Money Sundays: Save Money! Create an Emotion vs. Reason List

Readers, the next time you’re struggling to decide whether a major purchase is really worth it, try this technique:

First, draw a line down the middle of a blank sheet of paper. On one side, list all the emotional reasons for and against making the purchase. On the other side, list all the rational, logic-based reasons.

Okay, done? Next, ask yourself the two following questions:

1) Which emotional reasons interfere with your logical reasons?
2) Which logical reasons obscure important emotions you're feeling?

Then, draw lines connecting the various reasons from both sides of the paper that impact each other. Seeing exactly how your various reasons interact helps you make a decision that satisfies all your needs, emotional and logical.

This decision-making technique might help you realize that an enormously costly vacation won't actually satisfy the emotional needs you thought it would. Could a lower-cost weekend getaway (or a zero-cost quiet weekend at home) be a more effective way to achieve the same thing?

Other examples: Perhaps that dream house you can’t quite afford isn’t really meeting your needs so much as fulfilling an idealized self-image that isn’t really you. Then again, maybe your fear of buying a house isn’t a financial fear so much as a fear of putting down roots.

Issues like these often hide in the frontier between our feelings and our sense of logic, and this emotion/reason technique helps uncover them. We’re emotional beings, not Vulcans. We have feelings whether we ignore them or not. Suppressing them just causes them to burst out in harmful ways later.

The next time you’re debating over emotionally-charged big-ticket purchases like housing, cars, major vacations, decisions about large debts and so on, try building an emotions vs. reasons list. It should help you achieve the right decision-making balance between each side of your mind. They both play a role!

Readers, what do you think?

I owe a debt of gratitude to Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves' book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 for helping me arrive at some of the ideas in this post.

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Owlhaven said...

I usually do fairly well staying within my budget, but when I overspend it is usually because: all the kids are coming over for dinner and I want everything to be wonderful, OR it is someone's birthdays. I love fussing over my family on those occasions! birthdays. Thing is, we have a family dinner once a week, and we literally have kids' birthdays 10 months out of the year! Since I'm not willing to give up that kind of thing, I suppose I really need to just have an 'entertaining/celebration' envelope for that regular occurrence. :)
Interesting article.

Daniel said...

Thanks for sharing Mary. I think your idea of pre-funding those kinds of spending events would be a really good idea. The money would be already there, hence no guilt (or debt!) to fund something fun and satisfying for your family. Great idea.


chacha1 said...

This is an interesting exercise. The biggest expenditure we make in a given year is on a vacation. One might say that that is purely emotional.

But it's well established that people in general are healthier, as well as happier, when we "get away from it all" once in a while.

So there is a logical argument to be made for it as well. :-)

Chez nous, my personal experience is that DH and I are both happier when we regularly go out and do things together. Just being at home together isn't the same for some reason. So after a couple of years of getting into a homebound rut, I am consciously choosing to spend more on mutual "out" activities, and it is already paying off for our relationship.

I decided to focus on my savings goals and on relationship enrichment for a while, and just stop worrying about other financial goals. To me, the relationship is a lot more important than whether I can upgrade my work wardrobe this year.