Looking for love? Well, put away the make-up tips and the Game manuals. A new study has found that your savings or spending habits can have a significant influence on how attractive you are viewed.
But it's not what you think: To be more attractive to romantic partners, think about becoming a saver.
Allow me to explain.
Researchers Jenny G. Olson and Scott Rick of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business conducted a series of experiments designed to tease out the attractiveness of "savers" versus "spenders." Savers are those people who tend to refrain from spending money, while spenders tend to be looser with their pocketbooks.
In general, people find savers more attractive than spenders. In other words, letting loose on the luxury goods and the impressive dinners out isn't likely to win over a romantic partner. Why? Diving deeper into the question, the authors found something deeply fascinating: It isn't about money. In the end, it isn't about financial success or the benefits of not being a materialist.
What makes savers so attractive is that they're perceived to have more self-control than spenders. If you have an easier time saving money, or even enjoy it, you're telling the world that you can plan for the future, work toward your long-term goals, and be reliable.
And as it happens, people seem to love those qualities.
But wait, it gets even better
The researchers took their experiments a step further to find out whether being a saver or spender could affect perceptions of physical attractiveness.
It turns out that savers are not only more appealing as romantic partners, but they're considered physically more appealing in general.
Also amazing is that the only time savers were considered less attractive was when subjects were primed for boredom (savings and self-control are not exactly highly correlated with living-on-the-edge excitement). But even in this condition, spenders weren't preferred to savers. In other words, people still like a saver, even if it doesn't produce a thrill a minute.
An amazing argument for developing a savings habit, isn't it?
One small step can make a big difference
But being a saver doesn't just have to be an appearance. By starting a savings habit, even if it's just auto-debiting $20 each week to your savings account, you might start to think of yourself as a saver. That little perception change can help you become more self-controlled in general -- and geared up for bigger and bigger challenges.
This is also the theory behind the "small wins" technique of habit formation, which suggests that changing one small thing at a time can help you reach larger goals of life transformation -- whether it's fitness, finances, health, or business.
In other words, you can get to the super-attractive trait of self-control simply by tweaking the habits that get you there. Start with your little tiny savings habit (it doesn't matter if it's $5 or $500), and then maybe add something else, like putting on your running shoes after work. As journalist Charles Duhiggs, author of "The Power of Habit", describes it in an interview, "If you do that a couple of days a week, eventually you're going to go running."
The effects of those small little changes tend to build on each other -- meaning that what might start as a way to impress potential dates could actually grow into you becoming that financially secure, self-controlled saver. And thus all the more attractive.