The Modern Woes of Adapting Through the Holidays: Tackling Anxieties and Impulses Around Money
How to manage your money and curb impulse spending this holiday season.
Originally published on the Tiimo blog by Maxime Weiss
At Neuros, we’re building a financial management app specifically designed around the needs of neurodiverse people who take on an extra challenge of managing their unique brain patterns. The app is co-designed with members from our community to optimally take into account a myriad of abilities and sensory needs. Founded on principles of behavioural science, neuroscience, and sentiment analysis technology, and employing mindfulness methodologies, the app is designed to help our community understand, then manage, their financial behaviors.
We believe money matters are mind matters.
Flashcard tips for keeping cool around the Holiday period:
Prevent impulsive buying by slowing down the process of purchasing. Avoid “tap to buy” at all costs. Making an ‘intended buys’ queue list helps.
Avoid shopping in places and at times that make it extra difficult to make your best and most confident decisions.
Write down your goals to help prevent mental overload. Keep them close to remember your intrinsic motivations.
Take stock of how your purchases serve your life. We’re not always aware of our motivations — but even seemingly benign buys mean something.
The drop-it-all-and-shop message of the holidays
The end of the year is a stressful time for everyone. On top of the weight of our daily lives, we’re also wrapping up projects, thinking about the year ahead, and planning for the incoming holidays. Our daily routines are having to change according to government guidelines which may leave holiday plans in limbo. For people with neuroatypical functions, navigating uncertainty, making decisions, and controlling impulses may be especially difficult. There’s a lot extra to navigate this season.
Wading through tinsel and the intoxicating smell of roasting chestnuts, our behaviour around money is especially at risk of deteriorating. Unfortunately, there is a lack of research and guidance around managing money across neurodiversity during normal times. Because the holidays seem to speed up the pace of life, it’s especially possible to be vulnerable to the behaviours and tendencies that make money management harder in the first place. People tend to be more stressed, harder worked, and lest we forget that all of life’s routines have gone out the window. However hard, there are things we can do to take some of the pressures off of the holidays, especially when it comes to managing our buys, our spending goals and our intentions.
We’ve come up with a set of steps that can help with the pressures of navigating the world with our cash in hand and our intentions at heart. With some earnest awareness of how your mind affects your money, a little extra planning and organization, we hope you’ll come out of the season feeling grounded, and perhaps even empowered by your money habits moving into a new year!
Minding your money during the holidays
Take these steps when you’re feeling overwhelmed with the to do’s of the holiday season. These steps are great to instill prior to being in the throes of holiday shopping or spending on sales, but there is never a wrong time to begin forming a better mind-money relationship in general.
1. Pause the payment! Slow down your mind.
When we’re stressed out or feeling rushed, chemicals in our brain trigger quick reactions for immediate solutions. Today’s stresses might originate in social anxieties or unfamiliar streetscapes, but historically quick reactions were needed to escape pouncing predators. According to Dual-Systems Theory, our brains react first and foremost quickly and emotionally, then reflective and analytical thinking comes, but from a different system altogether. To boot, when we’re agitated, this secondary system of reflection and analysis is less effective.
Services like “buy now, pay later” and “tap to buy” take advantage of this, and acting now and thinking later can wreak havoc on our intentions, especially our budget goals. But our tendency to think first with our emotions and for the short term means that slowing down the actual process of buying can greatly help us to make decisions.
Stop and take stock. Take time to genuinely acknowledge what your body feels like and how it relates to your emotional affect. Is your heart rate quickened when you’re stressed? Do you feel light-headed or slower moving when nervous?
Avoid making any purchases in a heightened state like stress or discomfort. The first step is acknowledging the emotions that you feel when you feel them, the second is making the decision not to make purchases during these times.
Make an intention queue. Keeping items on a ‘waitlist’ will help you give yourself some time to really consider your intended purchases. First, list them, then return to the list later and move items forward in the queue if you think they’re still worthy buys.
2. Do your buying when you feel your best.
Our external environment is always changing and changing unpredictably. This means we’re constantly presented with new information that must be interpreted to make decisions and to adapt routines. This is a significant task for your brain, and in some conditions your brain is simply better at making decisions than in others.
Our capabilities with executive functioning are impaired when we’re tired or stressed. In these states, we’re also less resistant to stress and impulse, increasing our likelihood of heeding to impulses and ill-considered buying. We likely can’t bend the outside world to suit us, but we can be strategic to limit our spending to places and times we feel best.
To do this, try asking yourself: when and where do you tend to feel most stressed or overwhelmed?
Then, do your buying when you feel your best, not when you’re not tired, overwhelmed or distracted, but when you’re clear-headed, comfortable and balanced.
3. Write down your spending goals.
To keep to our intentions, whether that’s saving a paycheck or fulfilling a shopping list, we’ve first got to be clear about what those intentions are and how we might set practices in place to keep them. Creating and sticking to goals means always having them mentally within reach, which can be a challenge because there are of course limits on how much information we can keep in our minds at once. It’s suggested we can hold around 7 ‘bits’ at any one time, and this number decreases when we’re under pressure or stressed. This means that when we have a lot on the go, things can slip through the cracks, like the items on our shopping list or the savings we want to keep.
Plan out and write down where you want to allocate your money for the month. Recording the gifts you want to buy in the same space as your groceries or daily expenses will help you understand them as parts of a greater whole.
Have your shopping list with you when you’re making purchases. It’s easy and tempting to be distracted by advertisements and sales, especially during the holiday season. Stay focused on buying your recorded items first, then you can wander to the chocolate section!
4. Budget realistically (and with forgiveness).
Whether we like it or not, spending and buying is part of our emotional ecosystem. We are emotional creatures, and our intentions and decisions are in place to serve some goal, whether we know what that goal is or not. Successfully sticking to a budget can help us be confident with our money and save for the future. But it’s also worth working towards a balance between militant budgeting restrictions and a buying free for all. Even the most useless-seeming purchases, like an exciting new game or a candy bar, bring us some kind of value.
Ask yourself how your purchases serve you. Do they provide shelter or transportation, increase your knowledge and enrichment, or simply bring temporary tasteful delight? Assigning value to each thing we buy primes us to start thinking more carefully about our spending.
Awareness of our spending will feed back into our emotions. When we’re more self-aware, it becomes easier to understand the causes and effects of our emotions and actions . This insight can help us make better decisions.
Being mindful of our tendencies around money can be scary, but it also provides important insights about our general wellbeing. The above steps aim to help with buying habits, but notice that the more you practice being mindful about spending, the easier it will be to acknowledge when you’re in a state that isn’t conducive to making the best decisions. Then return to step number one to pause the payment. Eventually you’ll have greater awareness of other under-considered behaviours too!
The more we enact mindful money handling, the more we become aware of our reactive, and highly malleable emotional states. Even for those of us who are mind and money masters, the end of the year presents us with extra challenges, from stress, to uncertainty, to external pressures that can affect how we feel and our requisite behaviours. Keeping grounded means taking stock of all components of our lives: personal, social, and financial. Each is an important part of our emotional ecosystem. For a happy ecosystem, the personal, the social, and the
financial all need tending to. The good news is that tending to one is tending to all.