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How to Replace Willpower in Spending

Willpower and Healthy Money Habits - Bonnie Sewell - American Capital Planning

Nobody dropped out of our plant-based lifestyle group class after the first week.  Comparing notes, others lost 5 lbs. just like I did.  Changing habits is a universal challenge among the classmates I spoke to.  Not eating any dairy, meat, or any other animal products along with no sugar, no oil and no added salt (called SOS), and no alcohol, was different for sure, but losing caffeine proved to be too much.  By Friday, I’d added back 1 cup of black coffee in the morning.  My energy picked up and this small tweak let me stay true to the program in every other aspect.

Food Companies Know How to Test Your Willpower

Stating the obvious, there are tremendous financial incentives to food companies to promote easy, fast food.  Their research is deep and excellent in understanding the pleasure centers of the brain.  And they’ve become efficient at hitting those centers with the processed food they sell as well as in the ways in which they sell it.

Processed food is really enticing when it’s easy, cheap and full of salt, sugar and/or oil.  This trio speaks to our taste buds and brings pleasure to the brain.  But metabolically, what is it the impact on health over time?  Processed food in most cases has eliminated two things:  water and fiber.  As I continue the switch to plant-based food, I no longer need to drink water every hour because so much is in my food.  And with lots of natural fiber, I’m not hungry between meals, nor am I getting cravings.  The big win is I can stop obsessing about food and move through my day comfortably. 

The Consequences of Weak Willpower with Food & Money

A parallel between processed or fast food and the financial industry is the struggle to get past the noise.  If I have a craving and fast food is nearby, I can cure that craving by eating fast, cheap food with little water, fiber, or nutrients in it.  Now, I have to eat more to feel full but it will cure my craving (till the next one).  Credit cards are quite similar.  If I decide I want something and by having a credit card, I can get it in seconds, I’m likely to scratch that itch without thinking through the real cost. Purchases get even more expensive if I carry the balance in addition to the opportunity cost since that spent money cannot be used now to grow my wealth.  If I make that ‘easy’ choice often enough, I’ll never reach the goals I said were most important.

Easy food, easy money.  Willpower is hard for the long run.  By eating the right food, I need less discipline because my cravings for easy food are muted.  What’s the corollary when it comes to money?  Carrying only one credit card, instilling a rule to wait 24-hours before making any non-essential purchase, and filling your time with anything but shopping. If shopping is the rush that leads to impulse spending, then find another rush.  Getting outside, hanging with a friend, enjoying solitude with a book and cup of tea – replace (vs. remove) the rush you get from spending. 

I’ll be back next week with part 3 of this Healthy Money Habits series.

Don’t forget to check out last week’s post where I talked about how to make your Healthy Money Habits stick. And, if you’d like our help in strengthening your weak willpower in spending, let’s talk.

Bonnie A. Sewell, CFP®, CDFA™, AIF® is NOT AN ATTORNEY AND DOES NOT PROVIDE LEGAL ADVICE. All information she provides is financial in nature and should not be construed or relied upon as legal or tax advice.  Individuals seeking legal or tax advice should solicit the counsel of competent legal professionals knowledgeable about the divorce laws in their own geographical areas or CPAs qualified to provide tax advice.

DISCLOSURE:  All of the above is believed to be accurate but should be considered informational only and should not be considered financial, tax, or legal advice.  Seek advice from a paid professional under contract to you. 

Copyright © 2019.  All Rights Reserved.  American Capital Planning LLC.

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