Think of this item to curb the urge to splurge

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Think of this item to curb the urge to splurge


Noticed you get the urge to spend more cash on some days, yet on other days you do all you can to save your money?

Researchers say some of this variation in spending habits comes from the way you’re influenced by hormones in your cycle. Here’s generally what you can expect:

During your Week 1 (your period week), you may end up treating yourself to small indulgences as a way to boost a low-estrogen mood or distract yourself from menstruation-related aches and pains. While little purchases can certainly add up, this generally isn’t a high-risk spending cycle week for you.

During your Week 2 (the week leading up to and including ovulation), high-and-rising estrogen makes you more likely to splurge on items that improve your appearance, which we may be wired to do as a way to help out edge out potential romantic rivals, according to research, such as this and this.

An elevated level of estrogen also makes you likely to spend more than you have by spurring you to make riskier money decisions, reports the journal PLOS ONE. This can lead to an unintended shopping spree where you’re splashing out on designer clothes, shoes, makeup and/or jewelry.

During your Week 3 (the 8 days following ovulation), you tend to be more careful with your cash. That’s because lower estrogen combined with rising progesterone can prompt a bit of worry about your finances. There are exceptions, however: Research shows you’re likely to spend more money on food purchases as well as items that spruce up your home. That’s progesterone’s influence: This hormone increases your appetite and makes you concerned with making your surroundings cozier in case you got pregnant during ovulation.

During your premenstrual Week 4, research in the journal Personality and Individual Differences shows that spending goes back up as estrogen levels fall back down. It may be because declining estrogen weakens your willpower, making you more susceptible to impulse buys, you may subsconsciously be trying to buy your way out of a grumpy mood caused by this plunging hormone or, most likely, a combination of the two. Thing is, the research shows that big splurges lead to big regrets in this cycle week because dipping estrogen makes you more worried about how much money you’ve got.

Study reveals an easy money-saving technique

Want to conserve your cash, but have trouble resisting temptation on high-spending cycle days? A 2018 study from Rice University in Texas reveals one easy technique that can make new purchases less appealing:

When you’re tempted to spend on an unecessary product, think of a practical item that you already own and love–such as a pair of sneakers, electronic tablet or blender–and remember a recent time you used it, recalling as many details as possible. For example, what does the item look like? Why did you buy it? What benefits did it bring you as you used it?

Across four studies, they found that volunteers who were prompted to reflect deeply on a useful item they already own and enjoy were less interested in making new purchases and less willing to part with their cash.

Why it works

The study authors believe that the urge to splurge is a limited desire that gets depleted–it doesn’t just go on and on. Imagine it being similar to when you’re hungry–you eat until you feel full. In the same way, you shop until you fulfill your desire to spend, then that desire goes away.

Well, they theorized that spending cash isn’t the only way to exhaust the desire to spend. They figured that if you reflect on a practical product that you already own and love, appreciating how you recently used it, this would make you feel already fulfilled–nixing the desire to buy spend money to get that same sense of fulfillment. And, their results, though preliminary, bear it out.

Keep in mind that when using this technique, it’s important to stick to recalling a product you own that serves a practical purpose. Study participants who dwelled on items that were indulgent rather than useful, such as designer clothes, experienced an increased desire to spend on more non-necessities. That’s because these kinds of purchases rev excitement, boosting impulsivity. It’s like picturing a plate of freshly-baked cupcakes when you’re trying to steer clear of sweets.

Want to try it yourself? The next time you’re faced with the urge to splurge, reflect on a favorite practical item you’ve recently used. Let me know how it works for you!

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