Three strategies for your clients’ post-pandemic spending and saving plans
by Samantha Lamas
The pandemic forced us all to form new habits in every aspect of our lives, including how we spend our money. Instead of grabbing lunch with friends or planning our next vacation, many of us stayed home and experimented with sourdough bread recipes. Environmental restrictions, while keeping us safe, also inadvertently prevented many of us from excess spending.
As many locations begin easing restrictions, many predict a boom in consumer spending. For those who are enjoying their healthy savings accounts, there’s a downside to partaking in that boom.
To help your clients stick to their saving goals, guiding them through a reflection process may be key to prolonging the good habits they’ve adopted.
Creating a new habit depends on a few factors: the difficulty of the desired behaviour, the context or environment of the decision, and the incentive associated with the behaviour. Many times, people struggle to create a new habit because they disregard the importance of their environment.
For example, if your goal is to lose weight, one of the most beneficial steps you can take is to get rid of any temptations in your kitchen. During the pandemic, restrictions acted as that environmental fix, where individuals were shielded from the temptations of overspending in in-person settings. However, this strong-armed fix may soon be coming to an end.
For clients who would like to continue building up their savings accounts, now is the time to help them prepare for the loosening of restrictions and the impact that may have on their financial decisions.
Start off by helping clients identify the good behaviours they’ve adopted over the past year.
- Did they start setting aside money for saving right when they got their paycheck?
- Did they cook at home more often?
- Have they gotten into the habit of saving up for big purchases or vacations versus putting things on a credit card?
Ask clients to write down the good habits they would like to stick to in the future and why. What financial goal will they get closer to by sticking to this habit? The practice of writing out a behaviour and reconnecting it to a personal financial goal can act as a precommitment device–a “contract” between your clients and their future selves that they can look back on when the habit begins to falter.
It’s important to acknowledge that our current environment has helped us stick to our new spending and saving habits. As social distancing restrictions begin to loosen, we must brace ourselves for the times when our new habits may be tested. For example, socializing may start to become more common, along with the expenses that come with it.
Under these circumstances, it may be difficult for clients to keep certain habits, like spending less on eating out or entertainment. To prepare for this new environment, help your clients identify the needs they are trying to satisfy with certain behaviours and come up with a new strategy to meet those needs. For example, spending money on expensive dinners may have more to do with the need for socializing versus the meal itself. Help your clients find a budget-friendly strategy for meeting this need, such as inviting friends over for a home-cooked meal instead.
No matter how much we prepare, our newfound habits may still falter under pressure. As a solution, work with your client to create barriers to action. For example, implementing a three-day wait rule, where your client agrees to wait for three days before acting on a decision. For everyday spending decisions, this can help prevent your client from making spontaneous purchases that they may regret later.
Many of us are looking forward to getting back to “real life,” but there may be a few habits we hope to hold on to, such as setting aside money every month or saving up for big purchases. This past year has upended our lives in so many ways, but, for those of us who can, it’s important to look back and see what has changed for the better and incorporate that as we forge ahead.
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