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Stop Money Stress

Stop Money Stress

Change your spending behavior with these few strategies.

We may look like Masters of the Universe on the outside, but there's still a good deal of Fred Flintstone on the inside. That's good for winning over Wilma, but bad for our bank accounts and stress levels.

See, the tendency to grab small short-term gains to our long-term disadvantage—like when we choose the cheaper air conditioner over the pricier one that will save on energy bills for years down the line—comes from our Stone Age ancestors. Those were folks who had a reasonable chance of dying during the course of any given day. So, the choice to go with a smaller, surer, instant reward was hardly irrational. But what was Mensa-smart in olden times doesn't work so well today, when it can cause us to overspend and feel burdened with financial stress. 

Fortunately, you can overwrite these habits. The newer areas of your brain can moderate or even shut down these instinctual behaviors with strategies like these:

  • Do the math. People can be swayed into paying more for items if they come with "free" stuff, even if the extra they're paying is more than the price of the "free" item.
  • Pause and reflect on all financial decisions. Ask yourself if the lollipop maker you want is something that you really, really need—or a possible obstacle to building wealth
  • Write it down. Record your daily purchases for a month (or just save all receipts). Consider how to cut back or improve by 10 percent. You'll be amazed at what you can live without.

Really reflecting on all choices and saving 10 percent of all paychecks for an emergency account are the two key ideas we YOU Docs use. Watch them reduce your stress (assuming you still get a paycheck), too.

Medically reviewed in August 2018.

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