How to Train Your Brain to Save More Money, According to a Psychologist

While financial stress isn't exactly a novel concept, our generation definitely feels the pinch more than ever: Research shows that one in three millennials experience anxiety about money. That's why this week, we're tackling financial wellness from every angle. Get expert advice on everything from the psychology of saving to investing when you have no clue where to begin. Financial empowerment is the ultimate goal—but you might just raise your bottom line, too.

Throughout my own budgeting journey, I've learned that a shift in mindset trumps even the shrewdest of financial strategies. And that's probably because even though our culture associates money with a certain coldness, in reality, our spending habits are actually kind of emotional. Think of the giddiness you feel after a fun purchase or the regret (or even shame) that might flash through you after opening a high credit card bill. 

This emotional cycle is closely tied with the way our brain establishes habits, which is why breaking yourself of the urge to shop is easier said than done. "On the most basic level, we are hardwired to spend money because we want to feel good," says psychologist Heather Silvestri. "This isn't just the naivete or ignorance of the human condition; it’s sort of the way our brains work around risk-reward loops." 

To this end, my saving habits only went into overdrive when I realized that seeing my bottom line go up felt even better than my post-shopping high. In other words, I was still tied to an emotion. I just built a more productive habit around it.