1. At the Tail End of a Terrible Day
Maybe your boss yelled at you, your deal fell through, or your basement flooded—no matter what happened, you could use some serious cheering up. All too often, we look to buy that cheer ... which is decidedly less comforting when we see our checking account the next morning.
How to Combat Temptation: Solomon has an acronym for situations—all too common at the end of the day—that make us extra vulnerable: HALT, which stands for hungry, angry, lonely and tired. “If you’re feeling any of those, recognize that you’re prone to poor decision-making,” she says.
The trick is heading off temptation at the pass. “Before you head out the door, ask yourself how you’re feeling and consciously rate your vulnerability on a scale of 1 to 10,” Solomon suggests. “When you know you’re vulnerable, you can use that opportunity to take more control.”
Galef adds that stress can subject us to what psychologists call “cognitive distortions,” or exaggerated and irrational thoughts. (For example, if one bad thing happens to you, you might extrapolate and assume that the pattern is destined to repeat itself—turning a lousy afternoon into a downward spiral.)
“One of the most useful things you can do for your decision-making is to be able to recognize the emotional cues that you’re in a state of elevated stress—and to know how to destress,” she says. And, once you take a few minutes to calm yourself, you’ll be more likely to convince yourself to tuck that cash (or card) back in your wallet.