Home Budgeting How to Train Your Brain to Save Money

How to Train Your Brain to Save Money

A few simple steps that can help you create a lifetime of financial security

Who among us hasn’t beaten ourselves up for not saving enough money? In addition to the psychological and emotional stress of not having a wide enough financial safety net, the Federal Reserve found that about 63% of adults in the United States said they would not be able to cover a $400 unexpected expense with cash.

Before we start ‘binge budgeting,’ or cutting up our credit cards, we must confront an often overlooked culprit in our savings struggles: Our brains.

The Savings Struggle Affects All

Saving is difficult for everyone.  A study by GoBankingRates finds 69% of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings. Some 35% of people whose incomes were less than $25,000 had less than $1,000 in savings. Not surprising, but 23% of people who earn $150,000 or more also had less than a $1,000 saved.

Without going into too much psychobabble, the reptilian part of our brain, which is programmed for our survival, is all about the here and now: Food, shelter, our sense of belonging, etc. You can imagine how something like saving money is in conflict with all of that fear, particularly saving for things far off in the future like retirement. This is why saving feels like such a struggle.

Working Around Our Hardwiring

One way to help your mind wrap itself around saving is to take decision making out of the process. Today, we can use technology to help. Digit is a great app that figures out what you can save based on your income and spending. After a 100-day trial period, it costs $5 a month.

It’s also never too soon to develop good savings patterns.  Download the Kid Fund app, and you can help your child start saving. It’s free.

Acorns is one of my favorites when it comes to growing your savings.  It’s round-up feature literally invests the spare change you have from purchases into an investment portfolio of exchange traded funds.  It costs $1 a month, or $2 for an IRA.

Technology is your best ally when it comes to seeing through all of the mental fog that can come up when we are making financial decisions.

Look Into The Future…Literally

A study by Stanford University found that people who saw age-enhanced images of themselves were much more likely to save more for retirement than those who did not. You need to literally show your reptilian brain that taking care of the ‘older you’ is critical to your survival. It’s not always fun, but looking at images of an old version of yourself on apps like Aging Booth can have a tremendous impact.

New Realities

Many of the steps we need to take in order to create financial well-being – like saving money – go against some of our natural instincts. There is, however, so much more to us than our minds.

Money’s greatest gift is that it can reflect back to us where we are not living in step with who we truly are. Look in the mirror and tune into your feelings. How do you feel about the ways in which you’re taking care of the person you see?  The right decisions will follow.

Stacey Tisdale
Stacey Tisdale
Founder, CEO, Executive Producer

Stacey Tisdale, a more than 20-year veteran TV broadcast financial journalist, and financial behavior expert, is one of the first women, and the first African-American to report from the New York Stock Exchange, in her role as a reporter/anchor for Dow Jones' Emmy Award-winning, Wall Street Journal Television.

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