What If The Only Way to Save Is When I Can’t See It

07/05/2017 Author: Payleaf Team

Recent studies cite that emotions often trigger both spending and saving. We squirrel money away because we either have great anticipation for the future, or because we fear it.  A fear of the future can lead to saving income due to guilt, insecurity, and distrust.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to simply choose joyful anticipation over extreme anxiety?   

Saving takes many forms; we visit the broker to increase our 401k contributions, we deposit additional amounts in our savings account at the local bank, or we could adjust our Payleaf account percentages so that more of our gig earnings are allocated in the savings bucket.


But what about those of us who say, “The only way I can save is if I can’t see it?”


If you fall into the “if I can see it, I will find a way to spend it” category, this article will help.

We are the ones who want to save, but can not seem to find a way to get started or to maintain it.  When some of us know we have money, it feels as though it is burning a hole in our pockets.  If we have access to saving funds, we will find a way to convert them from liquid cash to non-liquid assets.  In other words, we will spend!

At the end of the month, as we pay our bills, we feel the same emotions that most wanna-be savers feel; fear, guilt, shame, anxiety.  Occasionally,  we experience the joy of anticipation, the satisfaction of a job well done and the pleasure of a new purchase.  However none of these triggers have caused us to take action of saving.  Why?


There is one reason: because we see the money.  


Consider this scenario: we know money is coming in the form of a larger, one-time payment.  We have worked hard on a side job, and now we are receiving compensation.  However, we have already calculated how much we will be paid…and we have already spent that anticipated income on something we desperately need.   

Or we earned a raise!  Congratulations to us!  But we know how much that raise amounts to, and we see the money before it hits our bank account.  We know exactly where that additional monthly income can be spent to raise our standard of living.

We spend money as soon as we have it because we experience emotional triggers.  We receive a raise, and immediately spend it because we emotionally crave an increased standard of living.

Or we received a windfall – a gift – what a glorious thing!  But we see the money.  We can hold it in our hand. Before we can save it, in our hearts we have already exchanged that money for something important.  

Then it is the end of the month again, and again we feel the same emotions as we did before.  We still have not taken action to save for the future.




Why are we compelled to spend money as soon as we see it?

This is more than a surface question.  When most people take action to save, they are experiencing emotional triggers that drive them to save.  To ease the emotional tension created by the trigger, they take action and resolve the tension.

Emotional triggers can be as simple as or as complex as we choose to make them.

When we spend money as soon as or before we even have it, two things could be happening: either we are experiencing a different emotional trigger that does not result in saving, or we are conveniently ignoring the emotional trigger for saving.  There are many emotional triggers we may experience when we have money burning a hole in our pockets.  

Here are some of the most common emotional triggers:


“It is really important that I look cool.” We care what others think of us, and we make purchases so that others can see that we own those things. Designer clothes, watches, fashionable shoes and accessories are examples of purchases made to influence others’ perception of us. But, should we cave to peer pressure and waste our hard-earned dollars? If we truly want to get ahead financially — and build a successful, impressive life — the answer should be a resounding “no.”

“I don’t want to limit myself.” This trigger results in us spending up to our income level. We may find that we spend money just because we can. A raise or unexpected income is used to improve our standard of living.  Repeated over time, this method results in a high standard of living with very low savings.  

Some people enjoy “retail therapy”, and use shopping to pick themselves up when they are feeling down.

“It feels great to buy things.” We know this as the rush of shopping. Many of us get an emotional high out of purchasing items in stores or online. We buy because it feels great, because it fills a void, and because it occupies us in a way that feels meaningful.  However, we may come to regret the purchases when we come down from our high.  We might be tempted to say, “But I can return it”.  The time, effort, and locked-up cash may outweigh the effort to return each and every item.  Falling victim to this mentality over time is expensive and burdensome.  

“I want to exert power and dominance upon the world.” We may want to fulfill the need to feel powerful. Being able to make decisions and back them up demonstrates power. That can feel good. Especially when others react and acknowledge our power. If we are buying to demonstrate power, we tend to buy “high end” products and services, looking to get something better than the typical consumer.  Repeated over time, this practice will limit our ability to save.

“I want it right now.” The need for immediate gratification. We live in a “now” world. Instant Internet, instant food and instant credit. So when we see something that promises to satisfy one of our needs, we want it right away. When all purchases were made with cash, scratching this itch was harder. Credit cards have made instant gratification much easier, and consequently, more expensive over time.

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“I have always done it this way.”  We know this as the desire to protect our standard of living. Unless we are intentionally trying to simplify our life, we assume that any expenses incurred protecting that lifestyle are necessary. But changes in income, age and family status may suggest a different, more-modest standard of living. Purchases made just “because I’ve always done that” are a telltale sign that we are protecting a way of life that may no longer serve our needs.

“I was always told ‘no’ as a child.” Perhaps we are spending because we need to overcome past problems. If we were materially deprived early in life, it’s natural to want to avoid repeating those times. We might get a candy bar every work break to make up for the ones we didn’t have as a child. Or we might only buy new cars because our parents could only afford old beaters. This is a deeper emotional trigger that may need our focus in order to relieve the tension it creates in our lives.

Manicures and pedicures may improve self-esteem and wellbeing, but they are expenses that could otherwise be allocated to savings.

“It makes me feel good about myself.” We may spend to convince ourselves of self-worth. Some people need to spend money on themselves in an effort to bolster their self-esteem. Often these are items that are self-centered (think manicures, fancy jewelry, personal convenience or care items). One way to identify these purchases is that they’re often justified by a “I deserved it” claim.




Another possibility could be that we are conveniently ignoring the emotional triggers we feel as soon as we have money to spend.

It is a curious thing. Human beings are excellent at ignoring our own inner voice.  One of the ways that we ignore emotional triggers is to create excuses.  These excuses allow us to truly believe that saving is not possible.  It could not be farther from the truth!  We are capable of saving!  Below are examples of some of the most common excuses.  Read them, and recognize them for what they are: limiting beliefs.

Here are some of the most common excuses:

“There is always something I need.” Studies have found that conspicuous wealth is a patterned behavior that is contagious. When people see others living the high life, they try to buy it for themselves, even when they can’t afford it. We can always enjoy a better television or a newer car, but splurging on the latest models can be a very expensive and unnecessary bad habit. We should only upgrade our electronics  when our older model is broken, not every time a newer model comes out.

If your dream is to live in the moment as you travel, you can still save for the future and live your dream.

“I Want to Live in the Moment.” This is probably the most common reason people choose not to save money, and it is also probably the biggest financial mistake. Just because we have other financial priorities, such as traveling or paying off debt, doesn’t mean that we can’t save money at the same time. It just means that we can’t save as much money. Using a Payleaf account can help overcome this mindset.  Payleaf has a fantastic savings tool called “bucketed savings”.  It lets you allocate your money according to your priorities.  If your priority is travelling, you can allocate a greater percentage of your Payleaf account to your travel bucket, while still maintaining a savings bucket.  As you add goals and aspirations to your life, you can add more buckets, or re-allocate previous buckets.  What are your current priorities?  Payleaf can help you connect your priorities to your saving habits.

“I’ll Start Saving Later.” This is another huge financial mistake. Procrastination can be very costly.  For example, if you save $100 per month for 25 years at an interest rate of 3% you will accumulate $44,712.28. If you chose to start saving later, and you saved for 15 years instead, you would only accumulate $22,754.01. A clever quote is attributed to Albert Einsten.  He is alleged to have once said, “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it … he who doesn’t … pays it.” Whether or not Einsten actually said this is debated.  However, it is to our advantage to understand as much as we can about the power of compound interest so that it works in our favor.

Carpe Diem, Seize the Day!  That can mean not procrastinating, living responsibly in the present moment, and saving for the future.

“You Can’t Take It With You.” This is true, but your personal expenses don’t stop at death. Once all funeral-related costs are factored in, the typical traditional funeral service will cost the average family closer to $8,000 – $10,000. If you don’t have personal savings, your loved ones will be responsible for covering these costs. Other post-mortem expenses include paying off debts and paying final taxes.

“I Don’t Have Kids.” Just because you don’t have kids doesn’t mean that you don’t need to save money. There are many other reasons people need to save, such as an emergency savings fund and retirement.  Additionally, many people feel that raising children fulfills their purpose in life.  The deeper question here would be to ask ourselves about our purpose.  Having a clear purpose in life often lends to a very clear plan for allocating funds.  There are many articles that encourage us to be our own life CEO, and thus clearly defining our life purpose and plan.


Why do we spend money as soon as we see it?  The reason may be deeply rooted in our emotional psyche.  The trick is be aware of our emotions.  What are we feeling when we spend?  What are the excuses we make when we do not save?  There are resources available to us that allow us to save small percentages of our income as we earn. One of those resources is Payleaf.


Prudy February 16, 2016

You really found a way to make this whole prseocs easier.

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