You know how when you go into T.J.Maxx for a new pair of sandals, you walk out with three shirts, an ikat throw pillow, a leopard-print ottoman and a set of owl-shaped coffee mugs?
It’s not really your fault. You were just giving in to your basest instinct, a primal urge deep in your gut that said, “Must. Have. More. Stuff.”
When it comes to finances, we all have primal urges, inner beasts that can thwart our ability to make good budgetary decisions, save money and just say no to things we don’t need.
Luckily, there’s something you can do about it. First, you have to recognize which inner beast you’re struggling with—then Katie Brewer, a CFP® in Dallas, Tex. and a member of XY Planning Network, is here to tell us how to help tame those innate tendencies in no time.
1. You May Be a “Lemming” If …
You run out and buy the latest Jason Wu handbag or Hickey Freeman shirt because your co-worker/best friend/fashion editor at Elle/some male model in GQ owns it.
What it looks like: Lemmings fall prey to group behavior. “This can also be known as Keeping Up With the Joneses,” says Brewer. “If all of your friends are buying $400 wedding gifts or taking expensive vacations, you may feel the pressure to do so as well so you’re not seen as a cheapskate or different from your social group.”
How to help tame the beast: Find a new measuring stick. “We often look to people that we perceive as doing better than us financially for a comparison—which is always going to make you feel like you don’t have enough,” says Brewer. “But if you look to friends who are being responsible with their money, they can help calm your instinct to ‘keep up.’”
Also, remember—you never know what’s really going on in someone’s bank account. “Those friends that are flying across the country every weekend might not be able to afford it either,” she says. In other words, they could be falling into massive debt—don’t let them drag you into it too. “Make a budget that works within your financial parameters and stick with it,” says Brewer, “even if it means not doing what all your friends are doing.”