How to control the urge to splurge

By Bank Windhoek’s Executive of Credit, Eddie King. 

What gives you the urge to splurge? Facing spending habits can be uncomfortable, but it may be the only way to get financial control and avoid the debt trap. Understanding our spending behaviours is essential for achieving financial stability and security. Imagine this: you have just received your salary and are excited about everything you can buy. But have you ever stopped to think about why you spend the way you do? 

According to recent studies, in consumer-driven markets of scale, the average person makes over 200 financial decisions daily, many of which are influenced by subconscious factors. From mundane tasks like turning on a light switch to more complex activities like putting petrol in your car or grocery shopping, every action involves a series of financial choices. These scenarios highlight the importance of understanding our spending habits to make informed financial decisions.

Cognitive Biases in Spending 

Cognitive bias is the tendency to act irrationally due to our limited ability to process information objectively. It is not always negative but can cloud our judgment and affect how we perceive situations, people, or potential risks. It is common when it comes to money.

Ideally, we would save adequately for retirement instead of giving in to impulsive buying or that nagging urge to splurge. Cognitive biases, or mental shortcuts that influence decision-making, significantly affect money spending. For instance, confirmation bias may lead us to seek information confirming our preconceived notions about a purchase. At the same time, loss aversion causes us to value avoiding losses more than acquiring gains. By recognising and understanding these biases, we can make better informed financial decisions and avoid common pitfalls, such as impulsive buying or unplanned purchases, which can wreck your savings plan.

Common Financial Issues

Immediate vs. Future Benefits (Future discounting)

Humans are more concerned with immediate threats and needs than distant future scenarios. This approach leads to undervaluing long-term financial goals like retirement. 

Solution: Start small with achievable savings goals, like setting aside five percent of your gross salary and gradually increasing this amount. Remember that spending too much on wants can make you short on money for things you need.

The Illusion of Credit

Credit cards or buying on credit can create a disconnect between spending and the pain of payment, encouraging more spending than one might otherwise engage in with cash. 

Solution: Use cash for daily expenses to feel the immediate impact of spending. Setting up automatic payments or payment reminders can help us stay mindful of our credit card balances and avoid accumulating debt. Also, beware of advertisements that appeal to emotions. Aim to make smart buying decisions that meet your personal needs. 

Monetary Value vs. Time Spent

Many people do not equate money spent with the time it took to earn that money, which can lead to trivialising expenses. 

Solution: When considering a purchase, consider how much of your daily earnings it represents to assess its actual cost. During this process, think and learn to live within your income. This tactic is the key to financial freedom and worry-free living. 

Tracking Spending

It is easy to lose track of daily spending, resulting in unintentional overspending.

Solution: Keep a detailed log of expenditures for a month to identify and eliminate unnecessary spending. You can achieve this using a budget app or logging expenses in an Excel sheet. Make your shopping or spending plan and stick to it. Nowadays, there are many budgeting apps, and you can use your bank statements to see where your money goes. Most importantly, have savings goals to help you get rid of debt.

Decision-Making and Emotions. Does it bring you joy?

It is essential to question whether a purchase truly brings joy or is an impulsive decision driven by fleeting emotions. Evaluating each purchase's happiness can lead to more satisfying spending and potentially significant savings. You can also curb the urge to splurge by using the following:

• Stop and think before you spend.

• Wait to compare two or three stores before you make a final purchase decision.

• Look for other options and say no anytime you feel pressured into buying something or entering into any financial commitment.

Understanding our spending behaviours is a journey, not a destination. By becoming more aware of the psychological factors that influence our financial decisions and implementing practical strategies to overcome them, we can take control of our finances, build a more secure future and become financially disciplined.


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