With the Covid-19 pandemic providing a challenging financial situation for many, banks, financial institutions and fintechs are more important now than ever to provide their customers with effective tools on how to manage their money and make it through the lockdown.
It is therefore important for these companies to understand their customers in order to best help them on their financial journey.
One thing that resonates with customers is the contrast between saving and spending. A survey of more than 2,000 people by Atom bank found that over half of Brits have used shopping as a mechanism to cheer themselves up or reward themselves, yet 69% of self-confessed ‘spenders’ have experienced post-spending guilt. the survey also found that 75% of Brits believe that saving£1,000 would make them happier than spending £1,000.
The app-based bank also conducted a physical experiment to determine if shopping really can make humans happy, both mentally and biologically, revealing that post-shopping happiness is largely a psychological concept, with self-reported happiness levels increasing by 29% through shopping.
If the pandemic has taught us one financial lesson, it’s the importance of being prepared for ‘unprecedented times’ and the need to be in control of our money. As we enter the third lockdown, this has definitely taken a toll on our mental health. Atom bank and Behavioural Psychologist at Durham University, Mario Weick, share their top tips for consumers to spend wisely this lockdown, where fintechs and financial services providers should take note as to where they can help.
- Focus on a future goal
If you struggle to avoid temptation, one of the best ways to control your urges is to focus on a future goal that saving your money could lead to, whether that’s saving up for driving lessons or taking a step onto the property ladder.
Mario comments: “The benefits of saving money materialise over time, so focusing on a future goal can make it easier to save money, whereas focusing on the here and now may encourage spending.”
- Avoid shopping when tired or under the influence of alcohol
Mario warns: ‘Impulsive behaviour can be triggered by things such as tiredness, alcohol, or information overload.”
Browsing your favourite online sites when you’re super tired at the end of a stressful week of work, or after a couple of glasses of wine, can lead you to make purchases without fully thinking them through.
Be mindful of only shopping when you feel fully alert and rested and for added benefit, get into the habit of taking the time to mull a purchase over for at least a few hours before heading to the virtual checkout.
- Reduce your exposure to temptation
Mario comments: “It may sound simplistic, but one way to alleviate the pressure is to reduce one’s exposure and avoid the situation, if possible. Something like going for a walk could be a good idea.”
This is further backed up by Atom’s experiment, which found that shoppers got the same physical ‘high’ from taking a brisk walk, as they did from hitting the checkout button.
If you’re tempted to make a large purchase, just a 5-minute walk in the fresh air or a ten-minute workout video could curb your spending. If you’re still keen on making the purchase when your heart rate returns to neutral, then it’s unlikely that your body is just craving the endorphins that shopping can bring.
- Drop the ‘all or nothing’ attitude
When you’re trying to limit your spending, you can feel like going cold-turkey is the only answer, especially in January after spending at Christmas. However, evidence suggests that this ‘all or nothing’ attitude is actually harder to maintain than a split-budget approach.
Mario adds: “Saving some income while giving oneself a spending allowance really does appear to be the golden formula.”
“A healthy balance between restraint and allowing oneself some pleasure and spontaneity is an optimal strategy to boost happiness.”
- Spend for long-term happiness
Mario comments: “The purchasing experience is designed to give us a quick kick, with products to match that often emphasise fleeting pleasures.
“Spending money is more likely to promote happiness when the purchase is intrinsically rewarding, e.g. life experiences, personal development or on gifts that nurture meaningful relationships, rather than those driven by superficial motives.”
Take January as a time to work out what you want to gain from your purchases. Although treating yourself can give you a little boost of joy, make sure you’re not only shopping for the sake of it, or to experience the excitement of grabbing a ‘bargain’.
This chance to reflect on whether your purchase will bring you long-term happiness will give the brain time to digest properly and lower the risk of spending on things that only have a short-term impact.
Edward Twiddy, Chief Customer Officer at Atom bank said: “With the huge changes we’ve seen in the financial climate as a result of Covid 19, it’s more crucial than ever before for people to understand their finances and how to get the most out of their earnings.
“Through our research, we want to highlight the value and importance of spending money on things that will bring long term happiness. Trips away, being together, experiencing something new and shared fun are crucial for each of us, but their cost can sometimes make them appear beyond reach. A new year means new savings goals, so we wanted to show that these life-affirming moments are possible, whatever you might be able to afford.”