If Saving Is Hard, You Could Be Overthinking It

Intellectually, we all know how important saving is. After all, many of us have been exposed to various horrifying versions of the fable about the grasshopper and the ant. But if stowing away money just keeps not happening for you, it could be that your brain is getting in the way.

Psychologists at Duke University have just released a study that tries to parse out why saving is easier for some people. More specifically, they wanted to understand how patience plays a role in saving money. As it turns out, the decision to be patient happens in the blink of an eye.

The researchers found that so-called patient savers are better able to filter out information about the process or circumstances of saving and just focus on the growth in funds. To determine this, they tracked how participants observe a savings opportunity. "We can see the savers' decisions in their eye movements as their eyes jump back and forth between two dollar amounts," said co-author Scott Huettel. "They don't integrate information about time and money to determine how much a choice is worth, but instead use a simple rule that helps them make quick but good decisions."

In other words, all you may need to focus on when you're trying to plan for your future is the bigger number. There are still lots of methods out there to help you, though, from the nonessential purchase method to straight-up automation. Our brains really don't make saving easy, but luckily for us, we've figured out some ways around that.