Do You Have Self-Control?

A Chicago Journal of Consumer Research study explains why some people have more self-control than others when it comes to buying things:

In three studies…researchers examined the process individuals cycle through when trying to make a change. First, they select goals, then they form “implementation intentions,” deciding which options and behaviors are consistent with the goals. “For example, you might make a budget, deciding which items are necessities and which are luxuries, buy a diet book, which tells you which foods you may and may not eat, or organize your weekly schedule to include work sessions and time to participate in leisure activities,” the authors explain.

Where many people get tripped up is when their goals require them to overcome their default tendencies. For example, people the researchers categorized as having “low self-control” tended to do better with “indulgence goals,” like enjoying purchases more. Individuals with higher self-control preferred “restriction goals,” which led them to categorize fewer items as necessities.

“The most effective self-control interventions may vary depending on one’s selfcontrol level and the nature of one’s chosen goal,” the authors conclude.

The study provides a good trick for parsing out real necessities from imagined ones in a bad economy. When I think of a necessity list, circa 2004, I come up with this:

-Owning a home
-Going out to eat at a new restaurant once a week
-Having a nice car
-Buying trendy clothes
-Going on a nice vacation once a year

A similar list created now would look like this:

-Having a decent place to live
-Being able to afford most groceries
-Having a gas-efficient car
-Owning a wardrobe that doesn’t date me back to 2004
-Enjoying my staycations

Times really have changed, haven’t they?

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