Our brain does not understand where the money goes. Why?
Why at the end of the month we sometimes do not understand where our salary disappeared? It seems that they didn’t get anything global, but again they have to shoot at a more perspicacious colleague to pay. Art Markman, a professor of psychology and marketing at the University of Austin, believes that the problem is that today we are much less likely than before to pick up the usual paper money. And to buy anything, it became much easier than 10, and even more so 50 years ago.
Sometimes art predicts the future. Art Markman cites the first film in the Star Wars saga, released in 1977, as an example. The audience was amazed that the heroes of the fantastic film did not use cash, paying for purchases with certain “galactic loans”. Instead of the usual coins and bills – virtual amounts that lie on the account. And it is completely incomprehensible how one can pay for something without having something physically personifying the money itself. Then this idea of the authors of the film shocked, but today we all do something like this.
Our salary is transferred to personal accounts. We pay for goods and services with plastic cards. Even for the phone and for utility bills, we simply transfer money from one account to another, without getting close to the bank. The money that we currently have is not something tangible, but simply the numbers that we try to keep in mind.
Our body is not just a life support system that supports the functioning of the brain, reminds Art Markman. The brain and body developed together – and are used to having to perform some kind of action together. It is best that these actions physically change the environment. It is simply difficult for us to do something absolutely speculative, something that has no material manifestation.
We don’t even have to make an effort to register somewhere, we just need to know the card number. It’s too easy
Therefore, a developed settlement system rather complicates than facilitates our relations with money. After all, everything that we acquire has a material form – unlike the money with which we pay. Even if we pay for some kind of virtual thing or service, its image on the product page looks much more real to us than the amounts that leave our accounts.
In addition, practically nothing prevents us from making purchases. Online hypermarkets have the “one-click purchase” option. We don’t even have to make an effort to register somewhere, we just need to know the card number. In cafes and malls, we can get what we want by simply attaching a piece of plastic to the terminal. It’s too easy. It is much easier than keeping records of income and expenses, planning purchases, downloading tricky applications for accounting for expenses.
This behavior quickly becomes a habit. And there is nothing to worry about if you are satisfied with the amount of money that you spend and the amount that you manage to save. If you want that after an unscheduled trip to the bar with friends you still have enough money for a weekly supply of products (especially if this is the week before the salary), you will have to work on something. If you continue to behave in the same spirit, it is better not to dream about savings.
The habit of spending, the habit of counting
It is very likely that you often have no idea where the money went: if some action becomes a habit, we simply stop noticing it. In general, habits are a good thing. Agree: it’s great to just turn on and off the light without thinking through every step. Or brush your teeth. Or wear jeans. Imagine how difficult it would be if you had to develop a special algorithm for simple everyday tasks.
If we are talking about bad habits, the first thing you should start the road to change with is to try to track the actions that we usually perform “automatically”.
Art Markman offers those who have discovered problems with compulsive and inconspicuous spending to start tracking their purchases for a month.
- Get a small notebook and pen and keep them with you all the time.
- Place a sticker on the front side of the credit card stating that each purchase must be “registered” in a notebook.
- Strictly record every waste. Record the date and place of the “crime.” At this stage, you do not need to adjust your behavior. But if, on reflection, you refuse to buy – so be it.
All changes begin with such a simple and at the same time complex step, as gaining knowledge about one’s own habits
Markman offers every week to study the list of purchases made. This will help you prioritize spending. Do you buy what you do not need at all? Do you spend money on what you can actually do yourself? Do you have a one-click shopping passion? What items would remain in stock if you had to make more efforts to get them?
A variety of strategies and methods have been developed to combat uncontrolled purchases, but all changes begin with such a simple and at the same time complex step, such as gaining knowledge about your own habits. A simple notebook and pen will help transfer our spending from the virtual world to the physical world, look at them as if we were getting hard-earned money from our wallet. And, perhaps, to abandon the next red lipstick, cool, but useless socks and the third in a day Americano in a cafe.
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