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Debt Versus Savings and the Paradox of Choices

Debt Versus Savings and the Paradox of Choices

As you look at your financial picture it should be exciting to know that if you do one good thing it can make a huge difference in your life. The problem is there a lot of “one good things” you can choose. So many, in fact, that you might be overwhelmed with all the choices you have. What do most people do when they are overwhelmed with choices? Many times they do nothing. They put any decision making off for later.

That is what is known as the “Paradox of Choice,” a term coined by Swarthmore psychology professor Barry Schwartz. It’s a counterintuitive idea, but Schwartz contends that many times consumers faced with too many choices won’t buy anything. Or, if they do buy something they are less satisfied with what they purchased, because they regret the choice they didn’t make.

You might be looking at you finances and saying the same thing for several reasons:

  • Should I pay down the credit card with the highest interest rate or the one with the lowest balance?
  • Should I put about $1,000 in savings or should I save more in case there bigger emergencies I can’t foresee?
  • Should I get a loan to consolidate all my bills and pay a lower interest rate or should I work to get rid of them one at a time?

What’s true about those options is that any one of them could be a good decision and would improve your personal economic outlook. But having so many choices often influences us to put off making any of them.

One thing that can help you for sure is consulting with a certified credit counselor, like the ones at American Financial Solutions. They will help you look closer at your financial situation and provide you with information you probably don’t have now.

One other strategy that can help you is to take control of your finances by taking some of your choices away. Here are some examples:

  • If your employer allows you to have your paycheck deposited in more than one account, you might have part of your money deposited into checking and the rest in a savings account. Depending on how much you have in savings now, you might want to wait until you get a raise and then deposit some or the entire raise into savings.
  • If your employer offers you a 401(k) retirement plan, have some of your paycheck automatically deposited into that account. You eliminate the opportunity to spend that money right away.
  • You can also reduce your choices by making sure you set up all your bills on an automatic payment system.
  • And one of the best ways to reduce your choices is to put your credit cards away somewhere so you don’t have them handy when you might be tempted to spend on credit.

It is wonderful that we live in a society that offers us so many choices. Making one to improve your finances will do you a world of good. 

Published May 12, 2014.