If you’ve set a long-term savings goal––say, for a new car or next year’s summer vacation––one of the trickiest parts is keeping yourself on task, especially in the home stretch.That’s where old school bar graphs and pie charts might come in handy, new research shows.
A pair of Virginia professors gave 183 college students a hypothetical savings goal of $750 for a European vacation. One half of the group read their goal progress in text, while another group was given a visual bar graph. When the researchers later rated the students’ commitment to achieving the goals, they found the visual group rated higher in their determination to succeed.
There was just one catch: The visualisation trick only seemed to work when participants were close to reaching their goal––in this case, within a couple hundred bucks.
“Bank managers and financial consultants can use these findings to influence consumer spending and savings,” the study says. “Savings commitment is likely to be higher if bank managers set savings goals for consumers at the outset and then use graphic representations to enhance visualisation ease (e.g., a pie chart or a piggy bank that fills up) as consumers approach their goal.”
Luckily, there are countless savings tools online that can help consumers do just that.
Smarty Pig is a free online piggy bank that lets you set goals and contribute to them directly from your bank accounts. Each savings goal is represented by a piggy bank icon, which displays your goal as you progress (10%, 50%, 75%, etc.).