There’s a genevariant associated with good financial decisions—but only about a quarter of us have it, according to a report from the Santa Clara University Leavey School of Business. If you’re not among the lucky ones, here are ways to trick your brain into spending smarter.
1. Find a money mantra: Repeating a phrase such as “Use tax refunds for savings” can be powerful enough to neutralize poor spending behavior, partly because when we break a rule—even one we’ve made up—we tend to feel bad about ourselves.
2. Make a debt plan: Simply committing to a strategy may prevent you from giving in to temptation. Sites such as ReadyforZero.com and Payoff.com help users pay down debt by sending reminders and encouragement at regular intervals.
3. Be specific about your money goal: Saying “I’ll save more” is too vague. Single out what’s most important to you now—such as purchasing a home—and assign a specific dollar amount to that goal. When you know how much you need to save, you’re more likely to make good financial decisions
Heather Phillips: From stay-at-home mom to product inventor
“After I launched my first invention—the Baby Banana toothbrush for infants and—toddlers—in 2008, I tried getting up early and staying up late to work, but I was exhausted. So I decided that for now, in my thirties, when I have four kids who need me night and day, I am going to live only part of my dream: developing products and selling the patents. I am saving my whole dream—taking a product from conception to market, building a business and distributing it throughout the world—for when my kids are out of the house. It’s OK if you can’t have your cake and eat it now; you can have your cake and take little bites along the way.”
Understand There Will Never Be a Perfect Time to Reinvent
Elise Whang: From lawyer to online entrepreneur
“I have always loved fashion and looked at shopping as a form of expression. For two years I was waiting for the perfect time to leave my job to launch SnobSwap.com, the online designer consignment shop I was working on with my sister in the wee hours of the morning. Then, in 2011, I was lying on the table in the doctor’s office looking at the sonogram screen, thinking, I’m bringing a baby girl into the world, and I want to tell her to live her dreams. Why not lead by example? I believe that in our thirties, reinvention is natural. In hindsight, I regret not leaping earlier, when our online store would have been first to market. Now I know that you can never pick the best time, just a better time.”
The average employee spends 28 percent of her time managing email, according to a 2012 McKinsey Global Institute report. Keep your inbox from overflowing into your life:
1. Check email five times—when you get to work, midmorning, at lunch, midafternoon and before you leave, says Randy Dean, a time-management consultant in East Lansing, Michigan.
2. Use the two-minute rule: If you can deal with an email in two minutes or less, do it. If not, make a note on your to-do list and take care of it later, during the time you’ve set aside for long emails.
3. Color-code your messages: In Outlook, you can use the automatic-formatting feature to set this up. (For instructions, search “change message colors” at microsoft.com/outlook.)