Well…..he might be.

If you’ve been in my audience or read my book, you’re familiar with Sneaky Pete.  If you haven’t or you’re not, Sneaky Pete represents the primitive part of our brain that:

  • is all about living in the present moment
  • is focused on our immediate comfort
  • only cares about what feels good
  • is highly reactive and emotional
  • has no capacity for rational thought 
  • couldn’t give a rip about future consequences of today’s actions

Sneaky Pete is the default setting for our brains because he takes the least amount of energy to use.  The more advanced, rational part of our brains that makes good decisions – like when it comes to managing our finances and planning for the future – takes A LOT of energy to use and is easily exhausted.  To make things worse, whenever we’re stressed, Sneaky Pete automatically assumes control.

So what does he have to do with your money? 

Just about everything. 

Sneaky Pete is the voice in your head telling you YOU REALLY NEED the latest piece of technology or a bigger and better TV, car or house.  That it’s not just ok, but actually a NECESSITY, to take the trip you can’t afford.  That it’s a GREAT IDEA to go shopping when you’re bored and to put that killer pair of new shoes on your credit card. 

He wants to you be happy today.  But unfortunately today’s happiness can be tomorrow’s stress and anxiety.

Money and finances are two of our top sources of stress.  The emotional burden of carrying debt or the fear of not being able to make ends meet can take a huge toll.  And it robs us of our confidence. 

But there’s a way to increase the odds of our advanced brains winning the fight and giving us more freedom from stress and to make better decisions.  We can create scenarios where we’re less tempted by Sneaky Pete, not exhausting our willpower to resist him, and are making decisions more in alignment with our long-term goals….they’re called Optimal Defaults.

Optimal Defaults make choosing a desired behavior easier, if not automatic, and require more energy to opt out of a good decision.

 

Here are 5 Optimal Defaults to decrease your financial stress, create a greater sense of control and open your world of financial possibility:

1. GET RID OF TEMPTATION.  If Sneaky Pete sees something appealing, he’s going to do anything he can to make us do it or get it.  I used to get suckered into buying all kinds of things I didn’t know I “needed” by looking through catalogs that came in the mail.  Stop allowing Sneaky Pete to be tempted. Call or hop online to unsubscribe from catalogs – it takes less than 2 minutes.  Unsubscribe from retail emails announcing sales or product launches.  Unsubscribe to magazines that have tempting articles or advertisements for things you don’t need.  You may be surprised by what a difference this makes!

2. SET IT & FORGET IT.  While your advanced brain understands the benefits of planning and saving for your future, Sneaky Pete wants to live it up right now.  Dolla dolla bills, ya’ll!  Sign up for automatic deposits into savings or retirement from your paycheck.  If you have debt, sign up for automatic payments.  Don’t give Sneaky Pete the option of making financial decisions for you…he’ll always choose fun today over a solid future. 

3. RETAIL “THERAPY” MY A$$.  When did shopping become a leisure time activity?  I’ll sometimes find myself with nothing to do in the evening and jump on to Etsy to “just see what’s going on”.  Or how about being bored on the weekend and going to the mall?  It’s like being on a diet and going to a buffet or being addicted to gambling and going into a casino – why put yourself into a tempting situation?  Plan other activities like going for a walk, listening to a podcast, or going to a museum, local hot spot or tourist site you’ve never taken the time to visit.

4. HIT THE PAUSE BUTTON.  Sneaky Pete is the King of Instant Gratification.  He wants WHAT he wants, WHEN he wants it.  He hates to be told no.  But we can slow his roll by saying “Hold on just a minute.  I’m not saying no…but let’s wait.  If we still REALLY want it in 48 hours, we’ll revisit it.”  As soon as you create some distance and buy some time, Sneaky Pete eases up, and advanced brain has a better chance of taking control. This sounds too easy to work, but you may be surprised at how this small delay allows your advanced brain to wrestle control away from Sneaky Pete. 

5.  PUT YOUR $$ WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS – NOT IN THE TRASH.  According to USDA statistics, a family of 4 spends about $1000 per month eating at home.  If you add in going out to eat, it gets even more expensive.  We also waste about 1 pound of food per person each and every day…which means we’re throwing money into the garbage.  Here are a few things you can do to save money (and time) on food:

  • Shop with a list.  When Sneaky Pete goes to the grocery store with free reign he starts snatching whatever looks good.  Spend the 10 minutes to make a list before you go.  A little bit of planning will also save you the stress of wondering what the heck you’ll do for dinner every night as well as several trips to the store.
  • Redefine what a meal means.  I get stressed and overwhelmed when food prep is too complicated.  Then I want to just bag it and go out to eat.  KEEP THINGS SIMPLE.  Breakfast for dinner is soooooo good!  Toast a whole-grain English muffin, top with mozzarella and a couple slices of tomato.  Scramble some eggs, spoon on salsa and sliced avocado, and have a handful of corn tortilla chips.
  • Do a meatless meal 1 or 2 times per week.  Meat is far more expensive than beans, eggs or other sources of protein…especially if you have a big family.  Here are a few of my favorite easy, no meat recipes: