No. 3: Pick a plan -- and stick to it

How It Works: Have debt to pay off? There's a way to outsmart your brain here too. In another experiment called Borrow Less Tomorrow (it came to be after Save More Tomorrow was such a smashing success), people with debt were put on a three-pronged program to help them pay down their balances.

First, they met with a member of the program's staff who advised them on several different repayment strategies, including "accelerated" plans that would up the amount that they paid off by a little each month. Then they corralled a buddy (or three!) who'd send them monthly reminders to keep them on track.

At the end of 12 months, 51% of the people who'd adopted a debt repayment plan were on track -- and 41% of them had used an accelerated plan to pay down their debts faster.

Why It Works: Researchers chalk the success up to three factors: choosing a particular plan, committing to the idea of allocating a certain amount to repayment each month and engaging peer support (read: those telephone or email reminders from friends).

Once again, effort trumped any underlying genetics: "Good habits do end-runs around the parts of our personality that give in to temptation," explains Dr. Shefrin.

It's easy to emulate this on your own: LearnVest's Money Center allows you to set a financial goal and then calculate how long it will take to reach it, depending on how much you put toward that goal each month. With any Chase Blueprint® card, you can also select a repayment plan that will show you when you'll reach a zero balance. Recruiting a friend to act as your financial conscience? Well, that's simple.

No. 4: Spend on your best self

How It Works: To make your money behave the way you want it to, you need to first decide who you are and then make your budget obey that identity. Perplexed? Let us explain.

It can be hard to just "save" blindly or "not spend so much" when you don't have a larger goal driving you. But if you're someone who believes that providing for your children is important (like this mom, who says paying for her daughter's college is her ultimate financial goal), you'll be a lot more likely to make financial decisions align with your principles.

Accomplishing this is a cinch: In the Money Center, we break down your budget into three essential categories based on the 50/20/30 rule -- but you have free will when it comes to creating and naming the folders that describe your saving and spending. So if owning a house is important to you, designate a "dream home" savings folder. If being physically fit is your top priority, christen an exercise savings folder to reflect that goal.

Why It Works: "If we identify ourselves as responsible, and take pride in living up to the virtues associated with that identity, then we activate reward centers in the brain associated with goal achievement," says Dr. Shefrin.

The other helpful factor: Humans have a desire to see themselves in a certain light, and we'll reject anything that conflicts with that reality. It's a phenomenon known as identity reinforcement theory. In other words, you can override bad money behavior by adopting good habits that reflect the person you really want to be.

Click here to become a fan of MSN Money on Facebook

More from LearnVest: