My 5 year old sister recently got caught in school collecting money off her friends. She’d been letting other kids play with her toys for half an hour at a charge of £1 a go. She was raking it in. She was saving for a doll she'd seen on TV and to be honest, her efforts were pretty impressive. Of course, my dad made her give all the money back but it really got me thinking; is our ability to save subject to our learned behaviours?
It's all relative
Our upbringing can affect our ability to save quite substantially. You might believe initially that having been brought up in a low income family will negatively impact your financial future. And in some ways that could be true. If your family are able to put you through uni, pay your rent and leave you a tidy sum in the bank for that rainy day then it could look like you’re sorted for life.
But actually, frugal households tend to produce better savers. This is because we often mimic the attitudes and actions we see whilst growing up. Michael F. Kay, President of Financial Life Focus, calls this the ‘money imprint’ whereby the lessons we learn as we grow up become hardwired within us and become our normal.
But don’t let your past define your future. Just the way you learnt to love olives (if you don’t, you will one day) you can learn to be better with money.
If you’re feeling a bit victimised by your own bank balance you could have adopted what psychologists have coined ‘learned helplessness’. This is where you are repeatedly exposed to a negative situation causing you to believe that success is out of your control, and your reach. So for example, if you fail at saving at the end of the month a few times in succession, you start to think that you can’t save because it’s just a part of who you are. It’s not. No one is born unable to manage their money.
Unlearning behaviour is difficult but it starts with you rewriting your story. Yeah we know you were shit at saving money last year but it’s 2018, and you’re going to smash it, am I correct? Yeah? Thought so.
They say that we are the product of the 5 people we spend the most time with. So if your mates are usually splurging, buying all the rounds and living day to day in the minus, statistically you’re more likely to do the same. Alternatively, if all your friends are hardcore savers putting cash away for a mortgage then lucky you. You can claim all you like that ‘you don’t give into peer pressure’ and you ‘blaze your own trail’ (wait, what?) but this is a dominoes effect based on our innate need to fit in and feel accepted.
So if you're struggling with saving I suggest you have a look at how your mates are doing too, and either agree to collectively motivate each other whilst saving or… well… get new mates. Harsh I know.
And if you're finding it difficult to manage your money, then download Loot here. The app helps you create daily and weekly budgets so you can know more about your spending and do more with your money.