On the journey to Financial Independence, there are going to be thousands upon thousands of financial decisions you are going to have to make.
From big major life moves, (like where you are going to live), to small insignificant ones, (like which brand of peanut butter to buy at the grocery store), you are constantly going to be deciding what is best for you and your finances.
Among these thousands of financial transactions and decisions, it’s easy to get caught up in a few of them – especially the big ones.
“Roth IRA or Traditional IRA?” “Do I need Life Insurance and what kind?” “Should I get a new or used car?” These are just a few examples. There is no shortage of major choices you’ll have to make.
More likely than not, at times you will be juggling some of these major decisions simultaneously, while not to mention, going through the hundreds of daily/weekly/monthly smaller decisions.
Add that all together, and you can be in for a very stressful time. The result?
What Is Decision Fatigue?
Decision fatigue is pretty much the moment when you’ve had to make so many decisions during a certain period, it could be a day, week, month or longer, that the quality of your decisions begin to deteriorate.
A common example of this is at grocery stores. Many people likely have had to make countless decisions about what food they need and comparing prices and brands, that by the end of it they are tired out.
Grocery stores place those small snacks and candy bars in the checkout aisle as they know you are prone to more impulse purchases at the end of your trip. So many people have less willpower at this moment and it’s so easy to grab that snack!
People make thousands of decisions a day, not just financial ones, so usually towards the end of the day the cumulative effect of all these can inevitably lead to a poor decision (or two).
Worked late and too tired to make yourself dinner? Well there’s that fast food restaurant on your way home you can easily stop at…. scrolling through amazon late at night? You had a long day you deserve to buy that *insert product here*… You get the point.
Not only can decision fatigue lead to poor decisions, it can also lead to decision avoidance.
This is essentially when you put off a decision entirely as there are either too many decisions you need to make, and you are unwilling to make them, or you cannot decide what you want to do and forgo the decision altogether.
Not sure how to ask you boss for a raise? You could just wait several months until the next performance review… Not sure what you want to put in your will? Eh… that decision can be made some other day.
The fact of the matter is that decision fatigue is bad for you. It’s a productivity killer and can lead to poor decisions you may not have otherwise made.
So how do you beat this?
Combating Decision Fatigue
We know decision fatigue is a bad thing, and it especially can be for your finances, but how can you combat this?
Well, firstly, and perhaps most important, you can fight this by simply making fewer decisions throughout the day.
Make Fewer Decisions
If you can take some of the smaller and more insignificant decisions you make on a daily basis, and simply automate them to where you aren’t really making a decision anymore, this can greatly help out with decision fatigue.
When you see the stories of certain leaders, like Barack Obama or Steve Jobs, only wearing one or two outfits every single day, they are doing this to help limit the number of decisions they have to make on a daily basis. By automating the choice of their outfits, they leave more time and energy to deal with bigger and more important decisions.
This is where minimalism could help out many people. When you have so many items or things in your living quarters, it can inevitably lead to many more decisions.
“I need space for this object, where should I put it?” “I had thought I put my car keys on the counter, but now I can’t find them.”
If you can get rid of some of these seemingly smaller decisions, you may find yourself less susceptible to decision fatigue and the consequences that come with it.
Make Faster Decisions
Indecisiveness is something that probably deserves a whole post of it’s own some day.
But the crux of the issue is, the longer you take to make a decision, especially a big decision, the more it weighs on you.
If the decision is big enough, and you’ve been putting it off for a while, that is taking up a huge portion of your mental capacity, when you can be focusing those thoughts and time to other pursuits.
This does not mean to rush to any major decision without doing your own due diligence, simply that once you have done this, and researched and spoke to as many people to make you comfortable, do not spend any extra time making the decision.
Make a choice, move on, and be done with it. You may even find that you stress less as that decision is finally off your mind.
Develop Good Habits and Routines
If you can develop good habits and routines, you will find that the number of decisions you have to make can drastically decrease, simply because you have conditioned yourself to believe the choice isn’t even there anymore.
For example, this year has been chock full of late nights at work. In the past I would be very tempted to hit up a fast food restaurant on the way home from work in order to avoid having to cook.
However, I’ve trained myself to not even think of that as an option anymore. Eating out at restaurants is only reserved for the weekends, or if I’m meeting up with friends mid-week. I always keep a few simple quick meals at home for these nights when they inevitably occur, so I never have to juggle whether or not I want to spend time cooking or go to a restaurant.
Going back to our grocery store example from earlier, one may develop a good habit here by planning out exactly what they need prior to going to the grocery store. Then, one option is to go the Dave Ramsay method and only bring cash for those exact purchases, meaning you do not have any money left over for those impulse purchases.
The more often you do this with success, it will soon become a habit, and you won’t think twice about those impulse purchases.
These are just a couple examples, but when you have a powerful habit and/or routine this can very easily drive down the total number of decisions you have to make, and lessen your inevitable decision fatigue.
Fighting The Good Fight
Decision fatigue effects everyone in different ways. While I’ve always been fairly disciplined with my finances, there seems to always be a time where decision fatigue effects me.
In the past, there was the aforementioned, mid-week restaurant visits, as well as buying one too many drinks than necessary at the bar on the weekends.
More recently, as I’ve developed a solid routine with my finances and spending, it’s been a looming decision regarding the remaining balance on my car loan, and whether or not to just pay that off.
Alas, I finally have some good news on that front. The decision has been made. Later car loan!!
Though I know the math did not make sense to pay it off, especially with Ally savings accounts at 2% return now, the time was right to just be done with this loan. As the money was all sitting in cash anyways, I did not sacrifice too much return.
This may mean it will take a little longer to buy up a potential rental property, but I’ll feel a lot more comfortable when it inevitably happens with less outstanding debt on my hands.
Now with this decision made and behind me, I can move forward into 2019 with a fresh start, and completely debt free!!
I have to say, it feels really good, and no math equation can tell me otherwise.
Though decision fatigue effects all of us in variable ways, there are indeed ways to combat it, and in turn lead to less stress in your life.
How do you deal with decision fatigue? Do you struggle with indecisiveness? Do you have any routines that help with this? Let me know!
13 thoughts to “Decision Fatigue and FI”
Congrats on crushing your debt! Just to have it gone is a great feeling… and while yes your savings account might feel a little lighter, you’ll be able to build it up quick!
Thanks Erik! Glad to just be done with it, and the additional cash flow will indeed be nice! I’ll be back soon enough!
Woo hoo car payoff!! You know I’ve been in that camp since, oh, you started this blog 😉
Absolutely, I’m glad I finally pulled the trigger on that! It’s been a long time coming haha
A looooooong time!!
Hooray to being debt-free and no longer having to spend energy weighing paying your car off or letting the loan ride! That’s gonna kill the savings rate for December though 😉
Hahaha totally going to kill the savings rate! 😂
I was recently able to pay off all my debt through a mortgage refi. 🙂 My plan is to stay as debt free as possible only using credit (pay it back immediately) to get points/rewards for future purchases!
That’s awesome! I’m in that boat as well where no debt other than monthly credit cards which will get paid off. Hoping to stay like that until an inevitable mortgage in the future
Bravo on paying off that debt! Couldn’t agree more on decision fatigue. I swear my brain is mush after a full day of just that at the office. So important to “clear the decks” in one’s personal life to avoid having a nervous breakdown!
Thank you, and absolutely! Taking care of yourself and mental health should absolutely be the priority over any math equation stating you can make more money doing “X”
Decision fatigue is very real. I had to get over my fear of allowing anyone to take money out of my accounts without active participation. It took a while and glad I did it. It has allowed me to think of the even bigger picture. There are still many things I want to simplify and working on them little by little. The less I have to make daily choices the easier this whole thing is. Maybe one day I will run out of things to optimize in my budget and don’t think it will be any time soon. When optimizing one step, I can see a little further down the road, and realize there are other things I can optimize. It’s like this whole budgeting thing. Accomplish one thing and then many more things stand out. Each automated transaction and goal reached allows me to think further ahead.
Thank you for this post.
Thanks for stopping by TJ! I think it’s amazing how sometimes just by taking the first step to improve, it’ll lead you to realizing other efficiencies that can also be improved. They build upon each other, which is why taking that first step is so important and can lead to much more success than you anticipated.