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Spend Less Money: 3 New Behavioral Tricks

Creating a list - and sticking to it - is one way to avoid impulse shopping. Using cash instead of credit is another. But did you know there are some things you can do - both mentally and bodily - to exert more self-control while shopping? I came across some new behavioral findings on how to resist temptation:

1. Clench Your Fist
We already know how painful it can be to part with money - especially cash. "It really is a physical, visceral effect," says Priya Raghubir, professor of marketing at New York University's Stern School of Business. "It is not only the disutility of spending, but you have a stronger recall (when you use cash instead of credit)," she tells me. And recent research finds that by adding to that pain - by, say, clenching your fist - can reduce spending. A study in the Journal of Consumer Research says that's because "when people feel pain, they usually try to address it, and addressing pain by adding to it in the form of parting with their unlikely."

In short, clenching of the muscles leads to more self-control. Note to self: Keep a small stress ball in my purse at all times. Or if that doesn't work, be ready to pinch yourself.

2. Drink Up
The more liquid you drink before heading to the mall, the more likely you'll save. Why? Reports show that when we feel the need to pee (but control it), we boost our overall willpower. Researchers at University of Twente in the Netherlands found that bladder control led to better decision making. Their newly published study, Inhibitory Spillover: Increased Urination Urgency Facilitates Impulse Control in Unrelated Domains, found that those who drank either 50 ml or 700 ml of water - and waited 45 minutes - were more likely to make decisions that resulted in delaying gratification. A bottle of water never seemed like such a wise investment!

3. Rest Up
The lack of sleep can make us overly optimistic and steer us towards unhealthy choices - like gambling, according to an article published in the the U.K.'s Independent referencing the Journal of Neuroscience. Scientists compared brain scans of those who received interrupted sleep and those who had a much better night's sleep. Their conclusion: "Sleep deprivation appears to create an optimism bias."

When you're tired, your brain likes to pursue gain (even if it means gambling away money) rather than avoid loss. Not getting enough sleep? According to fellow MoneyWatch blogger Robert Pagliarini, the average adult ideally needs about 7 hours of sleep a night.

Farnoosh Torabi is a personal finance journalist and commentator. She is the author of the new book Psych Yourself Rich, Get the Mindset and Discipline You Need to Build Your Financial Life. Follow her at, and on Twitter.
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Photo courtesy: Leunix's photostream on Flickr
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