How your personality affects the way you save

Young friends enjoying a day at beach.
Young friends enjoying a day at beach.

female hand putting a coin into ...
female hand putting a coin into ...

We're constantly being urged to put money by for the future - but new data shows that some people find it harder than others.

According to an analysis from credit reporting service Noddle, households in Sunderland, Durham and Wakefield are the least likely to have money in savings.

While almost nine in ten people in wealthy Guildford have some money put away, only 47% of households in Sunderland have any at all.

However, southerners are less likely to be paying into a pension, with fewer than a quarter of people in Camden, the City of Westminster, and Islington having one.

But it turns out that however bad you are at saving, you can do better if your strategy matches your personality, says behavioural economist Professor Ivo Vlaev.

He carried out an experiment based on Noddle's data, creating personalised programmes based on three different strategies: keeping track, making ends meet and planning ahead.

And, he found, planning ahead was the most successful overall, with the saver setting a specific goal, such as paying for a holiday, and using a tracker to record progress.

This works best with people who are good at delayed gratification - indeed, one participant managed to bump up their savings from an average £44 per fortnight to a whacking £1,548.

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"Changing our financial habits isn't easy – but it can be done. Working with Noddle we've found that it's crucial to be honest with yourself about your own behaviour and what makes you tick," says Professor Vlaev.

"For example, if you're the type of person who can eat half a chocolate bar, wrap it up and put it away then you're more likely to find a 'planning ahead' type model works for you."

On the other hand, he says, if you're good at remembering future intentions and get an emotional buzz when you spend money, then 'making ends meet' will be a better match for your habits and abilities.

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"Having talked to Professor Vlaev, I realised that I'm quite influenced by how other people spend their money," says Londoner Sarah Baptiste.

"The 'planning ahead' model made me focus on my goals – the home improvements I want to do and a holiday to Barbados I'd love to take. The process did make me think about how much I was saving towards these, and whilst I still love the buzz of shopping, saving for those future events seems more achievable now."

So which strategy could work for you?

Keeping track
Do you trust yourself with money, and are you good at forming long term habits? Can you eat just half a chocolate bar? If so, then keeping track is probably the best way to go.

To make checking your bank account a regular habit, says Professor Vlaev, you should associate it with something you enjoy. Try checking your account along with your afternoon cup of tea and biscuit, or just before you scroll through Facebook.

Making ends meet
This technique works best for people who can recognise they have strong habits; get a big buzz from shopping; and care a lot about their social status.

If this is you, the best way to save is probably to identify your regular wastes of money and substitute something else instead. If you buy a takeaway coffee every morning, for example, you could try saving it for a proper meeting with a friend, when you'll probably enjoy it far more.

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Planning ahead
This is one for people that can easily visualise their future and consider how purchases affect them in the long term.

They'll save the most by setting a three-month saving goal, broken down into fortnightly targets. It's always good to see what you are saving for, so get a picture of your goal – whether that's a holiday, handbag or house – and write a statement on it to keep you motivated. Stick it on your fridge or desk so you see it every day.