If you want to make better financial decisions, one of the best things you can do is to take care of yourself. It’s not just about seeing a lower health insurance bill because you are in better health. Your physical and mental state can actually influence the decisions that you make — including your financial decisions.
Stress = Poor Spending Choices
When you’re stressed out, you’re far more likely to make poor spending choices. If you want to make better spending choices, then you need to make sure that you aren’t making them when in a state of stress and anxiety.
Often, shopping while stressed results in buying more than you expected. An unhealthy mental and physical state can mean that you are less disciplined, and more inclined to make impulse purchases. You’re also more vulnerable to your child’s whining and begging for specific things. How often, when you’re stressed out, do you snap, “Ok, fine!” just to get your child to stop pestering you. This applies to shopping as well.
And, of course, the biggest stress shopping issue is that of shopping therapy. Shopping can trigger better feelings and lead to increased spending as a way to address feelings of stress and anxiety. My husband uses online shopping as stress relief. When he feels over-stressed, he looks at eBay — and usually ends up buying something he had no intention of purchase, for more than he wanted to pay.
When you feel good, you are more disciplined, and less likely to make poor spending decisions. Take care of yourself, and you will feel less stress, and your spending decisions will be more informed and you’ll practice better discipline when it comes to saying “no” to the superfluous purchases.
It’s not just about the day-to-day shopping decisions. When you are stressed and afraid, you might not make wise choices about your insurance, how much you should be setting aside for retirement, or how you are investing. Fear and stress can really mess up your long-term investment plan. Try not to make any financial decision when you are feeling frazzled and uncertain.
Before You Make a Financial Choice
One of the best ways to avoid impulse purchases and make better money choices is to live a healthier lifestyle. At the very least, though, try not to make financial decisions — from spending to insurance to investing — while feeling at your worst. Here are some things to try before you go shopping, and before you head into a meeting where serious financial choices will be determined:
- Sleep well: Tiredness reduces mental faculties and reasoning skills. A good night’s sleep can help your mental acuity and improve your decision-making capabilities, including financial decisions.
- Exercise: Physical activity gets the blood flowing and the brain working. You’ll be alert, and have heightened reasoning skills. A little exercise before you tackle the tough choices of the day can really help you improve your decisions.
- Eat a good meal: Make sure that you eat a good meal. Think about it: When you’re hungry while grocery shopping, you tend to spend more and even buy more junk food. But hunger also affects your ability to make other decisions. Eat a good meal, or have a healthy snack, before you start in on something. Consider nuts and berries as great “brain food” as well as healthy choices that can help your energy level.
- Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water and you’ll feel better in general. You’ll avoid the mental and physical fatigue that comes with dehydration, and you’ll be in a better place to resist poor decisions.
- Take time for you: Refresh yourself with a relaxing activity that you enjoy. This can include reading, meditation, or even a power nap. Taking time out to do something that helps you feel good can increase feelings of contentment and boost your mental faculties.
Following healthy habits on a daily basis can help you maintain financial discipline, and think more clearly when confronted with money choices. At the very least, don’t go shopping when you’re tired and hungry. Just following that bit of advice can save you hundreds of dollars a year in terms of impulse purchases. But, if you can, work on improving your lifestyle so that most of your financial decisions are savvy.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.