Psychological hacks you can use to stop you overspending 

Kara Gammell
Finances expert
minute read
Do you know someone who could benefit from this article?
Posted 13 September 2021

With the cost of living rising, many of us want to tighten our belts on our spending. But the emotional appeal of buying can be strong. 

Here are eight ways to curb your emotional spending

1. Perform the “stranger test” 

Next time you’re tempted to buy something on impulse, close your eyes and imagine a stranger holding the product in one hand, and the cash in the other. 

Which one would you choose? Usually it’s the cash. 

When trying to decide whether you should splurge on the latest smartphone, why not break down the price into the hours worked? 

2. Turn yourself off 

Previous ownership can affect our desire for an object – just look at the rise of the Instagram influencer. 

But why not turn the tables and use this to save you some money? 

Create a vivid mental picture of someone that you really dislike (a particular politician?) wearing that jacket or carrying the luxury handbag. 

Chances are that you’ll have turned yourself off the item and can walk away without purchasing. 

3. Do the maths 

When trying to decide whether you should splurge on the latest handset, why not break down the price into the hours worked? 

First, calculate your current hourly salary, then divide the item you’ve had your eye on by that amount. This will determine how many full working hours it will take to pay the item off. 

So, if you make the national minimum wage of £8.72, for instance, buying that iPhone will mean that you had to work around 160 hours to buy it. 

Does it seem worth it? 

4. Pay in cash 

Paying in cash has been shown to reduce impulse purchases, as handing over paper money makes the cost of a purchase more real. 

When you use a credit card the spending is abstract, but when you pay in cash you see your wallet getting thinner. That can help curb impulse buying. 

Until you pay your credit card off, you’re spending money that you haven’t yet earned 

5. Change your view of credit 

Until you pay your credit card off you’re spending money that you haven’t yet earned. 

So, think of your credit card as a “debt card” and you might not be so hasty in paying on plastic. 

6. Don’t touch 

Have you ever had to put something back on the shelf and felt a twinge of remorse? When we carry products around while we shop, psychologically we can’t help but feel like we already own them. 

So, rather than feel “the pain” of losing something, we tend to buy the items we carry around the shop. 

The solution is easy: if you’re eyeing something up, keep it on the rack or shelf until you decide that you want it for certain. 

7. Cut the chit-chat with the sales staff 

Yes, salespeople are quite friendly, but the more you interact with the staff, the more likely you are to buy something from them. 

Thanks to the law of reciprocity, we feel compelled to do something nice in return for helpful sales staff, which often means handing over our hard-earned cash. 

Be polite, but don’t get too chummy. 

8. Take a breather 

Neuroscientists have found that having to wait even 10 minutes for a reward dramatically reduces the brain’s response to it. 

So, before you make a purchase, walk out of the shop or switch to a different website. 

After a break, chances are that you’ll see the “value” of that purchase more clearly. 

3 things to do right now...

Remove the temptation to shop by unsubscribing from company emails with Unlistr. Simply sign up and it scans your inbox, compiling a list of your email subscriptions, which you can edit. You’ll save a fortune without even realising it. 

Pat yourself on the back and celebrate the progress you make when it comes to spending less, as research shows that this makes us feel more in control. 

Set your budget and stick to it. Experts say this allows us to exercise self-regulation, which increases our sense of control. Sticking to our own standards of spending not only evokes pride and satisfaction, but also empowers us and allows us to feel more in charge. 

Please share this with someone who'd benefit from it.

Don’t forget that while you may think that this article is brilliant, it is intended for information purposes only and should not be mistaken for financial advice or recommendations.