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Tuning into your finances: How music impacts your money

Tend to overspend while shopping? Music may be to blame

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There's no denying music can rev up a workout routine, but did you know that music can have a significant impact on your finances, too? Tuning into your finances: How music impacts your spending

Numerous studies have linked music to spending behavior. In fact, the kinds of music you listen to can impact your opinion of your finances, the likelihood you'll blow your budget at the grocery store and your approach to balancing your checkbook or paying credit card bills.

In fact, a song's tempo and beat can impact just about any financial situation, and consequently your credit score.

Here's how to tune in to a finance-friendly beat, and put music to work for your money.

The scenario: Allotting your 401(k) investments
The ever-changing landscape of the stock market means you have to pay more attention than ever before to how you plan for retirement. But the stress of not knowing where to invest or how much of your earnings to allot, has you tied up in knots and questioning your ability to make a sound, financial decision.

The right beat: A study from National Central University in Taiwan found fast tempo music improves your decision-making ability -- including when you're under pressure to decide how to allocate your 401(k) contributions.

Queue up some good old-fashioned rock 'n' roll or hip-hop when you're pondering how to invest your nest egg. To improve your decision-making skills, the researchers suggest songs with a heart-thumping beat of around 125 to 130 beats per minute (bpm). Some examples include the Black Eyed Peas' "Boom Boom Pow," "Mueve la Cadera (Move Your Body)" by Reel 2 Real or Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll." Just don't crank up the tunes too much. Loud music can be distracting, so stick to a level that's no louder than your indoor speaking voice.

The scenario: Setting a budget
The thought of sitting down to determine a monthly budget has you breaking out into a sweat. And having "the talk" about your finances with your spouse is sure to be stressful since the two of you aren't always on the same financial page.

The right beat: Seems your mom was definitely on to something when she sang you to sleep. Lullabies, says Rick Notter, author of "Sound Advice, Music's Affect on Life, Health and Happiness," are good at calming your nerves. "Soft, slow-tempo music is also good to play in the background when discussing finances with your spouse or reviewing your monthly budget," he says. Good to know since you'll be more likely to set a realistic budget (and ultimately stick to it) if you approach the topic with a calm, cool head.

Notter recommends songs with 70 to 85 beats per minute. "Something light, but not too slow," he says. Some examples include "Let it Be" by The Beatles, "Realize" by Colbie Caillat, "Keep Breathing" by Ingrid Michaelson and "Fire and Rain" by James Taylor.

The scenario: Overspending at the grocery store
Every week you find yourself spending more than you planned -- even if you shop with a list. And all those extras are putting a hefty dent in your monthly budget.

The wrong beat: Your taste buds or grumbling stomach might not be to blame for blowing your grocery budget. Research has shown you're more likely to give in to impulse purchases if your grocery store pipes instrumental or classical music over its PA system. One theory: Classical music causes you to slow down and underestimate the amount of time you're spending in the store. And a shopper who leisurely strolls the aisles is more likely to toss extra items into her cart than one who's in a hurry.

Counter the grocer's music with heart-pumping tunes that have 130 to 160 bpm. Studies have shown the effect of fast songs will help keep you revved up while shopping for up to 30 minutes after listening. On your way to the store, listen to upbeat, fast songs that empower or motivate you as those are going to be most likely to encourage you to stick to your budget. A few options are "I'm So Excited," by the Pointer Sisters, "Poker Face" by Lady GaGa or "Vacation" by the GoGo's.

The scenario: Balancing your checkbook
One of the most dreaded money-related tasks is balancing a checkbook, but getting an accurate account of how much is in your account can help you avoid dreaded overdraft fees. Behavioral psychologist Matt Wallaert says music can help wipe out the fear, anxiety and stress associated with this ritual.

The right beat: The middle of the musical road is the best balancing place. Walleart says songs that are around 100 bpm will keep your blood pressure from hitting the roof but keep your mood elevated and upbeat. "It can help you do both and keep you concentrated on the task at hand," he says.

Think of balancing your checkbook and paying bills music like driving music: something that keeps you happy, but doesn't drive you off the road. Stay away from songs that make you miss your high school sweetheart or remind you of a bad break-up. They can create even more of a negative impression toward this routine task. Instead, pick songs like Michael Buble's "Me and Mrs. Jones," "Ordinary People," by John Legend, Robin Thicke's "Ask Myself" or "Kiss Me," by Sixpence None the Richer.

The scenario: You're considering applying for a store credit card
You're checking out and the store clerk offers you the chance to save 10 percent just by opening a new store credit card. As you're bobbing your head to the beat of the song that's playing overhead, you're tempted to say "Sign me up!"

The wrong beat: Studies have found we tend to lose our heads a bit when we like the music that's piped through the mall or department store. If you find yourself humming or whistling along -- or even tempted to belt out a few bars under your breath while shopping, experts suggest taking a second to catch your breath.

Notter says you should shop to your own beat by bringing along an MP3 player with a "shopping playlist" to override the store's music. "You'll be able to clear your head and focus on how a new credit card or purchase will affect your finances long term," he says. Notter recommends instrumental music that's 60 to 80 bpm. "Lyrics can be a distraction when you're trying to clear your mind and block out influences," he says. Some options are "Moonlight Sonata" by Beethoven, "I Dreamed There Was No War" by The Eagles and "Rudy," the movie title track by The O'Neill Brothers.

A final note
To keep all your melodies straight, try creating different playlists on your MP3 player. Give them names like "grocery shopping" and "in the mall" so you can quickly refer to them whenever you need a lyrical financial intervention.

See related: Just say no to store credit cards, 8 tips for squeezing a budget even tighter, 12 debt questions to ask before getting married, 13 greatest credit card songs meld pop, plastic

Published: February 11, 2010


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