As almost everyone knows, disciplines such as saving money, working out, and eating less ask us to invest deeply in our willpower. These activities, if only just started, take an unreasonable amount of willpower to force ourselves through. However, we all have our moments when we cannot force ourselves anymore. When we reach this state of submission, a precipice of sorts, we enter a state of ego depletion. What the term really means is this: our ability to exert self-control (or willpower) is limited. It’s a common thought that willpower is endless, that our desire to achieve the goal will always outmatch the difficulty of the goal, but as seen in many instances—most notably, when people give up on exercising—this simply cannot. However, it’s not all dark skies: while ego depletion asserts that our willpower is limited, having something limited means that it can be spared.
Setting Aside Self Control
While this may sound misleading, what we really mean is this: how does one keep self-control for later? Well, it’s simple. The more times you have to resist temptation during a day, the less able you are to resist that temptation towards the end of the day. Thus, the natural response is to decrease your sources of temptation wherever you can. For example, if you are attempting to diet, but find yourself driving past fast food places on your way to work, the best tactic would be to change your route so that the opportunity to indulge won’t rear its head on your way home. Another example would be money: if you find yourself spending a lot of change online, delete the applications that are sending you notifications for new clothes. Not only do each of these tactics save you money, they also set aside some of your willpower for bigger, more important things.
Increasing Self Control
This may seem to contradict the main point of ego depletion, but hear we out certain kinds of people seem to possess more willpower than others. Now, it’s either these people are consciously adjusting what they expend their willpower on, or they simply have more willpower to spend. Either way, this kind of people are known to be healthy; if your body is in shape (and this does not mean gym-fit), and your mind is strong as well, you’re more likely to spend your willpower more responsibly because you won’t be resisting the urge to go to the doctor, or save yourself some sort of pain. Once you take care of your body and take care of your mind, the limit set on your willpower will increase.
Highly ambitious people also seem to have great reserves of willpower, and this is largely due to the size of their goals. If you have a big dream, one that absolutely cannot be completed if you give up, you’re more likely to ward off temptation and work harder and harder towards this big dream. In situations like these, willpower may even come from the hard work itself, as its all feeding into a larger goal.
Consciously Exerting Self Control
This is more linked to cutting out unnecessary triggers to your willpower but stands well enough on its own. Consciously exerting your self-control really means deciding to do something now in order to stave off any temptation you may feel for this particular action tomorrow. For example, if you are taking on a rigorous exercise plan, set aside a cheat day in order to recover from your days of intense physical workouts. Not only does this give your body time to heal, it also heals your reserves of self-control, and allows them to replenish in preparation for your next great exertion of willpower. Another example would be making time for a certain activity today if there cannot be time for the activity tomorrow. That would include seeing a friend or watching television. These should not be activities tacked onto busy days, but rather completely set aside to avoid distraction and temptation. However, this activity isn’t completely holistic; it wouldn’t apply to spending money, considering that money itself is a limited resource (for us, anyway).
What All This Has to Do with Saving
Saving is, in and of itself, an exercise. It requires a great amount of willpower, and what’s more, this self-control must be exerted continuously. If it isn’t, the purpose of saving has ultimately been defeated. For example, if you have vowed to not buy any clothes at all but end up shopping at a big brand, you have given up your willpower and spent the limited resource that is your money.
So, how do we apply the concept of ego depletion to our financial lives? Here’s how: instead of curating a strict, to-the-T budget for yourself, rather split up your needs and wants into broad areas. For wants, instead of setting aside a particular amount of money for your dinner with a friend, set aside a sum of money for all recreational activities. That way, you know exactly how much is going into that portion of your life, and should you spend more, concessions can be made elsewhere.
Another tactic would be to downgrade your expenses. This means opting for something cheaper, all across the board of your luxurious expenses. So, instead of shopping at a big name brand, rather spend your money at thrift stores. Not only will you get more value for your buck, you’ll also develop a personal style unmatched by anyone else. These tactics are examples of spending your willpower wisely; in terms of the latter example, you’re still buying the clothes you want, but you’re doing so with the knowledge that you’re spending far less than you usually would.
Knowing about willpower, and how much you possess as an individual, is critical to your financial journey. There will be times when the need to gain help from licensed money lenders such as Credit Hub is strong, and there will be times when spending your money seems like the only viable option, but learning to navigate this tricky terrain is part of the process. In order to learn how to spend, save, and manage your money, you need to learn how to spend, save, and manage your willpower. We do this by gauging our needs (clothes, for example), and our wants (possibly a trip to the theatre), and deciding how to best navigate these two. Replacing one activity with something similar and inexpensive is a small way to give in, as it does not take much of your willpower, and nor will it hurt your wallet. To understand your money, understand your willpower.