How to recession-proof your self control

“In a poor economy, at any given moment people are more likely to have problems with self-control than otherwise — because there’s only so far their self-control energy can be stretched,” -Ms. Vohs, Professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota.

The quote was taken from an article in the New York Times which reported sales of “fun stuff” (handbags, jewelry, wine, cheesecake, cosmetics, etc) have increased during this difficult market. Several professors were asked about the indulgent spending and indicated it was due to people’s inability to sustain self-control.

I would like to offer a few suggestions that might help you in maintaining your recession mindset and not losing focus. When things start looking brighter, I hope these tips will help you to resist the urge to revert back to spontaneous “splurging”. Call it recession-proofing your self-control.

  1. Take the long view. I think of all the personal finance tips I give out and have received, none have motivated me more than thinking about my future and what I want it to look like. Dreaming ahead to what could be is a powerful force in your life and will help you to stay on track for the long haul.
  2. Ask yourself the tough questions. This isn’t easy. I think the knee-jerk reaction to tough questions is to run. But facing them head-on will help you grow and move ahead. When you’re at the store and thinking about an indulging purchase, try and set up some automatic red flags that’ll come to mind before you head to the check-out lane. Questions like, “Do I really need this?” “Is this going to make me feel any better?” “How can I substitute this with something I already have?”
  3. Avoidance. I can’t remember the last time I went to the mall. I just don’t really enjoy them. They are a haven of marketing tricks and gimmicks. If I need to browse, I just go online. Browsing the web is a lot less tempting to me because there’s no immediate gratification. Having to wait a few days before you receive a product can make you think twice about a purchase.
  4. Carry cash. If you really have a hard time in controlling your indulgent buys, carry only cash. There is something innate about paying with cash that causes a more emotional reaction than just whipping out the credit card.
  5. Adopt a recession mindset. By now, we all should have a pretty good idea of the ups and downs of the economy. Some years are good while others are nasty. Being vigilant about the roller-coaster nature of things will help us to save when things aren’t going so well, and also to save when things are – because we know it won’t stay that way.

Any other ideas for maintaining your self-control in a tough economy?

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