We all have them.
You know, those troublesome spending habits that break our budgets on a monthly basis.
It could be that you like to shop for shoes. Maybe you always have to have the most up-to-date electronic gadget. Whatever it is, you probably already know that it’s a problem
If you’ve created your income statement, these little budget busters might be highlighted even more in your mind. You are finally seeing the numbers associated with them.
What some people see as overspending, might be right in line for you.
For example, if you consistently cut back on other spending so that you can dine out four times a week, more power to you. You’ve identified what is important to you and made it happen by being frugal in other areas. If your budget is still functioning properly, overspending in that category is not a problem for you. Don’t let anyone tell you that it is.
What if that isn’t the case? What if you only want to spend $50 a month dining out but end up spending $250? You may be looking at a bad spending habit. It’s time to face the problem and battle it until you get it under control. It’s probably stopping you from saving money or even worse, causing you to accumulate more debt.
Take Baby Steps
Let me start of by saying from personal experience; you are not going to change your bad spending habits overnight. Just as it took you several months or even years to create the habits, it’s going to take a little while to break them.
Do not let that discourage you. Even a slight change in your habits can have a lasting effect. If you try to cut too much, you might fall off the wagon and end up right back where you started or even worse.
In the example above, if you only want to spend $50 a month dining out, maybe you try and cut it down to $150 first and work your way slowly down to $50.
Now we are on to the part that is the most difficult. It’s time to actually find ways to break the habit.
Here are a few tips and tricks to try:
1. Take Only The Cash You Need
Are you heading out to the mall to go clothing shopping? Only take the cash that you need. If you budgeted $100 for clothing, hit up the ATM and get $100 cash out. Throw that $100 in your wallet and leave all of your credit and debit cards at home.
Did you see what I wrote? LEAVE YOUR DEBIT AND CREDIT CARDS AT HOME!
You will be forced to only work with the cash you have on hand. This will enable you to make more sound financial decisions and get the most bang for your buck!
2. Know Your Spending Triggers
How did you feel the last time you had a budgeting breakdown? Were you upset over something? Were you bored?
A good tip is to track how you were feeling when you splurged on a specific item. For example, if you buy a soda every day at 2:00PM, write down how you were feeling. Maybe you were bored. You might have even ran out of things to do.
By identifying the underlying issue, you may be able to find ways to avoid the expense all together. Trent Hamm has several good ideas to assist with handling these “bad days”. Personally, I’ve started taking a short walk to handle my typical “afternoon snack syndrome”. When I have the craving, I just get up and go.
3. Visualize the Prize
Now that you have your goals listed, put them in a prominent place so you have to look at them each and every day. This will constantly remind you of WHY you are cutting back on expenses and/or sacrificing some things that are difficult.
If the list isn’t enough, add a picture of something that you are striving to achieve. Looking to buy a house? Print off a picture of something that you like in your neighborhood and stick it on the refrigerator. Instant motivation!
4. Leave and Come Back
If you are looking to make a purchase, let yourself think about it first. Put the item back and only come back to it after you have had time to let it sink in. Some people have suggested 24 hours while others suggest even 30 days. Just do what works for you!
I actually recommend doing a “walk-through” before making purchases. This entails taking no cash or debit/credit with you when shopping. Since you have no way to spend, you can truly weigh the costs and benefits of a purchase. It it’s something that can truly fit in your budget, only after you think it through should you consider buying it. You may find that this strategy alone handles the majority of your problems.
5. Place Reminders In Your Wallet
Another strategy is to bombard yourself with reminders.
What do I mean? Well, if you want to save for your children’s college education, place a picture of them in your wallet so you have to look it every time you spend money. You may find yourself second guessing the purchase because you want don’t want to let them down.
I also recommend taping reminders on your debit/credit cards. You might want to put a quote on the card or even one word. For example, you may want to put “Do you really NEED this?” on the card. It may trigger that emotion in your mind and make you want to put the item back. It’s also a little embarrassing if you have to hand it to the cashier.
6. Know Your Weaknesses and Avoid Them
When you go to the mall, do you always end up doing more harm than good? Maybe you bought some shoes, a nice new jacket, a soft pretzel, an ice cream cone and to top it off, you had your eyebrows threaded. Holy crap! All you went in there for was to meet up with your friend from college!
If your weakness is the mall, avoid it at all costs. Why put yourself through that?
I’m not saying that everyone’s weakness is the mall. Heck, yours could be the cheese deli at the grocery store for all I know. Just know what makes you weak in the knees and stay away!
7. Tell Your Family and Friends
If you are trying to avoid your weaknesses, letting your family and friends know is a good idea. Trust me, trying to avoid the mall and having your friends want to go there all the time makes things tricky. It’s even more difficult if you are watching them spend money.
Having a quick conversation with them about your issue is no big deal. You can even phrase it to look like you are being responsible. Try this:
Hey Jane. Do you mind if we start hanging out at my house instead of the mall? I’m trying to save for my kitchen remodel and you know how I get at the mall!
Pretty easy right? If they are truly your friend, they will understand and support your decision.
8. Inventory What You Own
Have you ever gone to the grocery store, bought something and then discovered that you already had it in the pantry at home? Yeah, it happens.
Take an inventory of the items that you own to ensure that you are not duplicating purchases. You can do this with almost anything, including clothing.
A good tip is to take a picture of the contents in your refrigerator and pantry before heading to the store. Not sure if you are out of ketchup? Check the picture!
9. Go Cold Turkey
I recently came across Anna Newell Jones’ blog And Then We Saved and I must say, I’m impressed.
I’m a big supporter of having someone to look up to in regards to debt repayment. In other words, if you are looking to get out of debt, it’s extremely motivating to read about someone else who has done it and done it well. Anna has done that.
In fact, Anna went cold turkey and completed a spending fast. She broke down her expenses to the bare minimum and ended up paying off over $23,000 in debt within 15 months. Anna had a great deal of drive and accountability. You could learn a lot from her!
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Now that you have some tools to get your bad spending habits under wraps, it’s time to utilize them.