Resetting Your Financial Behavior
by Janet Todd, Ph.D.
On a recent visit to my mom, she and I decided to check out a local fundraiser holding a casino night for charity. With coins in hand, we hit the slots. My machine’s payout was based on the number of sharks showing after a spin. There was loud music, lights, and animated sharks swimming on a screen above the machine. I was doing okay—winning a little and losing a little—when suddenly, the pictures enlarged, the tempo of the music increased, and a timer appeared with a message that said, “Spin for more sharks.”
As the timer counted down, I hit the spin button faster and faster, quickly depleting my coins, until I suddenly realized I was not getting any more sharks than before. I had fallen for one of the oldest marketing tricks—urgency—enticing me to act right away.
How many times have you found yourself falling for similar bait? Have you ever gone to a store to use a coupon before it expires, even though you didn’t need to buy anything? Or “acted fast” before a sale price disappeared without weighing whether you’re really getting a bargain?
If you answered yes, perhaps now is a good time to assess your financial behavior. How intentional are you with your spending and savings behavior? Every dollar you use should have a planned purpose, such as saving for retirement, buying groceries, supporting a planned vacation, or covering housing expenses. Designating a purpose for each dollar may help you stay in control and be less likely to fall prey to marketing tactics. It may also reduce financial stress, since your decisions about saving and spending are made beforehand based on your awareness of your needs and wants.
The first of the year is always a good time to stop and assess what’s working and what may need some adjustments. Look at your financial behavior with a discerning eye. Take a week or two, perhaps a month, and really track what each dollar is doing. Then take some time to analyze the underlying reasons that you (or you and a spouse/partner) made the saving and spending choices you did. Did they reflect intentionality, habit, giving in to outside pressures, or a combination of reasons?
From that assessment, you can determine the financial behaviors that are not in line with your financial goals. Pick one behavior you would like to change and turn it into a SMART goal. Remember, small changes are often more sustainable.
If you need help, take a look at CPG’s SMART eLearning course to get started.
Janet Todd, PhD, serves as director of curriculum development for the Church Pension Group (CPG), responsible for curricula used in CPG’s education programs.