How bad behaviour is sabotaging your saving plans

Definition of word behaviour in dictionary representing sabotaging your saving plans


MoneyPlus Features Team

17th December 2016 at 10:00am

Have you ever tried to scrimp, scrape and save relentlessly but somehow you still succumb to the temptations of buying that something special or going out for a night on the town?

I’ve done this so many times, tried my utmost to build a little nest egg but I still somehow give in to spending sporadically. For me, this leads to frustration, a feeling that I’ve not tried as hard as I could and that I haven’t given it my all.

We all have difficulties when it comes to saving money, and doing it well, but have you ever considered there may be more at work here than a simple lack of will power?

6 behavioural hurdles that everyone exhibits

It seems that the answer could lie deep within our psychology as the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) explains;

‘…our natural dispositions and thinking patterns are likely to play an important role in how well we manage money day-to-day, how successfully we bounce back from a financial shock, and how successfully we plan for the long-term.’

The RSA’s study found that there are six ‘behavioural hurdles’ that everyone exhibits in their day to day life which can make managing your money a far more monstrous task.

And so, what are these bad behaviours and how can we overcome them?

Cognitive overload

Stress is something we all deal with day in and day out, and for me being stressed or having way too much on my mind makes me take the easy option every time.

But how does this relate to our finances? Well, when you experience this cognitive overload, or stress, it becomes difficult to even think about those saving plans you put in place never mind actually practicing them!


Make your goals very clear to yourself, as ReadyForZero explains, clarity is key;

‘Once you can see things a bit more clearly, your financial goals may start popping out at you in a way they never have before…’

So keep it simple and this will up your chances of success. Stay calm and keep your saving plans clear and concise.

Empathy Gaps

Put simply an empathy gap is ‘overlooking how you might feel in a different situation (which) can result in unnecessary purchases, such as overbuying when shopping for food on an empty stomach.’

We’ve all been there, perusing the aisles after just skipping a meal, cramming everything you fancy into the trolley. It is a very easy habit to fall in to, but a costly one which can make bank balances plummet.


Identify your triggers and temptations, if you see them coming they are so much easier to dodge, as develop good habits explains;

‘When planning a habit change, expect that temptations will happen.  Moreover, realize that they’ll often pop up when your motivation and willpower is at its weakest state.  Only when you understand your own limitations will you have a plan for overcoming them.’

And so, identification is key. If you understand when you are most vulnerable you can dodge these situations which end in splurging your savings.

Optimism and overconfidence

Have you ever thought ‘oh it’ll be fine I’ll just go out for dinner I’m sure I have enough money’, and then get a sharp shock when you catch sight of your account balance the next day?

Or maybe you falsely think you have all of your money matters under control but if the worst were to happen you would be less than prepared for a rainy day. As the RSA explains;

‘Wearing rose-tinted glasses and having unrealistic expectations about the future can affect money management and leave you unprepared for a change in circumstance.’

Too much of a good thing can be bad for you and it is just the same for optimism and confidence. This can make you ignore those impending money issues and see your personal finances in a far too flattering light.


Optimism and overconfidence can be tricky behaviours to beat, after all no one wants to hear that they’re wrong.  So how can we quash our own over confidence?

Check your bank balance regularly

The answer is to get real. Ensure that you check your bank balance periodically and keep on top of it. Tracking how much you spend is a great way to put money matters under the microscope and will allow you to see the true state of things.

Instant Gratification

Instant gratification is taking an action which gives you that quick hit of happiness, maybe it’s having that slice of cake or buying a new dress that caught your eye in the shop window. For me this is my main foible and one that catches me out time and time again.


Instant gratification is just that, instant. It revolves around making a snap decision based on the urges you feel, but as zenhaibts explains, slowing things down may be the solution;

‘Instead of acting on the urge right when it arises, pause. Don’t act right away. Put some space between the urge and your action.’

So, slow things down and take a breath, and really think things through.

Harmful habits

We are all creatures of habit, and spending is one habit that’s very hard to beat. It is so easy to get in to a cycle of spending money mindlessly.


In my recent blog ‘How to nurture your new found saving habits and cut the cravings’ I looked in to a number of tips and tricks to put a stop to the horrible habit of spending.

Doing a simple sum can be a great trick to try. Work out how long you would need to work to cover the cost of the potential purchase. Sounds simple enough, and it is. This has got me out of a number of sticky spending situations and it could do the same for you!

Social Norms

Remember the warnings around peer pressure from protective parents in your school days?

For me, when I think of peer pressure I see a young nipper being goaded in to smoking behind the bike shed. I would never have thought that we can be influenced by others around the spending of our hard earned cash.

But as the RSA explains, those around you can and do affect how much we spend;

‘We are heavily influenced by the actions of others; while this can be helpful in certain circumstances, it also contributes to the pressure to keep up with the Joneses through conspicuous consumption’


This can be a tricky one to tackle, after all you don’t want to be the stick in the mud that can’t make those great gatherings with friends and family. But don’t fret, it can be done. As explains;

‘Let your family and friends know that you’re trying to get out of debt or are saving to buy your first house. Ask your friends to help you be good rather than pressure you to do something you’ll regret later.’

After all these people are your nearest and dearest, they should understand that you are trying to save towards a goal. And offers some more great tips like suggesting low cost alternatives to activities or working out a social budget so you can make those hard to miss outings.

It is clear that there is a little more than will power holding us back from reaching our saving goals, but understanding that some of the behaviours could be playing havoc with your money matters is half the battle. And if you follow the handy solutions I have suggested saving could become a whole lot simpler.