Many of us have a tendency to spend money frivolously. I’m not talking about the rare folk who run up insane credit card debts on things they just can’t afford – but people like you.
Maybe you always come out of the grocery store with a few things you don’t need … and which eventually end up in the trash. Maybe you can’t resist buying new books, even though there’s a great library nearby. Maybe you end up buying things online when you’re surfing the net in the evenings.
Spending money unnecessarily is just a habit – but it’s one that can be detrimental to your financial goals. Here are five things you can do to break that habit and take back control of your spending.
1. Always Use Cash
If you find that every time you go to the mall, you end up with a few more bags (and a few less dollars) than you expected, then stop putting things on plastic. Take out a set amount of cash before you go shopping – however much you’re willing to spend that day – and you’ll have a much better idea of what you’ve spent. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.
This can also be a big help if you ever find yourself struggling to pay off your credit card balance. If you use cash, you know you’ve got the money there to pay for your purchases.
2. Make a List
Heading out for groceries or office supplies or materials for your DIY project? Make yourself a list of exactly what you need. Don’t just go into the store with a vague idea in your head: you’ll be much more likely to end up going for “bargains” that you don’t need and perhaps can’t even use. They’ll just end up cluttering your home until you ditch them.
Not having a list can also mean that you forget vital things – often leading to you making a second trip to the store and spending even more money, since it never seems worth going for just one item…
3. Have “Spend-Nothing” Days
A very powerful way to break your spending habit is to have “spend nothing” days – you could even challenge yourself to go a whole weekend without spending any money. Leave your wallet at home when you go to work: brown-bag lunch, and take a thermos of coffee with you.
If you’ve fallen into a pattern of always picking up a newspaper and a latte and a candy bar or two, this is a great way to jolt yourself out of it. Similarly, if your weekends tend to involve going out for meals and drinks, going to a movie, or going on a shopping trip, you’ll find that it’s perfectly possible to entertain yourself for free.
4. Keep a Spending Log
For two weeks, write down everything that you spend. Record the time, the place, what you bought and how much it was. This is a great way to make yourself much more aware of exactly where your money is going. There might be some nasty surprises (perhaps those “occasional” coffees and treats are more like a daily indulgence).
Plus, the hassle of knowing you need to write down every single purchase can be enough to make you think twice about whether you really want to go ahead and buy that new book or DVD!
5. Avoid Certain Stores and Websites
We all have particular stores – whether on the high street or online – that we’re especially tempted by. If you know you can’t browse without buying, then don’t even start. Ban yourself from the store or website for a period of time. (I went cold-turkey on ebay for a month once…)
If it’s an internet store, you could even block it in your browser. This might seem a bit unnecessary, but it’s so easy to spend money online without really thinking about it – and if you do find yourself “accidentally” loading up the site, the block on it will remind you that you’ve banned yourself.
Are you struggling to break your spending habit? When are you most prone to spending money unnecessarily? What tips do you have on making sure you think twice before buying?
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