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Self Control, The Biggest Loser, and Money

Last week’s theme for the No Excuses version of the Biggest Loser was ‘I lack self control.’ They framed it in terms of losing weight, but it can also apply to the way that we spend our money. Recently, with the help of an excellent article over at Pick the Brain, there was a look taken at breaking patterns and routines through mindfulness. This post examines the concept of self control and how it affects money making decisions.

No doubt, you have read countless articles which advocate self control, but a large portion of them offer no inkling on how to DO it. To me, that advice seems like saying, ‘Okay, the first thing is to turn the computer on. The second thing is to greedle your tymberstoat, and the third is to profit from your adventure. Got it? Good. On to the next thing.’ Wait. What?

Self control is developed over time like any other skill. The more that you use it, the easier it becomes to exercise that skill. Once you’ve used your self control for so long, the restraint necessary to keep money in your pocket becomes second nature. You become a money saving millionaire, one who breaks through their chains and woes of debt. It all rests on greedling your tymberstoats.

1. Relish the Automatic
You possess self control already, it merely needs to be cultivated into the self control that you desire. There are things that you won’t do because they’re illegal, immortal, or fattening. You might not eat the tub of extra strength fat filled super crispy chicken for thsi reason. You might not have to think about the cash that you spend on canned fish over fresh tuna, either. Those parts are automatic.

2. Wear a Rubber Band
There’s an old school technique of wearing a rubber band around your wrist with the idea that every time that you’re craving something, you snap it. What this rubber band does is snap you back to the mindfulness and control that you’re cultivating. You have self control for a lot of events, you just need to push it that extra little bit for the places where you’re weak. It’s okay. I completely understand.

3. Avoidance
It takes only a split second to make a decision. You are driving along, and make the decision to stop by the fast food place… the decision itself (if you’re anything like me) sounded like this: I’m hungry. OOOH, Burger King! I want a whopper NOW!. 7 or 8 bucks later (because there’s gotta be fries and a drink) the money’s spent and the timer has been reset for another few hours. I’m not willing to drive out of my way for it, so I slightly changed my route to one where the call for fast food wouldn’t be as strong.

4. Have a Contingency Plan
I am a plan maker. When I have a little time, I make plans for everything. I think about what I’d do when I’m faced with aliens landing on the planet. I think about what strategies I would employ if I ever went on The Biggest Loser. And, well… I have the best of intentions when I’m not already in the situation.

One of the things that has really helped me with self control is the knowledge that there are alternatives to the behavior that I’m trying to avoid. I have a plan in place for going to Costco (take a list and do not deviate!). About 70% of the time, having that alternative in mind works when I’m put there. I figure that 70% is better than 0%, and I’m striving to get better.

5. Self Reward
There are special things you can reward yourself with which require very little money. Let’s say that you resisted the urge to increase your library by 50% when you went to the bookstore. Make the reward something that’s unrelated, but still just as special. Allow yourself the time to relax. Make a note to get yourself one of those chocolate covered cherries at the convenience store. You might feel like lighting a candle. Whatever that something is, make it a reward for not doing the ‘big’ thing.

One of the other things that I do in favor of self control is spend the money that I would have spent on the ‘self control’ thing on something which is more beneficial. I reward myself by going to the store instead of going to the convenience store or the fast food joint. I’ve delayed the reward, and I can usually get a LOT more (unless I’m at Whole Paycheck or something) for that $5 that I would have spent at McDonalds.

The belief that you have no self control is inaccurate. You DO have self control, and it can be cultivated toward those weaker spending spots which you might have. Think about your actions, and you will find that you have a lot more self control than you think.

Photo Courtesy of Luke Hayfield Photography on Flickr

Do you have any tips for exercising YOUR self control? I’d love to hear about them. :)