What if we could redesign our own finances so they work for us, with the least amount of effort?
American comedian Steven Wright said it best: hard work pays off in the future, laziness pays off right now. In other words, if you have to take any action (no matter how small) that improves your life a few years from now, most people tend to shy away from it and prefer to do nothing.
Brands, retailers and even some financial services providers know how prone we are to inaction and can take advantage of this tendency. Most consumer businesses – whether bricks or mortar or e-commerce – know a great deal about human nature and have designed stores and sites to nudge you into a certain direction: buying more things you may not need. That could mean purchasing items or putting money into places that don't match our long-term financial goals.
But what if we could redesign our own spending and saving habits so they are primed for our comfort? Here are some tips and tricks that you can institute, to design your financial future, without putting in the effort.
A quick disclaimer before we continue. Any financial 'mistakes' listed below are not unique to us as individuals. Marketing, context and prompts lead to almost everyone making the same predictable choices.
Save outside of your eyeline
Does your employer offer a savings program that takes a small amount from your paycheck and then pays out a lump sum once a year? Are you able to sell stock and leave the money in the stock account? Or could you even open a savings account at a separate bank and cut the debit card, so you won't be tempted to take the money? Make it hard on yourself to touch your savings and you can build an 'invisible' emergency fund quickly.
Ask your neighbors about their power bill
If you're trying to spend less on power or water, it can be difficult to be diligent about turning of lights or other devices that use lots of power, such as air conditioners. When it comes to energy consumption, it turns out it isn't money that drives us, but how we benchmark against the people in our community. Ask your neighbors how much they pay – and talk about it with your family! A California experiment proved that social pressure, not financial persuasion, actually worked to lower utility bills. And it's good for the planet too!
Calculate debt in terms of time, not money
There are times when we need to take out a loan to pay for something important. But when you do so, focus on how many months — and how much interest — you'll need to pay it off. Lenders want you to focus only on monthly payments. But by taking a step back and considering the time factor, you can wonder if all your plans for that dream wedding, vacation, or even that top-notch smartphone are worth being saddled with years' worth of monthly payments.
Eye the dollar, not the purchase
Would you drive across town to save 100 dollars on a 300-dollar stereo? Or it could be in Sterling, Euro, or any other currency. Most people would. But if you're purchasing a large item, say a $33,000 car, most people wouldn't make the trip to buy the same car for $32,900 (100 dollars less). Yet the savings – $100 – is the same in both scenarios. In other words: if a drive across town is worth 100 dollars to you, it's always worth it – regardless of how much you spend and on what.
Don't take a chance on lotteries
The next time you are tempted to purchase a lottery ticket, just flush the amount you intend to spend on the lottery down the drain – since it's pretty much the same thing.
According to the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries, more money is spent on lotto tickets in the USA, than any other forms of entertainment. More than sports tickets, movie tickets, music, books, and video games combined! To gain proper wealth is a gradual, well thought out process. Remember that by purchasing lottery tickets, you are millions of times more likely to lose, than gain.