How Cognitive Biases Cause us to Overspend with Amanda Montell – EP 397

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“I deserve to buy this!” But are you really deserving of it? If you’re someone who thinks adding more items to your cart at checkout is going to solve all of your problems, then you deserve to hear this episode. Jen and Jill, together with Amanda Montell, author of acclaimed books such as Wordslut and Cultish, and a podcast host, talk about cognitive biases and their influence on not just our finances but on our everyday lives!

Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of a cancer cell


  • Complexity bias. Thinking that earning money on your money must be far too complicated for you to figure out so you just leave it in your checking account. Stop that right now! A high yield savings account like the one at CIT offers you 4.65% APY on your money – that means every month interest on the money stored in that account is deposited into your account. Let your money make money – it’s not that complex! 

Amanda Montell is a writer and linguist from Baltimore. She is the author of the acclaimed books “Wordslut” and “Cultish”. Alongside the publication of her latest book “The Age of Magical Overthinking” in April 2024, she will launch a new podcast, “Magical Overthinkers.” Creator and host of the hit podcast “Sounds Like a Cult,” Montell’s writing has appeared in the New York Times, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, and more. She holds a degree in linguistics from NYU and lives in Los Angeles with her partner, plants, and pets.

Awareness About Cognitive Biases

Amanda Montell, author of “The Age of Magical Overthinking,” delves into the topic of cognitive biases and their huge influence on human behavior and mindset. Biases such as confirmation bias and the sunk cost fallacy shape not only extreme behaviors but also our everyday choices. In the modern digital age, filled with all sorts of information, these biases often lead us astray, operating subtly and unconsciously. Amanda emphasizes the importance of recognizing these biases, not only in financial decisions but even in wider aspects such as love or relationships. By understanding and acknowledging it, you can strive for better decision-making.

The Different Cognitive Biases

Amanda discusses some of the cognitive biases that influence overspending behaviors. Overconfidence bias is defined by 3 key features: people overvalue their actual skills, express excessive certainty in their evaluations, and overcredit themselves with positive outcomes. Connected to the sunk-cost fallacy, the additive solution bias leads individuals to believe that adding more to a problem will solve it, often overlooking simpler solutions. Amanda’s personal experiences made her realize the importance of recognizing this bias in decision-making, whether financial or relational—recognizing the value of subtractive approaches. The different biases play pivotal roles in shaping spending habits, particularly in an era where currency extends beyond mere monetary value to include social capital and influence.

Patriarchy’s Influence on Women’s Cognitive Biases

Zero-sum bias refers to the tendency to perceive gains by others as direct threats to one’s own well-being or success. Stemming from a historical context of people having limited resources, this bias leads individuals to engage in competitive comparisons, particularly evident in today’s digital age and social media platforms. Amplified by societal structures like the patriarchy, which foster a zero-sum game mentality, this bias disproportionately affects women, influencing their social comparisons and self-esteem. Unlike men, who may focus on perceived inferiors, women often gauge themselves against those deemed wealthier or superior, exacerbating feelings of inadequacy and hindering opportunities.

Consumerism is a Cult

Amanda shares a parallel between consumerism and cults, suggesting that consumerism shares cult-like characteristics. The societal notion that material possessions offer spiritual fulfillment or existential transcendence is just a false promise. This phenomenon is the combination of human advancements and the influence of late-stage capitalism, which perpetuate the belief that acquiring possessions equates to personal superiority and immortality.

What's a purchase you make that stems from a cognitive bias?

  • Amanda: Bought an LED candlestick lamp – Declinism
  • Jill: I won’t buy because I think the current state of affairs is FINE – Status Quo Bias
  • Jen: I think I can do macrame and calligraphy – Overconfidence Bias

Get more from Amanda

Get Amanda Montell’s Newest Book, “The Age of Magical Overthinking”
Amanda’s Instagram

Bill of The Week

Thanks for sharing your bill, Amanda about the bills of the peacocks that run free in a cemetery in Hollywood!

Thanks so Much for Listening!

Thanks so much for listening. We love love love reading your kind reviews and we especially loved this one from:


Very helpful podcast. Completely changed lives financially. Thank you!!!!

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