Self-control strategies for financial goals: Proactive and reactive strategy use and effectiveness

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  • Self-control strategies help people resist tempting situations and make more goal-consistent decisions. I examined strategies in the financial domain through the lens of the Preventive-Interventive and Process models of self-control, distinguishing between proactive strategies used before a spending temptation and reactive strategies used during a spending temptation. I first conducted a meta-analysis to aggregate extant research and to estimate the overall effect size of financial self-control strategies. Strategies reduced spending and increased saving significantly with a medium effect size (d = 0.57, k = 29). I then examined whether these empirically studied strategies were present in a media sample (104 websites) and in people's personal experiences (n = 939). About half the strategies found through the meta-analysis were present in the media sample and were listed by lay participants, and across these three perspectives, the majority were proactive strategies. Next, I examined how strategy use impacted monthly spending in two longitudinal experimental studies. I asked participants to read about proactive vs. reactive strategies (Study 3) or list the proactive vs. reactive strategies they personally already use (Study 4). In Study 3, reminding participants of proactive or reactive strategies did not influence monthly spending compared to an empty control or a "just use willpower" condition. In Study 4, participants described their personal proactive and reactive strategies and watched a brief video highlighting relevant strategies. Participants who described proactive strategies reported spending $322 less than their goal during the month and significantly differed from the those who described reactive strategies (who spent $246 more than their goal) but did not differ significantly from an empty control condition. This finding suggests that people's personal proactive strategies can be effective for bringing spending in line with their goals. In sum, the first part of this dissertation summarizes and identifies gaps between the empirical literature, online media, and lay sample perspectives on self-control strategies for financial goals. The second part of this dissertation attempts to manipulate strategy use and assess proactive and reactive strategy effectiveness for bringing spending in line with goals.

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  • Copyright © 2021 the author(s). Theses may be used for non-commercial research, educational, or related academic purposes only. Such uses include personal study, research, scholarship, and teaching. Theses may only be shared by linking to Carleton University Institutional Repository and no part may be used without proper attribution to the author. No part may be used for commercial purposes directly or indirectly via a for-profit platform; no adaptation or derivative works are permitted without consent from the copyright owner.
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  • 2021


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