Commentary: Spending too much money? Tempted by sales? These ways to ‘hack’ your psychology can help

2 weeks ago 27

SYDNEY: It’s late November, which means the holiday sales period has well and truly begun. If you haven’t already seen your spending go up, the possibility is looming.

And you probably have some concerns about spending your money wisely. Furthermore, shopping can be a harrowing experience, and our attitudes towards money are tied up in all kinds of feelings.

Based on psychology, here are three tips to improve the way you spend your hard-earned cash this holiday season.


One of the amazing features of the human mind is that we can mentally time travel: We can imagine what the future is going to feel like. Scientists call this “affective forecasting”.

Thinking about a future trip – imagining the warm sun, the sand between your toes, finding yourself smiling – is an example of such mental time travel.

However, it turns out we’re not very good at affective forecasting. We get wrong not only the emotions we will experience, but also their intensity and duration. Lottery winners are a classic example – contrary to expectations, many are not happy, or not happy for long.

More importantly, you can derive happiness from just anticipating future experiences. For example, one study measured the happiness of 974 people going on a trip compared with 556 people not going on a trip. As you might expect, the vacationers were relatively happier – but only before the trip.

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