues into two classes—emotional and environmental.
Emotional cues stem from a desire or deep-seated want in our psyche. This can be our modern need for instant gratification, or simply the desire to buy things to “prove” we’ve made it and have means. One major emotional cue is protecting our image, maybe buying a new winter coat to look good for the season.
Emotional cues can be hard to avoid because the triggers are built into our brains. We sometimes call these people “shopaholics” because of the emotional thrill they get from getting new things. To avoid emotional cues, you’ll need to learn more about what gets you to spend the way you’re spending, and then know that you’re spending for an emotional and not practical reason. Before you put money down on that jacket, think: are you you’re buying it because your current jacket just doesn’t keep you warm? Or, are you buying it because you fear that others will think less of you?
Environmental cues are natural parts of your environment that influence you to spend money. Maybe every day you grab lunch from the Subway downstairs at noon. Or, when you’re out with friends you tend to spend more than you normally would. It can even be simply trying to maintain your lifestyle after a pay cut or a major expense. These are all understandable, but spending beyond your means can get you into trouble.
Unlike emotional cues, environmental cues are thankfully easier to avoid. If you find yourself overspending because you go out to lunch with coworkers each day, try packing a bag lunch beforehand or carrying cash. If you’ve found you overspend when you’re hanging out, see if you can orient your social activities to low fee or free events.
We all have our unique spending cues. They may be different for everyone, but rest assured, everyone has them. And while spending triggers sound bad, remember that buying things is OK. The key is making sure you’ve got the money to spare and an actual need for what you’re buying.
If you’re trying to avoid your spending triggers as you save up for the holiday shopping season, consider looking into a Utah First money market account. Money market accounts are a great way to keep your money separate from the rest of your funds, thus taking away some of the temptation to spend. And you can earn a little extra interest in the process.
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