New Year’s resolutions, love or hate them, someone is bound to ask you if you have made one. With 2016 being quite an interesting year for many, everyone seems to be more determined than usual to make this year great. So what are my plans for this year I hear you say? Oh well since you asked! This year I decided to make a resolution that I could easily commit to. I started to reflect upon which of my habits that I most wanted to change in 2017, using a bit of help from behavioural psychology.
Straight away I knew that one of the most unnecessary outgoing spends that I have is purchasing clothes. The thing is, I never go overboard. Just a £30 dress here or a £20 top there. But over time this creates a dent in my bank account that I really do not need. There are plenty of perfectly nice outfits sitting pretty in my wardrobe. But where does my urge to spend come from? I don’t buy women’s magazines very often and I don’t even have a TV (Thanks laptop and Netflix’s, you are a Godsend!).
Every few days I have been known to enjoy logging on to certain fashion blogger websites to see what they have been up. What kind of gal doesn’t like to look at gorgeous photographs of beautiful outfits? And who wouldn’t be inspired by the incredible locations that are their backdrops? These girls seem like lovely people who genuinely work hard to create amazing content online. This keeps me regularly checking their blogs, excited to see what they have been up to next. And you can bet that I will be lusting after clothes on shopping websites straight after.
Pixabay “To buy or not to buy, that is the question”
The fashion resolution
But I have decided that 2017 is the time for me to take a year-long break from my fashion following habit. That means me blocking all of the fashion related websites that I browse (blogs) and buy from (-Insert Endless List Here!-).
When I made this decision, my inner teen was screaming at me, saying “If it’s just a bit of harmless fun, then why do something so drastic?”. And this thought has kept me from taking action against my little shopping habit for a while. In the humdrum routine of everyday life, it can be a great form of escapism to log on and look at the wonderful lives of fashion bloggers.
However, being in a constant state of wanting more isn’t the best state of mind to be in, especially if you are trying to save your cash! And I am starting to take saving my pennies a bit more seriously in the name of discovering some bigger dreams of mine. Travelling! A holiday in New Zealand to be precise. Discovering hidden beaches, meeting new people, experiencing a different culture…Travelling, for me at least is a dream worth saving for. Your dream might be completely different. But the chances are, it has just been a dream up until now for a reason. And that reason is because your aspiration seems far away, unreachable or unattainable.
How do I commit to a long-term goal (using ideas from behavioural science)?
We have a tendency to gravitate towards immediate positive consequences rather than delayed (but higher value) positive consequences, as seen by Aubrey Daniels’ take on analysing behaviour here. For example, should you eat that delicious chocolate cake now, or stick to those apples and feel the benefits of a slimmer waist later? But we can get around this “instant gratification” habit using commitment techniques. Research has demonstrated that if you commit to a goal by limiting your choices initially, you can obtain the larger rewards that you desire at a later point in time (Rachlin and Green, 1972).
So, from a behavioural psychology perspective, it makes a lot of sense to entirely block the websites that make you spend. Why does this all or nothing approach work? If you cannot access said culprit websites, then you have removed the signal (or discriminative stimulus, in behaviour babble terms) which is saying “click on our site, in the past you’ve found lots of nice things to look at and buy”. If you remove this signal, then you are completely unable to access what you want and were constantly coming back to that site for. AKA, clicking onto your favourite website no longer provides reinforcement for your shopping behaviour. (To learn more about how I blocked the websites that were fueling my shopping addiction, click here). Therefore, if you block the websites that you know will influence your spending, then you are committing to your long-term and higher value consequences, such as travelling.
Initially, I wasn’t going to block myself from viewing fashion blogs, just shopping websites. I tried to justify that they weren’t part of my spending habit. But the more I thought about them, the more I came to the realisation that fashion blogs are designed with one main purpose in mind, to inspire you to spend your money! These relatable, fashionable girls with thousands of followers are an advertisers dream. They let you into their lives, noisy in their apartments, even their bags! You laugh at their anecdotes and you start to begin to trust their recommendations. For me at least, fashion blogs are just another signal (or discriminative stimulus) to encourage my shopping behaviour.
So if your New Years resolution is to spend less, then you might want to consider taking a complete break from browsing shopping websites if they are your vice! And try asking yourself what you want and would value most in your life. It could be your first step to committing to a happier New Year.
Good luck with your own New Years Resolutions and wishing you all a fruitful, happy and healthy 2017.
xxx From Beth at Behaviour Babble xxx
Rachlin, H., & Green, L. (1972). Commitment, choice and self‐control. Journal of the experimental analysis of behavior, 17(1), 15-22.
Ps: Don’t get me wrong, I am not against the fashion blogging industry. A little dose of aspiration is healthy. I used to be enamoured by the fashion blogger lifestyle. Seeing their beautifully shot photo’s encouraged me to take better photo’s and introduced me to the blogging world. I wouldn’t be here talking to you now if it wasn’t for them. So I actually have a lot to thank them for! And some style-savvy bloggers have shared personal stories with more substance, such as Anna Saccone’s video about dealing with bulimia. But if it becomes part of a spending habit that is hurting your future happiness, then maybe you should let them go for awhile.