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The Psychology of Spending Money

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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Spending money that you know you shouldn’t spend is a universal experience. It stresses not only your budget, but also your psyche, and it can lead to feelings of guilt, shame and disappointment.

But uncovering your individual motivations for spending money, including the money beliefs you grew up with, can be the first step toward breaking the cycle. Your approach to spending, and what you regularly buy, can also be related to your current financial circumstances and whether you’re feeling strapped—in ways that might surprise you.

Here’s how to explore your own spending behaviors, and how to use that knowledge to regain power over your finances.

Why you spend money

When you’ve made a purchase you didn’t need and it left you feeling distressed, it’s possible you responded to one of these common spending triggers.

Pressure from social media

When you look frequently at others’ Facebook and Instagram profiles, seeing their new cars, vacations or shopping trips can pressure you into spending, too. There’s a reason that marketers on social media are called “influencers.”

You may also be targeted by ads for items that brands believe you’ll like, based on your demographics and browsing history.

Online shopping makes it even easier to spend as an emotional reaction to social media scrolling, said Meghaan Lurtz, president of the Financial Therapy Association.

“Couple ease of spending and feeling not great about something you saw on Facebook, and it is a recipe for disaster,” said Lurtz, who is also a senior research associate at financial planning website Kitces.com.

Your best bet is to ignore the ads and to understand that you can’t know others’ financial details — friends’ lavish vacations could be funded by credit cards they can’t pay off.

Temptation to pay with plastic

When you pay for an item with cash, the effect can feel immediate. Less cash in your wallet means less money to pay for other expenses throughout the day, but a credit card erases that awareness.

If you regularly overspend on credit cards, put yourself on a cash-only spending plan for a week, or even a day if longer feels too overwhelming. You might notice yourself spending more mindfully.

Family’s spending habits

Many of us grew up with money beliefs passed down from parents or caregivers. If one or both of your parents had an impulsive mindset or did not track spending carefully, it’s understandable you’d do so, too.

Or, maybe your parents were extra frugal. If you didn’t want your life to feel as restrictive, perhaps you’re on the other end of the spending spectrum.

Take an honest inventory of the beliefs passed down to you, and acknowledge that some of your negative spending behavior may not be your fault.

Attempt to boost mood

Shopping when we’re feeling down is a common way to make ourselves feel better, temporarily. But the boost from emotional spending is short-lived, and it could make you feel disappointed in yourself in the end.

Next time you’re tempted to buy something on a hard day, call a friend or spend time outside to improve your mood instead.

Special occasions for others

You may justify spending if it’s for holidays or others’ birthdays, since it seems more selfless than spending on yourself. But it will have the same negative effect on your budget.

Set a spending limit for these occasions, and aim to make do-it-yourself gifts if money is tight.

Behind on finances

It might sound counterintuitive, but if you’re already in debt or recently overspent on another purchase, you might be more likely to spend more. Or perhaps you’re stressed over having little money and you feel you’re owed a nice item, such as a new TV or pair of boots.

Your socioeconomic status can affect the type of spending you do. According to a study published in 2018 in the journal Psychological Science, consumers with high incomes and education levels felt happier spending money on experiences, such as concerts and travel, than on material things. But the study found that spending money on material things was more likely to make those with lower incomes and education levels happy.

7 ways to stop yourself from spending money

1. Identify your spending triggers

Once you’re aware of what encourages you to spend, you can start addressing these triggers one by one. If you need help, finding a therapist — particularly one who has experience discussing financial issues — is a good start.

Psychology Today offers a database of therapists. Or, you can use your health insurance company’s online portal to search for one who takes your insurance.

2. Set financial goals

When you have goals to visualize and work toward, you’ll be more likely to identify if the ways you’re currently spending are in line with them.

Picture yourself five or 10 years in the future. Are you in a home you own? Are you traveling the world? Write down your goal, and maybe open a savings account specifically for this purpose.

Every time you’re about to spend on something you’re unsure you need, consider whether that would take you further from your goal.

3. Track your spending

Use a budgeting app or spreadsheet to track all your purchases for at least a month. Ideally, the app you choose will categorize your purchases so you can see what you’re spending most on: meals out, personal care or clothes, for instance. Just seeing your spending might be enough to encourage you to cut back or reallocate money to certain segments of your budget.

You can also turn tracking into a spending journal, Lurtz suggested, and note how you were feeling when you bought each item. That can help you spot patterns.

“Did you shop while you felt sad, bored, angry, happy?” she said. “There is nothing wrong with shopping or treating oneself, but if we do it to mask another issue, it could turn into overspending.”

4. Allocate a ‘fun’ budget

Taking too restrictive an approach to spending could backfire. Instead, set aside a percentage of your after-tax income — say, 10% — to non-essentials each month. Don’t create parameters on what you can spend on, but don’t go beyond that amount, either. It might help you get more creative in how you spend on entertainment, and you won’t feel that you’re unable to enjoy life.

5. Pause before buying

If you have a tendency to make impulse buys, make it a rule to wait 24 hours before purchasing anything either in person or online. Ask if a store will hold the item for you, or leave the item in your online shopping cart for a day.

You might find you don’t need it as much as you thought you did, or that you forget about it altogether.

6. Find an accountability partner

Perhaps a friend, partner, coworker or family member is also looking to reevaluate their spending. If so, reach out and suggest you keep in touch weekly or monthly about how you’re doing.

Meet to set up a budget or spending tracker together, share your goals and cheer each other on.

7. Forgive yourself for mistakes

There will be times you overspend — or you’re tempted to — even after you’ve made progress. That’s normal. Instead of getting angry with yourself and potentially spending more thinking you’ve already messed up, be kind to yourself. Treating the issue with lightness will keep you from falling into a deeper spending spiral.

The consequences of overspending

When you overspend, you face tangible consequences, such as accrued interest on credit cards, potentially missed bills and the resulting negative impact on your credit. Payment history accounts for the biggest share of your credit score, so not having enough money to pay credit card or student loan bills could harm your score and your ability to borrow money in the future.

Plus, knowing you’re overspending can create a growing feeling of dread if you’re unsure of how to get back on track. You might be tempted to avoid looking at your credit card or checking account balances at all.

To avoid these consequences and control your spending, get to the heart of why you spend, and do your best to not feel so ashamed that you’re afraid to ask for help.

Final word

Many consumers struggle with their finances, so know that you have company. But the reasons why you spend will be specific to you, and it’s worthwhile to understand them. That will give you the insight to make changes that can help you feel more in control of your financial life.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

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What Is FedNow?

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FedNow is a real-time gross settlement (RTGS) service proposed by the Federal Reserve that is intended to speed up payments for everyone. Essentially, it will serve as a faster alternative to the payment systems we know today — the automated clearing house (ACH), debit cards, checks and wire transfers.

It’s not a consumer-facing payment system that we’ll use to make payments rather than through our own banks, though. Rather, FedNow will reconfigure the back end of the payments system to expedite the process of sending payments. First announced in August 2019, FedNow is targeted to go live in 2023 or 2024.

How FedNow will work

FedNow, a project led by First Vice President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Kenneth C. Montgomery, will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. This means consumers will no longer have to wait on business days to pass for payments to send. The Fed plans to make use of its existing connections to over 10,000 U.S. banking institutions to make this possible.

Here’s how the proposed FedNow payment system will work:

Consumers, or payment originators, will continue to communicate with our own financial institutions about the payments they want to send. In its early days, payments through FedNow will be limited to $25,000. Once the consumer has communicated the necessary information to the institution, the institution will then send the consumer’s payment information through the FedNow Service.

Then, FedNow will confirm with the receiving financial institution that the payment recipient’s, or beneficiary’s, information is valid. Once the payment’s associated information is settled between both banks, the payment can be cleared to move ahead. Its next stop is the beneficiary’s financial institution, which can then send the payment to the beneficiary.

FedNow will also have the capability to add descriptive information to a payment to denote remittances or invoices, for example, in compliance with an ISO® 20022 standard (an internationally agreed-upon standard platform for the development of online messages).

Why FedNow is necessary

For many Americans, waiting a few days for an online payment to clear is a mere inconvenience. But for the millions of Americans who live paycheck to paycheck, days-long waits for payments can be financially disastrous. FedNow is designed to help level the payments playing field.

For one, FedNow would cut out one of the major downsides to traditional banking — long payment wait times — and potentially bring people back to traditional banking. A recent MagnifyMoney survey found that 53% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, which means they don’t have any money left over after all of their expenses are paid. In addition, the FDIC found that in 2017, 8.4 million American households were unbanked, meaning they don’t have a checking or savings account.

When these populations are forced to wait for their paycheck or bill payment to clear, it’s not just an inconvenience; it can mean the difference between putting food on the table or not or having the lights shut off. Missed bill payments also often lead to more fees and interest payments, digging a deeper financial rut. FedNow could eliminate this dangerous lag in payments and offer a safer banking environment for those who are currently unbanked or underbanked.

FedNow would also introduce some financing ease for individuals and small businesses. In the Federal Reserve’s announcement for FedNow, Federal Reserve Board Governor Lael Brainard acknowledged that a real-time payments system would be “especially important for households on fixed incomes or living paycheck to paycheck,” as well as for small businesses, which could then potentially avoid short-term financing options.

“Everyone deserves the same ability to make and receive payments immediately and securely, and every bank deserves the same opportunity to offer that service to its community,” Brainard said.

A real-time payments system would also prove invaluable in times of crisis. For example, during social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic, online and cashless payments became king. Such a system would have offered a significant boost, especially when it came to sending out economic impact payments to American taxpayers. Instead of waiting weeks — or even months — for their stimulus checks, Americans could have received some financial relief immediately.

Why the Federal Reserve?

The Federal Reserve is more uniquely positioned to offer a real-time payments system than a private company. For one, the Fed is already connected to over 10,000 U.S. institutions. Through these connections, the Fed can provide equal service to banks both big and small. Private solutions could not offer the same kind of reach.

The Federal Reserve’s position would also allow it to continue fostering competition between institutions instead of removing it, which was important to organizations that weighed in on the proposed system. Additionally, commenters have observed that FedNow would “decrease market concentration and provide a neutral platform for innovation,” setting a benchmark from which other institutions could improve upon.

Effectively, the Fed is stepping in sooner rather than later to create a safe and secure model before a private — and inherently exclusive — real-time payment service pops up. The Fed also notes that a single private provider could pose “serious safety issues associated with a single point of failure.” In other words, access to more than one real-time payment system is crucial to avoid a total breakdown if one system were to shut down.

The response to FedNow

A widespread real-time payments system is unprecedented in the U.S.; however, Europe, Mexico and Australia already have their own real-time interbank payment systems in place. With so many players (big banks, small banks, consumers, the government and the Fed itself) everyone has an idea of how FedNow should — and shouldn’t — go.

Government’s response to FedNow

  • The Payment Modernization Act of 2019 was introduced in July 2019 requiring the Fed to create a real-time payments system.
  • The House of Representatives’ task force on Financial Technology has criticized FedNow’s $25,000 limit and target deadline of 2023 or 2024.

Just days before the Fed’s initial announcement on FedNow, the Payment Modernization Act of 2019 was introduced to the House by Rep. Ayanna Pressley, co-sponsored by Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García and Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Elizabeth Warren.

The Payment Modernization Act of 2019 was proposed to confirm that the Fed has the authority and therefore should build a real-time payments system. The act also includes assurances that the system would be fast, efficient and fair.

The act called to attention the Fed’s failing to create a real-time payments system, something its Faster Payments Task Force, launched in 2015, promised to do by 2020. In 2019, with no such solution in sight, the bill’s sponsors made their own move to push the Fed to action. About 10 days later, the Fed made its FedNow announcement.

Still, the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services Task Force on Financial Technology voiced some concerns regarding FedNow in a September 2019 hearing. Namely, the task force criticized FedNow’s low $25,000 limit and its long-term timeline. Still, the sponsors of the Payment Modernization Act of 2019 applauded the Fed’s announcement.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Financial Services Committee to ensure that this system is implemented in a timely, transparent and responsible manner,” said Rep. Pressley. As for the act itself, it has not moved past its introduction in July.

Small banks’ response to FedNow

  • Small banks stand to benefit greatly from a Federal Reserve-led RTGS, as they could be left behind if private monopolies created the system instead.
  • Community banks highly value and trust the Federal Reserve and support FedNow.

With its ability to level the payments playing field across all institutions, FedNow has found support from small and community banks especially. Smaller banks are less likely than bigger banks to have the capital and resources to build their own real-time payments system. They could also be more easily excluded from a private real-time payments system that would be more likely to serve bigger institutions first.

In September 2019, at the House Committee’s task force hearing on FedNow, Bob Steen, chairman and CEO of Bridge Community Bank in Mount Vernon, Iowa, voiced community banks’ support of FedNow on behalf of the Independent Community Bankers of America. Recognizing that a real-time payments system “must create access for all institutions, regardless of size or charter type,” Steen noted that a private solution could not meet this goal.

“A real-time payments system is too important to be entrusted to a private monopoly,” he said. “The two dozen largest banks simply cannot own and operate the U.S. payments system.”

Further, Steen noted that community banks already put high value and trust in the Fed, which extends to its FedNow proposal.

Tech’s response to FedNow

  • TransferWise supports FedNow, as the Federal Reserve is in a uniquely central position to provide the service fairly and competitively.
  • Google encourages the Fed to model FedNow after India’s central bank’s RTGS, and suggests that FedNow must be inclusive, mobile-first, low-cost, simple and helpful.

Also present at the House Committee on Financial Services Task Force on Financial Technology hearing was Harsh Sinha, chief technology officer at TransferWise, a global international payments tech company. TransferWise has invested in its own real-time payments service to move money around the world, and currently, more than 20% of TransferWise payments are completed in less than 20 seconds.

Sinha recognized that it’s not easy to move money around, and that “both the private sector and Federal Reserve play a vital role” in the payments space. Still, Sinha noted that as a central bank, the Federal Reserve is uniquely placed to “guarantee ubiquity for financial institutions and inclusiveness for consumers,” as well as speed and longevity. He also noted that the payments system opens up direct participation to nonbanks, like increasingly popular neobanks, to help ensure competition and innovation, and “that financial institutions are incentivized to pass along the benefits of speed and lower costs to consumers.”

Tech giant Google also weighed in via a letter to the Federal Reserve from Google’s head of U.S. government affairs and public policy, Mark Isakowitz. In the letter, Google encourages the Fed to model FedNow after India’s real-time payments system, Unified Payments Interface (UPI). UPI was created and is run by the National Payments Corporation of India, a payments regulator governed by India’s central bank, which Google had worked with closely in the past.

Google attributes UPI’s “amazing results for banks, consumers, other players within the payments ecosystem and India’s central bank” to the fact that it’s an interbank transfer system that works in real time and is “open” to technology companies (like Google itself) creating applications to help users send money within the system. Google also recommended that FedNow prioritize low fees to promote accessibility and innovation.

Isakowitz also made sure to mention what online payments look like for Google, suggesting that the Fed would do well to include these considerations as well. “Industry and government should work together to grow ecosystems where payments are inclusive, opening up economic growth for everyone,” he wrote, adding that the future of digital payments is also mobile-first and “about making payments simple and helpful.”

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

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Sesame Cash Bank Account Review

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Credit and loan company Credit Sesame is getting into the cash management account game with Sesame Cash, a free bank account for Credit Sesame members. Perks of the account include early direct deposit for paychecks, up to $1 million in identity theft insurance and for a limited time, cash rewards and access to Credit Sesame’s credit score monitoring.

The non-interest bearing cash management account has its share of benefits and limitations, so read on to find out whether it’s worth a trip down Credit Sesame street.

What is Sesame Cash?

Sesame Cash is a free cash management account without any minimum balance requirements to maintain. You must be a Credit Sesame member to open a Sesame Cash account. If you’re not already a member, you can sign up for both accounts at the same time. Credit Sesame accounts are also free.

The account comes with a debit Mastercard that gives you free access to over 55,000 Allpoint ATMs around the world for withdrawals — you cannot use the debit card at an Allpoint ATM to deposit cash into your Sesame Cash account. You also can use the card for purchases, and add it to Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay for use on your mobile devices. If you lose your card, you can freeze and unfreeze it from within the Sesame App.

All Sesame Cash users also can benefit from their paychecks being deposited up to two days earlier than usual. Institutions are able to do this by choosing to deposit your direct deposit paycheck into your account as soon as the institution receives it, rather than holding it for those extra days.

Your Sesame Cash deposits are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) up to legal limits through Credit Sesame’s partner bank, Community Federal Savings Bank (CFSB). Sesame Cash account holders also benefit from up to $1 million in identity theft protection, provided by TransUnion.

Sesame Cash Rewards and credit check

Until July 1, 2020, Sesame Cash includes Sesame Cash Rewards, an incentive to help you build your credit. You can earn $5 for improving your credit score by 10 to 99 points in 30 days, or $100 for improving your score by 100 or more points in 30 days. The maximum reward you can earn in a rolling 30-day window is $100.

To qualify for Sesame Cash Rewards you must meet the following requirements:

  • Have an open and active Sesame Cash account.
  • Have a VantageScore® credit score of at least 300.
  • Make a deposit of at least $25 into your Sesame Cash account during each 30-day reward cycle, or make a one-time deposit of at least $100 into your Sesame Cash account.

Sesame Cash members also have until July 1, 2020 to take advantage of a free daily Credit Sesame credit check. As long as you have an account that is open, active and in good standing, you can access 30 credit score refreshes per month. To unlock this feature, you must also direct deposit at least $100 per month to your Sesame Cash accounts.

Without this promotion, Credit Sesame members still have access to one credit score or credit report refresh per month. There is also the option of purchasing 30 free refreshes for $4.99 per month.

Sesame Cash transaction limits

While there is no minimum deposit or balance requirement, there is a maximum Sesame Cash account balance of $20,000.

Sesame Cash does not charge overdraft fees. There are also limits on how much you can deposit, withdraw and purchase with the Sesame Cash bank account.

Sesame Cash Transaction Limits
TransactionDaily LimitMonthly LimitPer Transaction Limit
Direct Deposits & ACH Credits$8,000$20,000N/A
Linked Direct Deposit Credit$200$2,000N/A
ATM Cash Withdrawals$1,000$2,000$500
Purchases$5,000$20,000$2,500

Sesame Cash pros and cons

  • Cash Rewards (limited-time offer)
  • Daily credit score checks (limited-time offer)
  • Early payday
  • No monthly fee
  • Hidden ATM fees
  • Doesn’t earn interest
  • No credit-building tools
  • Low $20,000 maximum balance limit
  • No mobile check deposit through Sesame app

Sesame Cash’s greatest strengths are its limited-time features. Sesame Cash Rewards are a great incentive to improve your credit score, and free daily credit score checks are a solid way to keep an eye on your credit to see what’s working to boost it and what’s not. Unfortunately, these features aren’t here to stay unless Credit Sesame makes a change.

While Sesame Cash boasts no hidden fees, there are a few fees that you could run into that you would otherwise have to look for:

  • Out-of-network ATM withdrawal: $2.50
  • International ATM withdrawal: $2.50
  • Account closure with check refund: $2.00

Note that in addition to Credit Sesame’s out-of-network ATM fees, you may also face a surcharge from the ATM’s owner, which Credit Sesame will not refund.

Sesame Cash also has a relatively low maximum balance threshold at $20,000. This doesn’t open the account up to individuals with higher balances, and without any interest-earning capabilities, it’s not quite worth it to stash $20,000 in this account.

Besides its limited-time incentives, Sesame Cash doesn’t offer any credit-building perks. Sesame Cash’s transaction limitations may also be a drawback for potential users. Its direct deposit limits exclude anyone who may expect more than $2,000 from paychecks or other payments in a given month. The account’s restrictions also may be too limiting for those who typically withdraw cash often.

Further, you cannot deposit checks through the mobile Sesame app. You must download the Ingo Money app — a third party separate from Credit Sesame — and link it to your Sesame Cash bank account to do so. The Ingo app may charge a fee for mobile check deposit.

Sesame Cash vs. other cash management accounts

 Monthly feeAPYFDIC-insured?
Sesame Cash$0N/AYes, through CFSB
Betterment $00.40% APYYes, through nbkc bank
Chime$00.06% APYYes, through Stride Bank or The Bancorp Bank
SoFi$00.20% APYYes, through MetaBank, Hills Bank and Trust Company, EagleBank, East West Bank, TriState Bank Capital Bank, and Wells Fargo Bank

If Sesame Cash isn’t quite what you’re looking for, there are a handful of other cash management accounts to choose from.

Betterment Checking and Cash Reserve: One option is investment company Betterment’s Checking and Cash Reserve free cash management suite. The checking account trumps Sesame Cash when it comes to fees, as Betterment reimburses both domestic and international ATM fees, as well as Visa foreign transaction fees. However, Sesame Cash has higher ATM and debit card purchase limits than Betterment allows. But Betterment’s Cash Reserve savings account earns 0.40% APY in interest and offers spending and savings tools to help you better manage your money.

SoFi Money: Another cash management account you may want to consider is SoFi Money, which combines the benefits of a checking account and a savings account into one. This free account comes with a debit Mastercard and doesn’t charge any ATM fees and reimburses third-party ATM surcharges. It also earns cashback rewards in addition to 0.20% APY in interest.

Chime: If it’s the advanced paycheck you’re after, Chime is another free cash management account to look at. Chime can get your direct deposit paycheck into your account up to two days earlier than usual, and the account itself is light on fees, only charging $2.50 for out-of-network ATM use. Chime also includes automatic savings features and free overdraft coverage.

There’s also an optional Chime Savings Account add-on, which earns modest interest at 0.06% APY and doesn’t have a monthly fee or balance requirements. It also includes automatic savings features that can help you save with each purchase and paycheck.

Who is Sesame Cash best for?

Sesame Cash is best for Credit Sesame members who want to extend their free identity theft protection and use the early paycheck feature. Being a Sesame Cash account holder provides up to $1 million in ID theft protection, compared to the $50,000 in protection regular Credit Sesame members get. The early direct deposit feature is useful for just about anyone, but especially practical if you need that early access to pay your bills.

On the other hand, Sesame Cash is not a good option for those with high balances, thanks to its $20,000 maximum balance limitation. Sesame Cash isn’t the most reliable for building savings either since it doesn’t earn interest or offer any savings or budgeting tools like its competitors.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.