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Money guilt: Why you have no self control, and what to do about it

Compilation image of lady nervously looking at her mobile phone and a hand counting out $50 notes.
Can money make you happy? Apparently so, but only if you spend it correctly. (Source: Getty)

It's ironic, but I’ve discovered The Iconic. I realise it’s shocking that I didn’t already know about it but I’m also kind of glad.

You see, I have parallel financially destructive penchants: I’m a fashion-lover AND bargain-shopper.

And these make The Iconic exceptionally dangerous.

(Although perhaps I can rationalise that being a late adopter has already saved me a fortune… therefore it’s okay. KIDDING!)

Read more from Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon:

But in cash-strapped times, we all find it difficult to cut back and resist our innate spending weaknesses.

Indeed, 12 per cent of us admit they have no self control when it comes to spending, according to a survey given exclusively to Yahoo Finance by

Nearly one-in-two Aussies have experienced money guilt, while only one-in-10 like to spend their money without feeling guilty.

So, what things don’t we have enough willpower to resist spending money on?

Eating out (59 per cent), purchasing clothes and shoes (57 per cent), as well as beauty and skincare (31 per cent) topped the list of purchases that Aussies experience money guilt about.

We feel bad for grabbing that drink at the pub (30 per cent), splashing out on homewares (17 per cent) and even gifts for others (14 per cent).

And it’s very gender biased.

Are women or men the worst economic culprits?

Women are almost twice as likely to admit they experience money guilt - 75 per cent versus 40 per cent for men.

Flipping that around holds true too.

Of men, 41 per cent say they are diligent when it comes to spending, compared with only 20 per cent of women.

One-in-five males say they like to spend money without feeling guilty. That figure for females is just six per cent.

But to help alleviate that bargain regret, if not your gender, you could blame your brain.

Why you can blame your brain

You know that buzz you get from bagging some bonus goods?

Well, shopping produces a surge in serotonin - that’s the happy hormone.

And this is why it can be genuinely addictive.

But there is a type of economic dissonance going on right now which is extremely uncomfortable.

On the one hand, we all love a serotonin surge but are also contending with stress hormones – cortisol predominantly – produced overnight and, in some cases, by acute hip-pocket pressures.

If you succumb, hello guilt.

And of course more perilous is simply not having the money to pay for your purchases, thanks to financial innovations that lubricate our spending and delay the paying part.

There is even a whole category of Fintech products designed to do this… I’m looking at you, buy-now-pay-later services.

So how do you combat the compulsion to use bucks to give you that buzz?

Compilation image of piggy bank with coins falling in and couple with worried look looking at information
Don't throw your money down the drain. Make sure you limit your spending to things which you need or truely make you happy. (Source: Getty)

How to regain control of your spending

All of us need strong motivation to resist instant gratification.

That great, focused money manager you know?

They’ll have a reason more powerful than is the appeal of whatever thing they might fleetingly want.

The secret to sound and successful finances is goals so sweet you can almost taste them.

Goals more delectable than short-lived, short-buzz, wasteful spend.

Your precious life targets need to be not just costed but calendar-ed… as in, set a specific date to achieve them.

Then, working back from that, you can determine how much you need to allocate from every pay.

Slip up one fortnight and your reward date slips back.

So, the $64,000 question is: Can money make you happy?

A wide body of research actually suggests it can.

There is a big proviso though – you have to spend it on experiences you will carry into the future with you or on experiential shopping that facilitates a past-time you enjoy.

Spending on ‘stuff’ doesn’t do it.

The human condition is that, no longer how long we have desired said stuff, we stop seeing it and appreciating it within days.

That’s something to think about next time we all click from our couches.

But remember, as long as we can afford it, some non-guilt non-negotiables are okay.

Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon is the author of How to Get Mortgage-Free Like Me, available at Follow Nicole on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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