8 Ways To Cut Decision Fatigue and Boost Your Mood

We make decisions all day, every day, whether we know it or not. This can have a serious effect on our financial behaviors. It can even lead to what’s called decision fatigue, which I’ve talked about before. In this post, I’ll show you 8 ways that you can start to cut decision fatigue with your finances. But first, I want to share this perfect depiction of decision fatigue with you, courtesy of the New York Times:

“Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue — you’re not consciously aware of being tired — but you’re low on mental energy. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts, usually in either of two very different ways. One shortcut is to become reckless: to act impulsively instead of expending the energy to first think through the consequences. (Sure, tweet that photo! What could go wrong?)”

Isn’t that spot on? Now let’s look at 8 simple, yet effective, ways you can cut your decision fatigue with money:

#1 – Go paperless and automate your bill pay

Sorting through piles of bills each month is a pain in the ass. The easiest way to do this is set up an automatic draft from your checking account. Another option is to charge the bill to your credit card through the company itself. Be careful when using a credit card, though. If you already have credit card debt, avoid this at all costs and just use your checking account. If you have no debt, set everything up on one card and pay it in full each month.

#2 – Use one bank, and limit your accounts

Using one bank means you only have to log on to one website when you want a snapshot of your financial picture. Yes, you can definitely use a service like Personal Capital (and I recommend it!). But that still leaves you with the option of having many accounts at many banks. Stick to one bank and use as few accounts as you can. For example, set up a checking, savings, credit card, and Roth IRA with one bank and you won’t have to worry about where your money is at.

#3 – Cut down on your investment choices

J. Money puts his money into one index fund. While that may not work for everyone, he’s reducing his decision fatigue. Don’t overdo it with tons of individual stocks. Instead, pick a few mutual funds, ETFs, or index funds to invest in. Set up your deposits and investments to do their thing without you, and you’re good to go.

#4 – Quit budgeting

Most of you know that I completely suck at budgeting. That’s why I pay myself first and use a no-budget budget. Using an intricate budget to track every expense is time-consuming. And it only increases your decision fatigue. While tracking every penny might save some money, you have to consider the opportunity cost of time (and exhaustion). Especially in the long-term.

#5 – Focus on one goal at a time

I talk a lot about money goals and how to meet them, but if you have too many or you’re trying to do too much, you’ll fail. Always remember the acronym KISS. It means Keep It Simple, Stupid! By all means, you should set up money goals, visualize them, and work to stay on course with them. But you’ll be much more successful in the long haul if you focus on one at a time. For example, you might focus on paying off debt first, before focusing on saving for a home. Although you can do both at the same time, it increases your decision fatigue.

#6 – Combine finances with your spouse

KeyBank says that one of the biggest mistakes a couple can make is keeping their money separate. Instead of viewing your money separate from your spouse, combine it. Think of it as your money together. This way you can avoid trying to figure out who is paying for what each month, and instead just act as one team.

#7 – Reduce or drop any subscription services

I understand (and endorse) subscribing to things like Netflix and Sling TV to save money. Just keep the subscriptions in check. Check your credit card statement to see what you’re spending each month on subscriptions. Even if you decide to keep a service, it doesn’t hurt to see if there’s a cheaper option to subscribe to. If there are services you’re not using, get rid of them. They’re only increasing your decision fatigue.

#8 – Pay off your debt

This one is easier said than done. But without debt weighing you down, you won’t have to worry about setting money aside to pay it down. Do everything you can to pay off your debt as fast as possible. Not only will it save you money in the long run, but you’ll also enjoy these six other benefits, according to Payoff.


So even when you think you’re not making decisions, you might be making decisions. Decision fatigue is a big deal, that’s why successful people choose to wear the same outfit every day. They want to cut back on any minor decisions they have to make during the day so they can focus on the bigger ones. The same should apply to you with your money. Why waste time and energy making silly choices when you can focus your energy elsewhere?

What types of things do you do to cut your financial decision fatigue?


18 thoughts on “8 Ways To Cut Decision Fatigue and Boost Your Mood

  1. Thanks for this article. It is quite reassuring to know I’m not the only one who pays himself first, and to hell with the rest. Of course, I don’t splurge the rest on prostitutes and cocaine (there never ever is ever much left anyway). But as you say, I don’t budget ever single cent, too exhausting.

    As with investments, right now, I have a mutual fund 100% in equities and venturing into a few (keyword) ETFs next year.


  2. This is definitely wise advice. Like you, I like to live life as simply as possible and have taken 7 out of the 8 tips that you’ve mentioned and made them a part of my lifestyle. The one thing that my wife and I do is budget – for us, the budget itself helps reduce decision fatigue because it answers the question, “Can we purchase this item this month, or can we wait on it a bit”? without us really having to expend any mental energy.

    For me, I think the ticket is just not overcomplicating matters that shouldn’t be complicated. While it’s true that we’ll need to make critical decisions where the DETAILS are important every once in a while, many of the decisions in our day-to-day lives can work *regardless* of what we decide. We humans naturally have a way of seeing things through to their natural conclusions, even if it becomes apparent that we probably should have took another path. It happens. Live goes on.

    Lastly, I think #5 is one of the most important points in this article – I personally believe “multi-tasking” is overrated. We all like to think that we multi-task well, but the truth is switching back and forth between tasks takes energy, and re-focusing back on a task that you left will always take a certain amount of time. Most of us don’t automatically pick up exactly where we left off. If we multi-task a lot, there’s a LOT of time that we’re wasting just getting ourselves back up to speed.

    Nice article, and definitely one that I’ve taken to heart.

    • Hey Steve! Thanks for reading. I love your points, as always. I can see how budgeting makes sense for you guys – especially if it saves time and reduces fatigue. Do whatever works best for you! Hope all is well, friend!

  3. There are so many useful technologies around that can help us, it just takes a little bit of time and effort to build systems that can make our lives soooooo much easier. It’s like our parents and how they seem universally terrible with cell phones, we need to break the cycle of not taking advantage of the technology around us! 🙂

  4. We’re like you with the no-budget budget, Chris. But we track our expenses, every penny. For us I’d say #6 is most important. We were married in our 40s and if we weren’t going to combine EVERYTHING we probably would have continued dating. And I would have kept my NYC apartment and not have a dollar to my name, and Mr. G would have sold his beach condo and blown the profit on piece of crap home on Long Island. We were each terrible with money on our own, but together we feel unstoppable.

    • Hi Mrs. Groovy! That’s so great to hear that you guys are operating as one team. Many couples find it challenging and I think it comes down to trust. If you don’t trust each other’s spending habits, you’ll never succeed financially. Thanks for reading and adding your thoughts 🙂

    • Hey Claudia! You’re certainly welcome. Good to hear you’re automating some healthy eating habits! Are you using a service to plan your meals or just spending some extra time planning yourself?

  5. I have a really hard time with #1 and #2. I only have a few bills that are automated, and the rest I pay online each month. Maybe one day I’ll let go of that because, you’re absolutely right, it makes no sense to spend time doing that when I can let that happen on its own. As for the one bank account, I have recently opened a second for savings purposes, just to keep the money completely out of sight and out of mind. Great ideas and sound advice as always, Chris!

    • Hey Charlee, thanks for reading the post! I definitely see the “out of site, out of mind” argument. I think it’s when it becomes too many accounts at too many banks that it impacts your decision fatigue. Automation is key, though, so I challenge you to keep working toward letting go!

  6. Nice list. For us, however, budgeting has allows us to have LESS decision fatigue. We’ve been budgeting on paper for many years now, so it takes little time for us. Having our spending defined in advance, we don’t have make a billion (well, not really a billion) decisions during the month about how/what/when to spend money. In other words, if it’s in the budget, we can do it and don’t need to decide if something else will be neglected because we spent the money already. At least that what works for us……

    Thanks for you post!


    • Hey John – that’s a point I’ve heard a lot of people make. And I can see how it makes sense. You invest time up front to budget then it’s smooth sailing the rest of the way. I get it, but I don’t necessarily agree with it. I’m all about automation and as little decisions as possible. I’ve tried budgeting so many times before. The only time I really feel good about money is when I pay myself first, automate, and living below my means. I appreciate your perspective though, thanks again for reading and dropping in your thoughts.

  7. Great ideas! We have implemented most of these tips. Another thing I do is not go shopping, aside from a weekly trip to the discount grocery store. The store is small and has fewer choices, in addition to being cheaper. Most other things come from subscription services from Amazon or Target, which is kind of like automated billpay in my mind. We are going to buy tea, soap, and diapers no mater what, and now that I’ve found a good price online and get a discount for subscription, I’ve simplified and have less opportunity for impulse purchases.

    • Hey Kalie! I love that idea — we have a few items on Amazon S&S but we could probably stand to add more with groceries. Have you tried eMeals or Fresh20 before? They prepare a shopping list and meal plan for you each week, which saves a ton of time. Thanks for reading 🙂

  8. I also automate my savings at the beginning of the month along with my bills. Before, I would just put whatever was left over when I got paid again in my savings account. Sometimes it was a lot, but more often it was nothing.

    Setting up automatic transfers right after I get paid forces me to save consistently and I’ve seen my savings grow faster as a result. I also withdraw the money into another, separate account at a completely different institution. It makes it more complicated, but it keeps me from dipping my hand in the honey pot unless I really need to. 🙂

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