How much does my brain actually operate on automatic pilot? If the Dora song in the background of my crazily busy life is capable of triggering me to sing the next line of a song I never intended to remember, could other triggers be causing me to spend mindlessly? What are the possible triggers? And most importantly, how do I stop?

Our youngest child, our only little man around here, just turned 5. As we move on to Power Rangers and SpongeBob SquarePants, I think it’s safe to say that our family’s days of Dora the Explorer watching are already far behind us. But nevertheless, I find myself hearing Dora’s catchy tunes occasionally singing from the television. Instinctively, I walk through the house continuing the rest of the songs, as if “I’m the map!” and “Doo doo doo, Dora” are forever ingrained in the curves of my medulla.


All this responsive, but thoughtless, singing got me to thinking. How much does my brain actually operate on automatic pilot? If the Dora song in the background of my crazily busy life is capable of triggering me to sing the next line of a song I never intended to remember, could other triggers be causing me to spend mindlessly? What are the possible triggers? And most importantly, how do I stop? 


Emotions


I am guilty of everything I’m about to mention because, well, I’m human. When I’m sad, spending seems to make sense if elevates my mood, even temporarily. It’s almost harder when I’m happy; my confidence is boosted and I feel I can handle anything (read: any invoice) that comes my way. Don’t let quick emotional responses trip you up. Take a moment before every decision to make sure it’s in line with the financial goals that you’ve established for yourself.


Deprivation


We’ve all heard that starting a new exercise regime should happen slowly, not by running a marathon your first week out. Moderation is sound advice in terms of everything, including how much you deprive yourself from an occasional treat or splurge while trying to save. Too much deprivation will build up just like too much working out and you’ll end up blowing your nest egg in a big, thoughtless spending spree.


Tying things to who you are


You are not what you do or what you have; you really just are. Be the “you” you want to be by keeping material things separate from how you feel about yourself. Just like anything else, this takes practice, but leads to a much stronger, and more financially secure, you.


Molly Logan Anderson is a freelance writer who lives in the western suburbs of Chicago with her husband, Mike, three kids and two labs. Join Molly on her family’s journey of living a frugal life and making financial freedom their reality in her columns or visit her site at www.mollylogananderson.com.