Reprogramming Your Mind to Save More Money

Here’s a money saving tip that may sound a little incredulous: you can reprogramme your mind to save more money. I personally believe it is why I am a habitual saver. Everyone’s wired a bit differently, I guess, so while it may not work as effectively for some people, I do feel that the human mind can be trained and reprogrammed… for better or worse.

Reassociating pain and pleasure

I don’t know exactly when or how it started, but I have vague recollections of associating pain with spending, and pleasure with saving. It started with a simple but conscious assignment of a negative feeling to spending, and placing a positive feeling on acts that increase my bank balance. From there, the habit built up over the years, and I found myself increasingly reluctant to spend.

In fact, I think I went a little overboard with it, it started becoming a detriment to my own comfort and enjoyment, such that I have in started reprogramming myself the other way since my income started to increase in recent years.

If you are on the other end where saving seems difficult, you need to consciously and repeatedly will your mind to associate unnecessary spending with pain and something to be avoided. People go on “retail therapy” because spending has long been associated with pleasure, and it’s something you need to fix if you want to break the habit of spending unnecessarily.

At the same time, associate saving with good feelings. Humans are already predisposed to being addicted to numbers: we get dopamine hits for seeing our social media numbers grow, and the same can be done with the numbers in our bank accounts.


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Reframing unnecessary spending

If you choose to buy something frivolous because it is just $10, or take Grab when you could have taken the train or bus for far less, try to develop a habit of thinking what you could have done better with the money instead. By not taking the taxi several times, I would have saved enough for a new band for my Apple Watch, and I really like new watch bands.

To lend more weight to this habit, you could also look the certain expenses from an annual perspective: is your frequent dining out costing you over $1,000 each year? That’s a new iPad each year.

These work for me because I am really into Apple, so you have to find something that works for you. At the end of the day, do I really take the savings and plop it on a new tech product? It is often no – I’d then find even better alternatives that I can spend my money on. By then, it is also easier not to buy a new iPad since we are naturally more averse to spending large sums of money. The trouble with saving is often in the smaller expenses that add up when we don’t say no often enough.

It helps greatly if you have a longer term goal in mind. Want to buy a home or retire early? You better start reframing your unnecessary spending.

Realise the sneakiness of profit-seeking businesses

There are entire billion-dollar businesses whose sole goal is to nudge your mind towards spending, from meticulously selecting the music played at stores, to the colours used on their marketing materials. Just recall the number of times we bought things simply because they were on sale, or because the marketing was just that good.

Also, credit card companies don’t give you miles and cashback from the goodness of their hearts. I realised that my spending habits have started to shift towards imprudence ever since I began chasing miles and cashback, and card rewards are but a carefully crafted system designed to make you associate spending with accomplishment, especially for mile cards. It would be silly to pay cash where we could use cards and earn rewards, but we also need to be mindful of how these rewards strive to alter our behaviour.


Humans are creatures of habits, but habits take time to build. Make conscious decisions, and repeat the steps until the habits take hold.

How do you stop yourself from spending unnecessarily? Leave a comment or tell us in the Telegram group!

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