Are You Spending, and Eating, on Automatic Pilot?

We all use the feeling or intuitive side of our brain more often than the thinking side of our brain. We get breakfast, ship the kids off to school, drive to work, fetch coffee, say good morning…all largely on auto-pilot.

Mindless Eating

If you think about it, we also eat that way. Brian Wansink, PhD just wrote a great book called Mindless Eating. He and his team ran many tests on the public to learn how people behave when they eat. We rely a lot on visual cues, such as the size of the plate. We automatically fill our plate regardless of size, and don’t stop until the plate is clean. As the size of a plate has grown, so have our waistlines…

Brian Wansink even fooled other nutritionists. He invited them to an event and served ice cream. The bowls were larger than usual, and yet people still filled them because they were on auto-pilot. So let’s take a short mental leap to spending money.

Mindless Spending

The equivalent of a large plate is a credit card. Credit by definition allows you to spend more than the cash you have on hand. And many of us do exactly that. Sometimes we use our entire credit limit without thinking about how it’s going to get paid off. It’s like eating without thinking about how we’re going to wear off the calories.

Mind over Money

A trick for weight loss is to eat off of a smaller plate, and be conscious of when we’ve comfortably had enough. The corresponding trick for credit card management is to reduce our credit available, or cut up our cards altogether. Just because we have a limit, or a large plate, doesn’t mean we have to use it all. The trick is to become mindful about what we’re spending and what we really need. Try starting by tallying your credit card expenditures during the month, and compare to the actual monthly statement. How close are you? Did you spend more than you expected on auto-pilot or were you mindful about every time you used your card?

Carrie Rattle is a Principal at, a web site for women focused on the mind and money behaviors. She has worked in the financial services industry for 20+ years and hopes to inspire women to better prepare themselves for financial independence. Thoughts always welcome:

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