"Motherhood changed me!"
It is a well-reported fact that behaviour is generally easier to change when habits are already disrupted, such as around major life events. Buying a new home, relocating for a job or having a child all create windows of opportunity to act on new intentions.
Marketers can tap into these opportunities by timing their campaigns or nudges (a.k.a. behavioural interventions) accordingly. Take Tough Mudder, the popular assault course, that cannily appeals to cohorts of men and women on the cusp of entering a new decade who are looking for a springboard to regain fitness whilst simultaneously ticking something off their bucket list.
Reflecting on my own personal situation, I’ve experienced quite a few of these life events in the past few years - becoming a mum, losing a parent, and now approaching a major milestone birthday. And my own behaviour definitely has changed as a result.
One area in which I’ve noticed the most change is how I now manage my money and finances. I’ve always been mindful of getting value for money, but since experiencing the lower pay associated with maternity leave - and now the higher outgoings brought about by Finlay’s hefty nursery fees - this has reached a whole new level.
For starters, I’ve become a Little Miss Budgeter. Admittedly I’ve not quite reached Scrooge proportions, but I’m definitely watching the pennies much more closely than before and trying to be much more realistic and accurate in planning my spend. Home improvements and maintenance - I’ve now set aside a bit of annual expenditure for that. This is new: the old me would have just paid for a leaky pipe repair or my annual boiler maintenance ad hoc and probably been financially caught off guard by it.
I have also found myself reaching out to technology to support my more enlightened, money-conscious self. The HSBC app helps me categorise my monthly spending accurately, and I can handily assess where I’m over-indulging. It’s all rather addictive.
Another new behavioural change concerns where I shop and what I buy. I’ve recently chosen charity shops over high-street retailers, durable presents over the more disposable ones, and shop more often on crafty sites such as Etsy over larger online shopping outlets. In addition, Facebook marketplace has become my best friend for new toy purchases and I’ve (finally) become an e-Bay seller. Why hang onto a million and one dresses in my wardrobe when someone else could appreciate them and I could use the space anyway?
Participating in the circular economy in this way makes me feel better about my spending. I get to pay a fraction of the price of brand-new products and I don’t feel I’ve sacrificed on quality. There’s an ethical dimension too: I’m not adding as much plastic or waste to the ocean, which makes me feel I’m a better citizen of the world. Indeed, the more I change my behaviours, the more I change my views on past choices. I used to be a devotee of certain major grocery brands, but I’ve recently made more switches to own label versions. And shock horror - they pretty much taste the same!
Having a baby, being on maternity leave and now funding little Finlay’s future is, in many ways, like one great big behavioural experiment. My reduced income is akin to a large-scale deprivation task. It has given me an acute and renewed awareness of my finances and my coping mechanism has been to alter my spending and saving habits.
These ‘forced’ changes, in turn, have had a positive effect on my appreciation for all things in life. Yes, I buy less, but I buy better. For instance, I recently bought a lovely occasion dress for a wedding from Whistles which was reduced by 70%. It was a mindful purchase (I consulted my budget spreadsheet first) and, at that reduction, a real bargain. I got great pleasure out of that purchase because it felt shrewd and savvy.
When I first started contemplating these changes in my behaviour, I did ask myself whether I was having a midlife crisis. But in fact, I think they are just a reflection of the more frugal, thriftier me that has sprung up as a survival mechanism. No need to splurge on a ‘bucket list’ experience just yet then hehe.
And as I find comfort in my new habits as a mother, I’m certain I’m not alone in experiencing these kinds of changes. As we head precariously towards Brexit and the prospect of a no deal, as we hear more and more stories about climate change and the huge swathes of plastic in our oceans destroying wildlife, and as we continue to see political disruption and social upheaval all around us, we are forming new habits as a population - ones in which quality, sustainability, and value for money are becoming priorities for all, not just new mothers.
Laura Morris - Director