The Spenders vs Savers Challenge
We recently set four bloggers a 4-week Spenders vs Savers challenge with the help of psychologist and expert in willpower, Dr. Frank Ryan. Each blogger received a pack which included tips and advice from Dr. Frank as well as personalised ways in which they could apply this advice to improve their spending behaviour. Let’s find out more about the bloggers and how they got on…
Joe is a 24 year old lifestyle blogger, who lives with his girlfriend, Rihanna. Both agreed to take part in the study to provide a couple’s perspective. At the moment, the couple are both very much spenders, with the aim to buy a house in the future. They haven't started saving towards a house specifically and Joe doesn’t even have a savings account. The couple both love clothes, and shop 2-3 times a month for new items. They also both pay for gym memberships but rarely go.
How did Joe get on?
"I found being in a saver mindset and knowing I wanted to be more careful with money really helped. It gave me some willpower that I never knew I had! I also set up a savings account which has a direct debit into it monthly, so I know I'm actually saving."
"I struggled with some of the eating out restrictions, purely because there were a few birthdays and celebrations. On those occasions I tried to be savvier with early-birds etc. We've both been terrible with the gym, which won't have helped our willpower. I have however found that I can cut my gym membership by £20, so at least if I don't go it's still cheaper! Having some 'smaller' days out was great and also good for the wallet. It was nice to do things like going for walks and visiting free museums."
Read all about how Joe got on with his Spenders vs Savers challenge.
Dr Frank says…
"Joe states that he changed his mindset, in effect altering his values to prioritise saving. This is a bit like changing your mental map so you follow a different route, where the destination is saving rather than spending."
Some of the specific tips that he found helpful were:
- Setting up a direct debit for his saving, which means he did not have to make the mental effort to save every month, it happened by default. This helps preserve willpower for other challenges, for example overcoming the impulse to shop or spend.
- Making decisions in advance was another tip that he applied effectively. For example, by preparing his lunch he did not end up in the situation where hunger would result in him spending more on a takeaway lunch.
- Importantly, he remembered to maintain his quality of life by pursuing rewards that were not costly in financial terms. Enjoying nature and fresh air obviously boosts willpower!
Hannah is a 27-year old freelance writer living in Newcastle. She rents with her friend, but is planning to buy her first home with her boyfriend in the next two years. At the moment, they both save towards a mortgage, but are looking to open a Help to Buy ISA to boost their savings. She spends most of her outgoings on travel and clothes and very much classes herself as a ‘spender’.
How did Hannah get on?
Hannah has now restricted herself to having a quarterly budget for spending on clothes. She has learnt not to say ‘yes’ to every single social invitation (as these usually centre around going out to eat and drink). Instead she now suggests cheaper ways to catch up with friends – for example beach trips and countryside walks. She found the adjustments easier than expected, and thought she would feel a sense of relief when it was over, but she enjoyed making the changes.
Find out how Hannah got on with her Spenders vs Savers challenge.
Dr. Frank says…
"Hannah used the simple but effective technique of budgeting. Interestingly she used a quarterly (three month) cycle. I liked this approach as it kept the incentive or motivation primed – the valued goal was maintained, but deferred."
Some of the specific tips that she found helpful were:
- Hannah also found that learning to say no to social invitations that would entail significant cost was a big help.
- Again, exploring the beauties of the natural world such as beaches and countryside walks was helpful!
- Hannah also effectively used the simple strategy of thinking more long-term, looking at the repercussions of spending decisions rather than focusing on the immediate gratification. This shows the benefit of using our “cool” reflective brain system to regulate the more impulsive “hot” system which can overcome willpower in the heat of the moment.
Sophie is a 29 year old craft, style, and lifestyle blogger from Yorkshire. She runs her own handmade jewellery business, and lives with her musician boyfriend and dog, in their first owned home. She hopes to be able to start saving to afford an extension on the house. Sophie and her boyfriend don’t have children, so they tend to spend their outgoings on travelling, and interiors to make their house their own. Sophie adores clothes and spends a lot of money on new items each month, she rarely wears the same thing twice.
How did Sophie get on?
What surprised Sophie the most, was how easily she managed to not spend money on clothes, which was the thing she thought she would find the most difficult about this challenge. Part of this was achieved by avoiding the things she would usually do – opening emails from her favourite brands, having a browse online in her lunch hour and wandering in to the shop at the bottom of her road. Sophie also found the confidence to put together new outfits from clothes she already owned.
Dr. Frank says…
"Sophie was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to overcome impulsive shopping. Clearly, she identified the triggers or cues in the form of marketing material that was emailed to her or when she wandered into a local shop. This slightly aimless behaviour allows impulses to intrude (the devil finds work for idle hands!) so it is great she has been able to recognise this."
- I was impressed by the clarity with which she specified her goal i.e. reducing spending of clothes by 60%. In fact she achieved 61%! This careful calibration of progress makes it easier for us to pursue goals because we benefit from precise feedback. A bit like a coach telling you how you are performing on the track so you know whether you need to make more effort or ease off a bit.
- She struggled to reduce expenditure on takeaways as her kitchen has been renovated. She has decided to set a specific goal of avoiding takeaways for a month but crucially offering herself a reward with a portion of the money she will save, which will help her willpower.
Grace is in her 60s, married, a homeowner and her son has moved out. She lives in an affluent area in rural West Sussex and spends her time "making lists, pretending to do pilates, avoiding housework – and trying to find something more interesting to do than all of those things".
How did Grace get on?
Grace wanted to use the challenge to set her on the right course for building up the all-important nest egg and save money rather than breaking even with incomings and outgoings. She looked at what they were spending money on and realised her husband’s hobbies were costing a lot, as were their sociable dinner parties and paying for someone to cut their lawn. She used a pie chart to show her husband exactly what they were spending the money on and it helped to encourage him to join her in saving. Rather than asking her husband to cut down on precious leisure time she decided on some practical but small lifestyle tweaks to help save money.
Find out how Grace tackled her Spenders vs Savers challenge.
Dr. Frank says…
"Grace had clear motivation to build up a nest egg for the future as she was aware that her and her husband’s spending needed to be reined in."
- I was very impressed with the use of the pie chart, similar to Sophie using percentages. This gives clear feedback about progress which is very important for sustaining effort. Keeping a small supply of convenience foods in the kitchen was a stroke of genius! This provided a cheaper alternative to ordering more expensive takeaway meals, because let's face it, there is always a time when we do not have the willpower and motivation to prepare a meal from scratch.
- She also developed a more diverse diet by cooking more vegetarian dishes. This was both cheaper and also healthier as it increased her nutritional range.
- Finally she applied my tip about considering how long the positive feeling we get from making an indulgent purchase actually lasts. She thought ahead to a monthly credit card account which pours a small but useful amount of cold water on the desires of the impulsive shopper!
If you struggle to save money you first need to be able to change your spending habits. Once you've addressed how you currently handle money you’ll be on your way to becoming a ‘saver’ rather than a ‘spender’.
Are we a nation of savers or spenders? Find out what our survey revealed.