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Don’t Fall For These 6 Psychological Money Traps That Make You Spend More!

Don’t Fall For These 6 Psychological Money Traps That Make You Spend More!

When it comes to the numbers of money, many times psychological quagmires overrule rational thought. What we may originally think is a great idea, turns into a gigantic pitfall. Take a look at these psychological money traps and see what you can do to avoid them.

1. You don’t know when to pull out.

Otherwise known as the “Sunk Cost Fallacy,” this trap occurs when we believe that just because we already own or have invested in something that we must keep it. If you find yourself saying, “I have to keep this going, in order to recoup,” or “I will just wait and see if I make my money back.” Then this is probably your pitfall of choice. Both of which are understandable yet counter intuitively irrational thoughts. There are certain times when projects or investments should be simply be abandoned.

How to avoid this trap: Don’t become too emotionally attached with your investments. Most often the reason why we hold onto investments or projects longer than we should is so that we are seeking to prove that it was a wise choice in the first place.

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2. You fall into the allure of the word Free.

I completely get it, the word free is extremely enticing. However, don’t let the perception of the word lead to irrationality. Free isn’t always free and many times it is already factoring into the price of other goods and/or services.

How to avoid this trap: Slow It Down. While the allure of free is nice, you do not want to jump into a rash decision and regret it later. Take into account a couple of things: first, how much do I need this free item and more than likely the service or good I have to purchase in order to obtain it? Secondly, quickly calculate a cost estimate that is likely to go with that item. For instance, if there is an offer for a free <insert item you may not have needed here> you should consider your maintenance and upkeep of the item before accepting such an offer.

3. You Rush to Buy Things.

It is completely understandable that when the salesman is reiterating that this sale is for today only and there is a very very very small amount left, you want to buy it immediately. Or, you see a new pair of shoes and you just have to have them. However, by quickly jumping into the purchases you put yourself in a position where it’s possible that you will become upset with the product a few days or weeks down the line. While immediate gratification is nice in the beginning it quite often leads to buyers remorse. More often than not, typically you then have a hard time saving money for other more important things as well.

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How to avoid this trap: It is completely understandable that you want to reward yourself. So measure what you are considering purchasing against long term goals. Realize that if you buy those shoes you won’t be able to eat at as nice of a restaurant when you take your vacation to San Diego.

4. You have cash piles at home even when you are in debt.

This is otherwise known as mental accounting where you separate money and/or debts based on predetermined status like the source of the money or what you initially set it aside for while it is done with the best intentions at heart, it is a recipe for trouble in the long run. The problem with this method is because you are most often accumulating debt much faster than the “money jar” or other methods savings you have set forth. Having a separate pile of cash for food and another for gas may also seem like a good idea initially, but both prices and our needs fluctuate with time. While you may need $500 in food and $150 in gas for the month of January. You might need to adjust that for summer months when you are munching on salads and taking road trips. Participating in mental accounting provides you less flexibility.

How to avoid this trap: Allow all money that you have to be a part of your financial plan. Also, try to change your perspective of your finances and look at it on a holistic level. Keep in mind that money is money no matter what is the source or intended purpose. A quick change may result in a more positive financial result.

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5. You base your buying decision on the default option.

While you may originally believe that a company providing you with a default option is a matter of convenience to the customer in actuality can be done in a manner to persuade your choices and buying habits. If done properly the default effect (where you allow the default option to influence your decisions), shows the same evidence as nudging. Psychologists have narrowed it down to work in three manners: Loss Aversion, Cognitive Effort, Switching Costs.

How to avoid this trap: Keep in mind how much of a product you actually need. Just because a large soda is only a 60 cent upcharge, will you actually drink it or will you end up wasting it? If you aren’t going to have a need for that soda or anything else that requires an upcharge, your money will be better spent elsewhere.

6. You invest in something just because you’re familiar with it.

Otherwise known as the ‘Familiarity Bias’, it is a tendency that causes you to do things such as invest in stocks for companies we work for or only look to investments from a close area or proximity to where you live. Familiar biases can be a money trap because even though you may be familiar with a company or the area they are based in, it may not be the best or wisest investments. While it makes sense to factor in things such as transaction costs, basing an entire invest just because you are familiar with something is illogical.

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How to avoid this trap: Be willing to step out of your comfort zone. Expand you research outside of your typical areas. If there is one thing that investors mention until they run out of breath is a diversified portfolio. Also, speaking with or bringing in a professional may be a good use of your time and resources. Don’t forget that mother knows best, “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.”

If you’ve managed to navigate through life and not fall for any of these traps, then kudos to you. However, if you are like the majority of us, follow the above suggestions and your financial future will be certain to be brighter.

Featured photo credit: Cohdra via mrg.bz

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Last Updated on January 2, 2019

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

How Personal Finance Software Helps You Get More Out of Your Money

Do you know what mental health experts point to as the biggest cause of stress in the United States today? If you said “money,” then ding, ding, we have a winner!

Three out of four adults today report feeling stressed out about money at least part of the time. People are either worried about not having enough money or whether they’re putting the money they do have to use in the best possible way.

Your money is either in charge of you or you’re in charge of it, there’s no middle ground. Using some type of personal finance software can help alleviate some of that money stress and better allow you to manage your money effectively. Without it, you may just be setting yourself up for constant financial worry. Life is already tough enough and there’s no need to make it more difficult by simply hoping your money issues will all work out in your favor. Hint: they won’t.

This guide will help you to understand how personal finance software can better assist with both accomplishing long term financial goals and managing day-to-day aspects of life.

Whether it’s tracking the savings plan for your child’s college fund or making sure you won’t be in the red with the month’s grocery budget, personal finance software keeps all this information in one convenient place.

What Exactly is Personal Finance Software?

Think of it like the dashboard in your car. You have a speedometer to tell you how fast you’re going, an odometer to tell you how far you’ve traveled, and then other gauges to tell you things like how much gas is in the tank and your engine temperature. Personal finance software is essentially the same thing for your money.

When you install this software on your computer, tablet, or smartphone, it helps to track your money — how much is going in, how much is going out, and its growth. Most personal finance software programs will display your budget, spending, investments, bills, savings accounts, and even retirement plans, levels of debt, and credit score.

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How It Leads to Financial Improvement

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but people who regularly monitor their finances end up wealthier than those who don’t. When you were a kid, keeping track of all of your money in a porcelain piggy bank was pretty easy. As we get older, though, our money becomes spread out across things like car payments, mortgages, retirement funds, taxes, and other investments and debts. All of these things make keeping track of our money a lot more complicated.

Some types of personal finance software can help make things a little less complicated, setting you up to meet financial goals and taking away some of the stress associated with money.

Even if you already have a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) some type of personal finance software can be of great benefit. Whereas CFPs focus on the big picture of your money, they don’t handle the day-to-day aspects that determine your overall financial health.

It’s also not nearly as complicated as you might think and can take out a lot of the tedium that comes with doing everything on an Excel spreadsheet or with a pad and pencil.

Types of Personal Finance Software

When it comes to personal finance software, it generally fits into two categories: tax preparation and money management.

Tax preparation software such as Turbo Tax and H&R Block’s software can help with everything from filing income taxes to IRS rules and regulations and even estate plans. Plus, there’s the benefit of filing online and getting your refund check a lot faster than if you were to mail off your forms after waiting in line at the post office.

For the purpose of this article, however, will be focusing more on the personal finance software that aids with money management.

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Money management personal finance software will help you to see the health of your cash flow, pay down debt, forecast for expenses and savings, track investments, pay bills, and do a host of other things that 30 years ago would have practically required a team of accountants.

When to Use Personal Finance Software

So far we’ve gone over what exactly personal finance software is and how it can be a benefit to your money. The next logical step in this whole equation is determining when it should be used and how is the best way to go about getting started using it.

Below are four of the most common and practical ways to use personal finance software. If all or any of these apply to you and your money, then downloading some type of personal finance software is going to be a smart move.

1. You Have Multiple Accounts

There’s a good chance that when it comes to your money, it’s in more than one place. Sure, you probably have a checking account, but you may also have a savings account, money market account, and retirement accounts such as an IRA or 401k.

If you’re like the average American, you probably have two to three credit cards as well. Fifty percent of Americans also don’t have loyalty to just one bank and spread their money across multiple banks.

Rather than spending hours typing in every detail of every account you have into a spreadsheet, many programs allow you to easily import your account information. This will help to eliminate any mistakes and give you a bird’s eye view of everything at once.

2. You Want to Automate Some or All of Your Payments

Please don’t say that you’re still writing out paper checks and dropping each bill in the mailbox. While it’s noble that you’re doing your part to keep postal workers employed, we’re 18 years into the 21st century and you can literally pay every bill online now.

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There’s no need to log into every account you have and type in your routing number either.

With personal finance software you can schedule automatic payments and transfers between all of your imported accounts. Automatic transfers will help to make sure you have the necessary funds in the right account to ensure all bills are paid on the appropriate date. Late fees are annoying and do nothing but cost you money. It’s time that you said goodbye to them once and for all.

3. You Need to Streamline Your Budget

Perhaps the best feature of personal finance software is that it allows you track everything going in and out of your virtual wallet.

Nearly every brand of personal finance software out there has easy-to-read graphs and charts that allow you track every cent you spend or earn, should you choose. You might be pretty amazed when you see just how much you spent on eating out last month or if you splurged a little more than you should have on Christmas gifts last year.

Every successful business on the planet has a budget and using personal finance software can help you trim the fat on your spending in ways that affect your everyday life.

4. You Have Specific Goals to Meet

Maybe it’s paying off debt or saving for up something like a European vacation. Whatever your financial goal is, whether it’s long-term or short-term, personal finance software programs are one of the savviest ways to go about reaching those goals.

You can do everything from set spending alerts to notify you when you’re over budget to automating what percentage of your paycheck goes to things like retirement investments. The personal finance software that you choose should show you exactly how close you are to hitting those goals at any given time.

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How to Get Started

From AceMoney to Mint and Quicken, there ’s no shortage of personal finance software apps out there. Many of these programs are free to download and will allow you to pay bills, invest, monitor your net worth and credit profile, and even get a loan with the swipe of a finger.

Other programs may only offer you limited services and will require a one-time fee or subscription to unlock all that they offer. These fees can often vary from as little as two dollars to 50 bucks a month.

It’s best to start off with the free version and then gauge whether you’re able to accomplish everything you’d like or if it’s worth exploring one of the paid options. Often times the subscription programs come with assistance from financial planning and investment experts — so that can be a real benefit.

When deciding which personal finance software program to use, it’s also important to look at how many accounts you wish to monitor. Certain programs limit the number of accounts you can add. Be sure that if you have checking, credit card, and investment accounts to monitor, that you choose a service that can monitor them all.

Finally, when looking around for the right personal finance software that meets your needs, make sure that you’re comfortable with the program’s interface. It shouldn’t be expected that you recognize every single feature instantly, but if the features don’t seem readable and manageable to you, then you’re not as likely to use it and get the full benefits.

Final Thoughts

Personal finance software can go a long way in helping you to take control of your money and meeting your financial goals. It’s important to note, however, that some focus more on budgeting and expense tracking while others prioritize investing portfolios and income taxes. Explore several different programs and read reviews to find the one that’s right for you.

In this day and age, managing one’s personal finances in a secure manner that allows the user to have a real-time visual representation of their money is easier than ever before. With the numerous applications that are out there — both free and subscription-based — there’s no reason that every person can’t take control of their money and ensure they’re making smart money moves.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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