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Lesson 15 - Dopamine and Spending

Dec 06, 2023

Dopamine is a big word these days. 

Dopamine has ALOT to do with our behaviours and patterns with money. 

This lesson talks about the how spending, dopamine and our brain are affected by our thoughts and actions when it comes to our money. 

Our brain is absolutely amazing and the neural pathways that are made within it are really driven by dopamine.

Dopamine hits the happiness button in our brain. With spending and hitting that buy now button or pulling out our credit cards we are often hitting that happiness button over and over and over again and that neural pathway is born and our brain loves this new behaviour. 

Our society is so focused on getting dopamine hits and we just keeping wanting more and more. 

Understanding how dopamine and spending are related is really helpful to bring awareness to the behaviours and patterns with your spending. 

In our bustling world of consumerism, where shopping carts click and credit cards swipe, there's more at play than just the exchange of goods for money. The neurochemical dance in our brains, particularly involving dopamine, adds a fascinating layer to our spending behaviors. 

Dopamine is often hailed as the brain's "feel-good" neurotransmitter. It plays a pivotal role in the reward system, motivating us to seek out pleasurable experiences and reinforcing behaviors that contribute to our survival and well-being. When we anticipate or experience something rewarding, like a delicious meal or a victorious moment, our brains release dopamine, creating a sense of pleasure and satisfaction.

Here are some ways dopamine shows up in your spending:

  1.  The Anticipation Phase:

The process begins with the anticipation of a purchase. Whether it's that new fancy coffee machine, a piece of clothing, or a dream vacation, the brain starts releasing dopamine in anticipation of the pleasure the purchase will bring.

  1.  The Act of Spending:

As you proceed to make the purchase, more dopamine is released. The transaction itself becomes a rewarding experience, and the brain registers it as a successful achievement of a desire, reinforcing the behaviour of spending.

  1.  Immediate Gratification:

Holding the buy in your hands triggers another surge of dopamine. This immediate gratification further solidifies the link between spending and pleasure, creating a loop that can become a habit.

Here are some ways that dopamine doesn’t end up feeling good:

While dopamine-driven spending can provide moments of happiness, it's essential to be aware of the potential downsides:

  1.  Impulsive Spending:

The pursuit of that dopamine high can lead to impulsive and sometimes irrational spending, causing stress, shame, anger and so many other feelings. 

  1.  The Spending Treadmill:

As the brain adapts to the pleasure you get from spending, it may require more significant and more frequent rewards to experience the same level of satisfaction, leading to a never-ending chase.

  1.  Emotional Spending:

Using shopping as a coping mechanism for emotions can create a problematic cycle where spending becomes intertwined with our happiness.

Here are some ways to create some balance with dopamine and spending.

While it's natural to seek pleasure, understanding the role of dopamine in spending can empower us to make more mindful choices. Here are some strategies:

  1.  Making A Spending Plan:

Establishing a spending plan/budget helps manage spending and ensures that it aligns with your financial goals.

  1.  Wait for 24 hours before purchasing:

Put the item that you are “wanting” to purchase in your shopping cart. Wait 24 hours. Do you actually still “want” this item? This can help break the cycle of instant gratification

  1.  Cultivate Other Sources of Dopamine:

Explore activities that naturally boost dopamine levels, such as moving your body, connecting with people, creativity and whatever you do that makes you naturally happy. 

Awareness is key with understanding dopamine and spending.

Understanding the science behind our behaviours allows us to make more intentional choices and cultivate a healthier relationship with both our money and our happiness.