If it’s true that money is the root of all evil, you don’t want to spend every waking minute thinking about your finances. Yet, a constant bombardment of advertisements, bills, and financial stress makes it hard to let down your spending and saving guard, even for a moment.
Amid the plethora of financial advice about saving money and planning for the future, a more valuable lesson might be learning how to handle your finances wisely without thinking about it. In other words, how can you remain in fiscal balance without actually dealing with money?
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We’ve got a few ideas—five, to be exact. These suggestions advocate for a mind over money philosophy that can lead to effortless financial stability.
If you feel like throttling the person that takes too long to order their morning coffee, your own personal finances might be taking the hit. Patience is key to good financial standing.
One of the most famous tests of patience showed that an impulse towards instant gratification can lead to less success on a grand scale. In the Stanford marshmallow experiment led by Walter Mischel in the 1960s and 70s, children were individually seated in a room with one marshmallow, and were told that if they resisted eating the marshmallow until the experimenter returned, they would be rewarded with another treat.
Years later, the researchers followed up with the participants. They found that those who didn’t wait to eat the marshmallow, despite the promised reward, had less favorable life outcomes than their more patient peers. The children who held out for delayed gratification had higher SATs scores, more educational achievements, and better health.
The same principle of patience applies to your personal finances. If you can delay gratification in favor of the bigger financial picture, you’re apt to limit your short-term spending. Take a deep breath in the Starbucks line or on a spur-of-the-moment shopping spree. You’ll reap the rewards of waiting, and they’ll be better than a marshmallow.
Studies also show that if you’re having trouble saving money, gratitude might do the trick. Research published in “Psychological Science” in June suggests that gratitude leads to increased patience—and increased savings.
In the experiment, subjects were primed by writing about gratitude, happiness, or a neutral subject for several minutes before being offered two compensation options: less money immediately, or a greater sum later on. This adult version of the marshmallow experiment concluded that those who wrote about gratitude more frequently chose the latter, saving-savvy option.
Translate this research to your personal finances, and thankfulness becomes a good way to grow your funds. An attitude of gratitude will not only make you more content with what you have, leading to less spending, it will also encourage you to be at peace while your finances are in the process of prospering.
Money is power (said Andrew Jackson), but it turns out that power is money, too. Studies demonstrate that if you feel powerful, you’re more likely to save.
In a series of recent experiments by Stanford researchers, participants were made to feel more or less powerful before answering questions about their compensation. One study asked participants to write about a time when they had power over someone, while a separate experiment placed participants in the test group in a tall chair. At the end of the test period, the individuals who were made to feel more powerful chose more long-term, saving-centered compensation for their participation.
The researchers noted that “individuals who feel powerful save to have control over resources (i.e., money) because they are motivated to maintain their current state.” Even if you’re not happy with your current financial state, these studies suggest that faking it till you make it could pay off. Stand up straight and tall when you’re paying your bills or contemplating a purchase. Assuming a more powerful stance could help you assert more control over your finances.
Studies have also shown that people spend more when they feel powerless, which helps to explain why those in debt often chronically spend beyond their means.
Surround Yourself with Savers
If you consider that even a slight environmental shift can change the result of an experiment on saving, imagine the impact the people you spend time with every day have on your money mindset. The friends, family, acquaintances, and coworkers that surround you can significantly influence your day-to-day financial habits.
From apartment size to food consumption, an individual’s frugality (or lack thereof) can alter their lifestyle significantly. Spending time with people who save well or who have similar financial intentions can make it easier for you to live happily within your means.
Finding a friend with a common health goal is a popular weight loss strategy, but the style of this support system can extend far beyond food and fitness. If you’re serious about saving, or about cutting back on spending, call in the troops for some backup. Seeking out a friend or family member to serve as your savings buddy can keep you motivated.
Share Your Goals
We’ve explained how to set your financial goals, but you can take this advice to the next level by taking it to someone you trust. When you share your goals with another person, you open up avenues of motivation and support that wouldn’t be possible if you kept them to yourself.
On his blog, Dragos Roua lists the possible side effects of sharing your goals, including:
- A heightened sense of accountability to follow through.
- Clarity that comes from conversing about your goals with another human.
- Connection (rather than competition) with individuals who support you on your way to achieving your goal.
Talking about your short and long-term financial goals can help develop and further them. When you converse with someone else, you’ll put your goals in perspective, rather than getting bogged down with small fiscal frets.
Remember that your life outlooks and practices eventually trickle down into your personal finances. Developing an awareness of where you’re lacking, in gratitude, confidence, or saving-savvy comrades, can help you fill in your personal finance gaps.