Saving money isn’t just a matter of willpower, there’s some serious science behind how we make financial decisions. By understanding how our brain tackles monetary choices, we can train ourselves to be more thoughtful and maximize our savings and financial well being. 


Understanding the Psychology 

One key concept in financial decision making is delayed gratification: the ability to resist immediate desires in favor of long-term rewards. Simply put, instead of splurging on a treat right now, you wait and can get a bigger, better treat in the future. But how do we improve our self control? Fortunately, scientists have studied this extensively. By focusing on the logical, rather than the emotional, aspects of the situation, test subjects were able to control their urges and wait more effectively. Stress also impairs our ability to delay gratification – when people are under stress, they often turn to impulsive choices like stress eating or splurge shopping. 

When possible, avoid making important financial decisions in stressful situations – instead, sleep on it and make your purchases in a more relaxed mindset. Recognizing the triggers that lead to impulsive purchases and finding healthier alternatives, such as engaging in outdoor activities or exploring free local events, can redirect your focus and save money. Wally is a strong resource that can assist you in tracking your emotions and spending patterns, helping you make more informed choices.

When we’re considering making a large purchase, it’s important to take a step back and consider it logically. Put aside the emotion of “I want it now” and think about the rewards you can get if you wait. Setting clear financial goals can also be a helpful way to stay motivated and analyze the situation with the logical parts of your brain. Online tools like Mint can help you create budgets, set savings targets, and monitor your progress. Websites and apps like stickK can also provide support and motivation. 


Strategies to Boost Your Saving Potential

Procrastination is a nearly universal trait and we’ve all found ourselves putting off difficult tasks for another day. But procrastination can also seriously impact your finances. Statistics show that fewer than half of Americans have substantial retirement savings. We tell ourselves we’ll contribute to our nest egg tomorrow, but tomorrow never seems to arrive. To help us manage our procrastination, scientists have come up with the Nudge Theory: Give yourself subtle nudges toward positive decisions. 

In a financial context, making saving a default is a great example of a subtle nudge. Automating your savings can be a game-changer. Set up automatic transfers from your checking account to a separate savings account, preferably with a higher interest rate. By doing so, you’ll ensure that a portion of your income is consistently saved without the need for constant manual intervention. 

The simple act of tracking your expenses can be a powerful nudge to cut unnecessary costs. Budgeting apps like You Need a Budget can easily categorize and monitor your expenses. These apps provide insights into your spending habits and help you make informed decisions to reduce unnecessary expenses. By being aware of where your money goes, you can make adjustments to align your spending with your financial goals.

A budgeting rule to consider is the 50/30/20 rule, a simple yet effective approach to managing finances. According to this rule, allocate 50% of your income toward essential expenses like rent, utilities, and groceries. Reserve 30% for spending, which could allow some room to enjoy summer treats and activities guilt-free. Finally, save at least 20% of your income for financial goals, such as building an emergency fund or saving for retirement.


A Mindset for Long-Term Savings Success

Changing our relationship with money can be an important step toward successful saving. Regular self-reflection is a healthy process that can keep you on track to your goals. Ask yourself if your current spending aligns with your long-term objectives. By staying accountable and regularly evaluating your choices, you can make adjustments where required and stay motivated to continue saving. 

Remember that behaviors tend to reinforce themselves. Think about how the first days of a new routine always seem the hardest. So celebrate your small wins, you’re building healthy habits and over time it becomes easier. Think of savings like a financial diet, it’s important to do it in a healthy, controlled way, rather than a crash diet that will cause you to give up and binge on junk. 

Saving money isn’t just about financial discipline; it’s about understanding our own behaviors and motivations. By applying the principles of psychology we can get our minds and our wallets working together.