Personal finance experts often offer excellent budgeting advice while ignoring psychological realities that make their advice essentially useless.

The truth is, we humans have an enormous capacity for NOT doing what we know we should do. And failing to take that truth into account is like teaching someone how to shoot a bow and arrow as if gravity doesn't exist!

Sound budgeting advice is worthless if it ignores the psychological realities that are bound to keep us from actually following it. And although we may act as if getting sound advice is all it takes to achieve our financial goals, there's overwhelming evidence that often we don't follow the expert advice that we so enthusiastically gather and honestly intend to follow.

Let me be clear: I am not a personal finance expert. I am, however, an expert in the deal-breaking psychological realities that personal finance experts often ignore. A clinical psychologist and author (with Pete Greider) of Following Through, I've made it my life's work to (1) understand why people often fail to actually do what they know they should do, and (2) identify and develop strategies that enable them to do a better job of following through on their own good intentions.

Everything I know about human nature tells me that the best way to make mincemeat out of your budget intentions is to rely on raw willpower to make sure that you'll actually do what you've decided you should do.

The smart way to behave in accord with your budget intentions is to practice what I call Willpower Engineering. Willpower Engineering is about relying on situations rather than raw willpower to do the heavy lifting.

Willpower Engineering often takes the form of deliberately setting things up so that you can't violate your intention.

For example, if you're going shopping and truly intend to spend no more than twenty dollars, you're generously inviting failure if you carry with you the means - credit cards, checks, cash - to spend a lot more than that. On the other hand, if you rid your wallet of all these weapons of budget destruction before you head for the mall, you won't have to rely on willpower alone to keep you on track once your buying impulses get stimulated.

But what about all the times when there's no practical way to make it impossible for you to violate your budget intentions? Are you stuck relying on willpower alone? Fortunately, the answer is no. With a little bit of creativity, you can usually stay on track by making it psychologically hard enough to violate your intentions. In other words, you can create psychological speed bumps to slow your buying impulses and give your good intentions a chance to catch up and take over.

For example, if you must carry a credit card, then wrap a piece of paper around it that has an important personal financial goal - or a feared consequence of violating your intention - written on it. Ditto for cash you don't intend to spend. And if you must carry blank checks for emergency purposes, then write “For Emergency Only” in the memo section of each check.

The idea is to arouse your budget intentions before your buying impulses make it to the finish line.

Another way to give your budget intentions a boost in horsepower is by using a strategy I call "Going Too Far." This strategy involves making a commitment in advance to do something that shines an embarrassing spotlight on your follow through failures. For example, you could require yourself when making an unintended purchase to announce to the cashier "I've decided that buying this _____ today is more important than my family's financial future." Or you could require yourself when making an unintended purchase to also buy another unnecessary item - one that very loudly and clearly communicates "This is stupid!"

Making the right promises to the right person can also help you curb your spending. Whenever you're about to face an opportunity to spend unnecessarily, it's wise to announce your budget intentions to your partner, your children, a friend or anyone who you'd rather not disappoint. Promises don't guarantee success, but they can breathe more life into your budget intentions by giving you more - and possibly more powerful - reasons to fight off those renegade buying impulses.

In addition to using Willpower Engineering to give your budget intentions bigger muscles, you can use it to weaken your spending impulses so that your good intentions have a better shot at defeating them. For example, if you find yourself in a store or at a website and are hot to make an unintended purchase, there's a good chance that you won't have enough willpower to wrestle the powerful impulse to the ground. On the other hand, you may have enough willpower to at least agree to leave the store or website for a half hour. Once you're away from the tempting easy opportunity to violate your intention, there's a good chance that your spending impulse will lose enough of its momentum to allow your good intention to take over. For the same reason, it makes sense to always first buy - yes, actually pay for - only what you intended to buy, and then come back, if you must, to buy anything you didn't intend to buy.

You may be tempted to dismiss Willpower Engineering as being silly, harsh and unnecessary. That's certainly understandable. But before you actually dismiss it, ask yourself how well you've been doing without it.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Levinson is a clinical psychologist, inventor, author, speaker and consultant who has spent most of his career helping people follow through on their good intentions.

In the early 1980's, he discovered a design flaw in the human mind that's largely responsible for poor follow through. Levinson used his discovery to create the MotivAider - a remarkably simple tool that dramatically improves follow through by automatically keeping its user's mind focused on making virtually any desired change in behavior. Levinson co-founded Behavioral Dynamics, Inc. in 1987 to develop, perfect, manufacture and market the MotivAider. In 2008, he left the healthcare industry to devote his fulltime attention to supporting MotivAider users worldwide.

Levinson teamed up with peak performance consultant, Pete Greider, to write Following Through: A Revolutionary New Model For Finishing Whatever You Start. This critically-acclaimed book is based on Levinson's groundbreaking discovery about the paradoxical way the mind treats good intentions.