Great food on our anniversary camping trip: Proof that metacognition works.
DH = Dear Husband
“I find that I loosen up my spending when things are going well financially,” wrote Amy from Debtgal in response to a recent post here at Fruclassity. “For example, if my husband gets a bonus check and I’m having a good month for sales from my Amazon store, my mindset shifts, and I feel less urgency to save.”
Amy was engaged in metacognition when she wrote that comment. A simple definition of the word metacognition is “thinking about thinking.” Dictionary.com says that it means “
I know that for all of those years when I maintained and deepened our levels of debt, I wasn’t using metacognition at all. I definitely did as Amy did. When times were extra good financially, I felt a giddy compulsion to spend that extra. I also spent more when things were extra busy. And I spent more when I felt extra anxious about something. I spent more in accordance with bursts of extra love too – especially when it came to one of our children – and at times of celebration.
Different people are prone to different triggers to spend – and marketers are excellent at tapping into each one them – but the good news is that with a little metacognition, we can all train ourselves to have new responses to these triggers.
Metacognition applied to spending triggers
Let’s take a look at the last trigger that I mentioned for myself: times of celebration. Before we started our journey out of debt, DH and I used to celebrate our anniversary “with style.” In the lean years, when he was struggling to find a new career path after the high tech bust of the early millennium, anniversary splurging for us meant going out to a nice restaurant. But in the good years? An overnight stay at a resort – complete with dinner, brunch, and his & her back massages.
Our first couple of debt-reduction anniversaries saw a return to the restaurant meal – a step in the right direction. Our income was much higher than it had been in those lean years, with DH’s home business going strong, yet we were celebrating in the more frugal way that we had when things were tight. Last year, DH wanted to go back to the resort. “We need to get away,” he said. We haven’t had a vacation all summer.
My metacognition kicked in. This was a triple trigger for me:
- It was a time for celebration.
- I felt one of those spendy “bursts of love” for my husband. He’d worked so hard on his business, and he needed a break.
- (This is a trigger I didn’t mention earlier.) DH was always more likely to say, “No, let’s not waste our money,” than I was. So whenever he wanted to spend, I encouraged it. And here he was, wanting to splurge for our anniversary.
Instead of giving in to my preconditioned responses to celebrate, love, and ride the wave of my husband’s rare desire to go all out, I expressed my doubt and encouraged more thought. I used to be the impatient one, eager for snap decisions. Yet here I was saying, “Let’s think about this some more.” And we did. And we got the best of all worlds. A get-away anniversary celebration, but not at a resort. We went camping for the weekend. A tent, a canoe, ice packs in a cooler . . . And in that cooler, along with some typical camping food, was a fillet mignon, a salmon steak, and a bottle of sparkling wine – all ready to say, “Happy anniversary!” It came in at a fraction of the cost of our resort get-away. And it was better.
Self-understanding, not self-judgment
Many of us, in our pursuit of debt-freedom or other goals, feel a real self-loathing when we fall off the wagon. The emotional ups and downs in a battle based solely on will power end up taking some people out of the game completely. Although it is essential to recognize our weaknesses, it is equally essential not to self-judge. Look at that definition of metacognition again. It “
It’s our anniversary again this week-end. Guess what we’re planning.
Amy from Debtgal has experienced the same phenomenon of metacognition and conscious change. I only quoted a part of her comment at the beginning of this post. Here it is from beginning to end: “Along the same lines, I find that I loosen up my spending when things are going well financially. For example, if my husband gets a bonus check and I’m having a good month for sales from my Amazon store, my mindset shifts, and I feel less urgency to save. Then I look at our debt total, and that brings me right back to reality. ” Her comment begins with an understanding of her thought processes, moves on to some analysis, and it ends with a new control over her own response.
Amy has changed the way she responds to extra income, and we have changed the way we respond to times of celebration. Are you aware of your own triggers when it comes to money? Do you think you’re powerless to change them? Think about the way you think, my friends. You have more power than you realize.
Your comments are welcome.