Why is it? There never seems to be a problem when we find ourselves making more money, but if our incomes unexpectedly tank, it’s extra challenging. Many of us, for example, struggle and land in debt if our pay takes a dive, even if we have advance notice.

Here’s a first-world problem: I’m presently renting a place without a dishwasher. Such strife! Actually, what has been difficult is not just being without one, but having transitioned from a house that had one to a place that doesn’t.

So how to face those dirty dishes in the evening? Lately I’m resorting to a technique called “temptation bundling” – which is where you combine something you love doing with something you loathe, in order to get yourself to accomplish the hard stuff.

Here’s how it works for me with those dirty dishes. I’d rather avoid them altogether, but I have been known, when Scotch or cognac finds its way into the house, to have a drink or two in the evening as I get the jazz music flowing and kick back. So now I’ve coupled a drink and washing together to get myself scrubbing – I’m limiting that tipple to dishwashing time. (There’s no rule about stopping after the job’s done, of course.) Hey, whatever it takes, right?

Katherine Milkman, a behavioural expert at Wharton, was first to call this “temptation bundling”. It should work for us as we sort out our finances as well. With screens and handsets everywhere you look these days, I bet it can be done.

How about treating yourself to that relaxing bath this evening, but only if you track your spending as you sit back? Or letting yourself binge-watch Netflix or sports on Sky, as long as you comparison shop for the right KiwiSaver fund for you at the same time? Picture yourself lounging on the beach or by the pool this summer, but only if you do a bit of checking on a share offer you’re considering, or figure out what type of investor you are.

Now it may seem like this takes all the fun out of the things you enjoy. But the other thing that happens with temptation bundling is that each of the activities you are mashing together can become more enjoyable – listening to an addictive audio book while working out at the gym, for instance, lets you relish the story more because you don’t feel as guilty about the pleasure. You also find that your workout flies by and end up hitting the gym more often.

So a bit of brainstorming here: what activities could you bundle? Which ones do you already? Looking forward to your comments below.

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