In these economic times, it seems everyone is paying close attention to their money. Saving money can be tough, but by addressing personal financial habits, it can be done.

In these economic times, it seems everyone is paying close attention to their money.

Saving money can be tough, but by addressing personal financial habits, it can be done.

“If we are not aware of our emotional needs and triggers, we tend to spend our money indiscriminately,” said Dr. Kathleen Gurney, author of “Your Money Personality: What It Is and How You Can Profit From It.”

Gurney founded Financial Psychology Corp. in 1986 while teaching at the University of Southern California, where she earned her doctorate. Through FPC, Gurney has worked to enhance the way people use money in their lives.

Targeting behavior, feelings and attitudes are key to managing personal finances, according to Gurney.

“Your money personality makes an impact on how you use your money and the satisfaction you reap from it,” she said. “To make any positive impact, you have to focus on your attitudes and feelings about money as well as how you behave."

People should focus on their ability to act, instead of react, she said.

“At the time of making the decision, or trying to choose how to respond, you’re able to understand how you feel and what you really want to do versus a negative reaction of feeling overwhelmed or confused,” Gurney explained.

“It’s anxiety versus confidence which creates that feeling of being overwhelmed, but that dissipates over time with the more control we take, greater practice.”

She said those who act out emotional needs with money end up feeling regret instead of financial satisfaction.

“So, it behooves us to understand our feeling and the impact they have in our use of money,” Gurney said.

Money should not serve a person’s emotions. An example of this would be using money for “retail therapy,” or buying something just to elevate moods,” she said.

The buyer often ends up with greater regret over such a decision, so it doesn’t pay off emotionally nor financially.

These habits can be changed, Gurney assured, and “practice makes perfect.”

“Developing new habits like learning how to save require practice and positive reinforcement and feedback,” she said.

Gurney recommended researching the positive savings banks offer. She recently took part in the Capital One “Subconscious Savings” Tour, which touted ways to save without thinking about it.

The tour covered branches throughout Louisiana, Texas and New York.

“We are given the support of savings being automatic, so we don’t even have to think about it,” she said of bank offers that encourage saving.

When making changes, Gurney said to start by keeping it simple.

“If you overwhelm yourself with trying to do too much, you’ll set yourself up to fail,” she said. “Our unconscious doesn’t like too many choices or clutter and becomes paralyzed. The emotional money mind rules under those conditions. Small steps taken often and regularly add up to big gains over time.”

Gurney said it is important to track spending. Know where money goes. Prioritize spending and take control.

“Greater control increases confidence, lowers anxiety or increases confidence and keeps us honest,” she said.

Developing both short-term and longer-term savings plans are also recommended.

“Visualize what you want to do, it’s important,” she said.

She also touted automatic saving. Remove any “will power decisions.”

“Developing a keen sense of self-regulation and focus is imperative for any successful change we’re trying to make,” Gurney said.

Michael Tortorich writes for the Weekly Citizen in Gonzales, La.