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.
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.
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.
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.
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