Unlocking Financial Wellbeing: The Crucial Intersection of Psychology & Finance

Unlocking Financial Wellbeing: The Crucial Intersection of Psychology & Finance

Feb 12, 2024

Clay Raterman


Your mind is under attack.

It's hard enough out here as is...there's an infinite amount of instant gratification dopamine traps waiting around every corner. It takes incredible willpower and a consciously designed environment to protect your mind. It's the same with your money.

Over-consumption has become a disease we see all around us. Living outside our means has become the norm.

The point is, it's hard enough already to go against the crowd and make responsible financial decisions, but it's worth it. These are the boring daily decisions that lead you to freedom.

My BIGGEST tip is to create habits and routines that support your goals. I've found that my daily routine and environment play a massive role in my ability to control urges.

For example, if I have candy in the house, I eat it. So instead, I don't have it in the house. One less tempting decision to avoid when I'm tired or my willpower is zapped.

For your finances, this means creating FRICTION for spending. You don't have to fall prey to "one-click" purchases or enticing online ads. Create a system and a routine for spending that you follow 90% of the time.

Maybe it's groceries once a week with a budget. Maybe it's online spending or shopping only on specific pre-set dates so you can double-check your intentions. Maybe it's weekly check-ins with your financial tracking tool (try Fina).

Ideally, you should be creating habits and routines that you can fall back on and default to when you don't have the willpower to make the best decisions.

Here are some key statistics regarding credit card debt in the United States:

  • Total Credit Card Debt: Americans had amassed a total of nearly $900 billion in credit card debt by the end of 2022, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

  • Average Credit Card Debt per Household: The average credit card debt per household was approximately $8,000, as reported by various financial analysis firms.

  • Interest Rates: The average credit card Annual Percentage Rate (APR) was hovering around 16% to 17%, but rates could vary widely depending on the credit card issuer, the borrower's creditworthiness, and other factors.

  • Payment Behavior: A significant portion of credit card users were only making minimum payments on their accounts, which can significantly increase the amount of interest paid over time.

  • Debt Accumulation: The trend had been towards an increase in credit card debt, partly due to rising living costs and economic pressures, leading more Americans to rely on credit cards for everyday expenses.

Financial Hygeine

In the journey toward financial health, understanding the numbers is only part of the equation. Equally, if not more important, is grasping the psychological forces that shape our financial behaviors. Our financial progress is inextricably linked to our psychological patterns, biases, and the frames through which we view our money. This relationship between psychology and finance is not merely academic; it is profoundly practical and deeply personal.

Every financial decision we make, from the mundane act of purchasing a morning coffee to the significant commitment of buying a home or investing in stocks, is influenced by a complex web of psychological factors. These include our upbringing, our experiences with money, our emotional state, and cognitive biases that we might not even be aware of. Recognizing and understanding these psychological underpinnings is the first step toward gaining control over them, and by extension, our financial destinies.

The good news is that by applying insights from behavioral finance, we can devise strategies to navigate and mitigate these biases. This is not about suppressing our natural impulses but about channeling them in a way that aligns with our long-term financial goals. Here are actionable steps to harness the power of psychology for financial empowerment:

1. Self-Reflection

Begin with introspection. Take time to reflect on your financial decisions and consider what emotions or biases might be influencing them. Are you spending impulsively for immediate gratification, or are you avoiding necessary financial risks due to an overblown fear of loss?

2. Goal Setting

Define clear, achievable financial goals. Whether it's saving for retirement, building an emergency fund, or paying off debt, having specific targets can help focus your efforts and make it easier to resist counterproductive behaviors.

3. Use of Financial Tools

Leverage technology to your advantage. There are numerous financial tracking tools and apps designed to provide insights into your spending habits, help you budget, and visualize your progress toward your goals. Choose tools that offer features addressing the psychological biases you're most prone to.

4. Education and Awareness

Educate yourself about common psychological biases and how they affect financial decisions. Knowledge is power, and understanding these biases can help you recognize them in your behavior.

5. Behavioral Change Strategies

Implement strategies specifically designed to counteract your biases. This could involve automating savings to combat instant gratification bias or using apps that highlight the cost of unnecessary purchases to fight the Diderot Effect.

As we delve into the specifics of seven common psychological biases that impact our financial behavior, keep these actionable steps in mind. By acknowledging and addressing these biases, we can not only improve our financial health but also embark on a path toward greater self-awareness and psychological well-being.

Exploring the "Psychology of Spending"

Here are some common psychological biases and frames that influence spending habits, along with ways to counteract them:

1. Instant Gratification Bias

  • Description: The preference for immediate rewards over future benefits. This bias leads people to spend impulsively instead of saving for long-term goals.

  • Counteraction: Use financial tracking tools with goal-setting features that visualize long-term benefits. Apps that show the future value of savings can motivate users to delay gratification.

2. Anchoring Bias

  • Description: The tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information seen (the "anchor") when making decisions. For spending, this might mean basing a purchase decision on the initial price seen, not the current value or need.

  • Counteraction: Encourage the comparison of prices and the consideration of the item's value beyond the initial price. Financial tools that highlight price drops or increases can help adjust the anchor to a more rational level.

3. Confirmation Bias

  • Description: The tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one's preexisting beliefs or hypotheses. In spending, this might mean justifying unnecessary purchases because they fit within one's self-image or perceived lifestyle.

  • Counteraction: Financial tracking apps that categorize spending can help users identify patterns that may not align with their financial goals, challenging their preexisting beliefs about their spending habits.

4. Loss Aversion

  • Description: The idea that the pain of losing is psychologically about twice as powerful as the pleasure of gaining. People might avoid financial risk-taking, like investing, due to the fear of losing money, or conversely, spend to avoid the feeling of missing out on a deal.

  • Counteraction: Tools that simulate financial scenarios and illustrate the potential gains from investing versus the costs of inaction can help. Educating users about the balanced view of risk and reward is also beneficial.

5. Mental Accounting

  • Description: The tendency to treat money differently depending on where it comes from, where it is kept, or how it is spent. For example, treating tax refunds as "free money" to be splurged.

  • Counteraction: Financial tracking tools that provide a holistic view of finances encourage treating all money with the same value. Setting budgets and goals can help integrate all sources of income into one comprehensive financial plan.

6. Social Proof

  • Description: The psychological phenomenon where people copy the actions of others in an attempt to undertake behavior in a given situation. Social media and peer spending can heavily influence one's own spending habits.

  • Counteraction: Tools that allow for the setting of personal financial goals and track progress privately can help individuals focus on their own financial health rather than comparing themselves to others.

7. The Diderot Effect

  • Description: The tendency for consumers to enter a spiral of consumption, where one purchase leads to another. This effect explains how buying one new item can lead to additional purchases because the new item feels out of place with the old.

  • Counteraction: Encourage mindful spending through financial tracking apps that prompt users to consider the necessity and compatibility of new purchases with their current belongings and financial goals.


As we wrap up our exploration of the psychology of spending, it's evident that understanding and managing the psychological biases influencing our financial decisions is crucial for achieving financial well-being. The journey towards financial health is not solely about crunching numbers or sticking to a budget; it's deeply rooted in our ability to navigate the psychological landscapes that shape our spending habits. By recognizing and addressing these biases, we can make more informed, deliberate decisions that align with our financial goals and values.

In this endeavor, financial tracking tools play a pivotal role by providing the insights and feedback necessary to identify and counteract our biases. Fina offers a comprehensive platform for tracking your finances, setting and monitoring goals, and gaining valuable insights into your spending patterns. With its user-friendly interface and powerful analytics, Fina is more than just a budgeting app; it's a financial companion designed to help you stay aware of the psychological forces at play in your financial life.

In sum, the relationship between psychology and financial progress is complex, but it's also navigable with the right tools and strategies. Embrace the insights offered by behavioral finance, engage with tools like Fina to keep your financial goals on track, and remember that every step forward, no matter how small, is a step towards greater financial health and personal empowerment!


Love, the founders of Fina

-Clay, Shawn, Xiao