Remember the last time you bought a car from a dealership? You spent the first half of the day test-driving makes and models, only to then choose color and extras. Once you finally customized your dream ride, you still had to scrounge from the reserves of your willpower to haggle the price down to something reasonable. But you weren’t done there. No way. Next, you met with the finance department for additional negotiations on tire and optional packages — Did you mean to get the free oil changes for a year and that scratch resistant sealant sprayed over the paint? — not to mention the extended warranties and roadside assistance.
It was exhausting, right?
So why do dealerships set up the sales process to work this way?
For the same reason grocery stores put the impulse buys by the checkout, and why most of us make our more regrettable online purchases at night after a long and stressful day. Decision fatigue can cause anyone, from judges to consumers, to be more susceptible to making poor quality choices.
In the wide world of marketing, there’s an entire segment dedicated to taking advantage of people’s low willpower and energy levels. One buying decision is immediately trumped by presenting another choice. The upsell, if you will. Consider common cell phone carriers’ dedication to offering cases and accessories immediately after you’ve bought a phone. Amazon is amazing at this this, with its peer pressure tactic of showing you what others have bought along with the product you just picked.
Did you go into the grocery store intending to buy the gum and gossip magazine you nabbed at the checkout?
The answer is most likely not. So what can you do to prevent decision fatigue from wreaking havoc on your financial plans? Here are a few ideas.
1. Sleep on It
If someone demands that you decide whether or not to make a purchase on the spot, assume that they will benefit from a rushed decision more than you will. Walking away will give you power and the time to think it through.
The best way to fight fatigue — whether physical, mental, emotional, or psychological — is to get rest. Unless you’re a day trader or a house flipper in a booming real estate market, there are very few purchase decisions that will not benefit from a good night’s sleep.
2. Start Early
It’s best to make important financial decisions early in the day before you have used up much of your willpower reserve. For instance, a majority of people who say they exercise consistently do it in the morning. In my experience, trying to work out after work inevitably ends with an extra hour of work, traffic, or a rough day, all making me want to crash on the sofa with chips and beer. (Not the cardio I intended!)
With a fresh mind and a little more time under your belt, you’d be surprised how much easier it is to make a good decision before lunch.
3. Shop With a List
This goes for all shopping adventures. If we make a grocery list, why don’t we do the same for more critical, bigger purchases?
Your list should include:
- The necessities
- The wants
- How much you’re willing to buck up and pay for it
Then, if something unexpected is offered and your impulse is to add it on, see the first step and start over.
Sleep on it.
4. Automate to Take Decisions Off Your Plate
Taking smaller, regular decisions off your plate means you’re constantly saving energy, so you won’t be exhausted when the big ones arise. If you have business or personal questions that come up over and over, what do you do? You create an FAQ to give people answers to frequently asked questions without taking up your time. If you have business or personal expenses that come up regularly, you can automate your recurring bills to check off another task.
Check out this handy guide to help you automate your financial life (or at least a big part of it).
Consider auto pays for monthly bills and auto transfers for retirement and savings accounts. Then — even though you should still check in on things regularly — every month you’ve saved yourself from the mundane financial tasks that can cause fatigue.
Fighting financial fatigue means you save money in the long run, or make investments that are better tailored for your needs. By following the four steps I’ve covered, you’re not only going to feel less fatigue, but you will also be the person in charge of the sale, not the salesperson.
Now, doesn’t that feel good?
Jennifer Turrell is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.