Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Eat slower? Spend slower!

Prevailing wisdom in the health world is that most people should eat more slowly.  Slowing down, savoring every mouthful and putting your fork down between bites has been shown to help you loose weight, feel full sooner in your meal and it probably doesn't hurt your enjoyment of what you're eating either.  There are all sorts of tactics that have been developed to help people eat slower and thus eat less like eating with chopsticks, holding your fork in your non-dominant hand, having an interesting conversation while you eat so you spend more time talking between bites, counting to 30 before taking another bite, or chewing a minimum number of times before swallowing.

Why can't we do the same thing in our financial lives?  If you can get yourself to spend at a slower rate you will spend less overall and will be able to save more.  It seems pretty logical to me that if you can draw out a purchase you might get more enjoyment out of it.  You also can also delay additional purchases by stretching what you already have to last a little longer.  Research has shown that delaying consumption can increase the amount of happiness you get from a purchase and that several small purchases can bring more happiness than one expensive one which runs parallel to the idea that you my eat less if you eat several small meals a day.  There's general research about how you can spend your money more effectively to be happy, but what specifically can we do to slow down the rate at which we spend?

You can try putting physical distance as a barrier between you and spending.  I try not to drive during the week and it's about a quarter of a mile to anyplace where I can spend money.  So most of the time the only buying that gets done during the week is crucial stuff like groceries, toiletries, or public transit money.

I've heard of many people having a daily spending limit and a mandatory waiting period for large purchases beyond the limit that scales up with price. That directly postpones consumption and spending potentially in a big way since it's proportional to the amount you want to spend.

I sometimes find that making a single small purchase will satisfy my need for spending for quite some time.  For example, a few months ago I felt like my work clothes were all not in great shape and I'd need to replace all of them.  I went to the mall, bought one shirt and was done.  I haven't been back since and have been making do with what I have which wasn't as bad as I feared.  Similarly, when I have a huge craving for dessert I'll sometimes take my SO with me to a small store that sells single chocolates for $.30 and the craving will be satisfied for a few days.

You could put everything you want on a wish list if online shopping is your thing.  If you know you can always find it later it may be easier to put it aside for a while.  Plus with an online wish list maybe someone will buy that book, scarf or tool for you and you won't have to spend any money at all.

There's also tons of talk in personal finance blogs about how many people spend less if they only spend cold, hard cash instead of using a credit or debit card.  Research has shown that people are more reluctant to spend if they carry bills in large denominations.  Maybe you can slow your spending by only carrying one $20 bill. Just be careful once you break it.

What are the tricks you can put in place in your life to slow you spending?  Do you think this can help you spend less and still feel satisfied?

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  1. Interesting analogy. What about working more hours so you have less free time to spend money? haha. Probably not the solution people want to hear...

  2. That's interesting-I have never heard that people are more reluctant to spend if the have to break large bills. I guess that makes sense as I've experienced it first hand (e.g. wanting ot get rid of smaller bills first and coints etc.)

  3. I've made a wants list on my computer and when we have extra money I put the money towards the most important thing on that list. That often means that I end up taking off some of the wants as they become less important or I find a free way to get them.