We all have them.
Those bad spending habits that break the budget on a monthly basis.
Maybe you always have to have the most up-to-date electronic gadget.
It could be that you always purchase something that’s on sale, even if it’s not budgeted for.
Whatever it is, you know it’s a problem.
If you’ve created your income statement, you’re probably finally getting to see the dollar figures associated with your overspending.
Just know that what some people might see as overspending, could be right in line with you and your budget. You can’t always go by those financial rules of thumb you hear about.
In other words, if you consistently cut back on spending in other categories so that you can dine out four times a week, more power to you.
You’ve identified what’s important to you and made it happen by being frugal in other areas.
If your budget is still functioning properly and you’re meeting all of your goals, overspending in that category isn’t a problem for you. Don’t let anyone tell you it is.
But 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 and it’s time to face the problem and battle it until you get it under control.
As you already know, it’s stopping you from saving money or even worse, causing you to pile on debt. That’s probably not your goal.
Get started working on those bad spending habits today by using these tips and tricks.
How to Control Spending
1. Take Only The Cash You Need
Heading to the grocery store for your weekly shopping? Only take the cash you need based on what you’ve budgeted.
So if you’ve budgeted $100 for groceries, 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.
Yeah, you read that right. LEAVE YOUR DEBIT AND CREDIT CARDS AT HOME!
Why? Well, think about it this way.
If you take $100 in cash to the grocery store because that’s what you’ve budgeted, what happens when you get to the checkout and find out that your bill is $120?
You’re going to whip out your debit or credit card to pay for the difference, right?
You’re not going to put $20 of merchandise back at that point. How embarrassing!
But if you leave your debit and credit card at home, I guarantee that you’re going to grab your calculator and add up everything in your cart as you put it in.
If you find out that you’re over your $100 budget, you’ll start prioritizing the items in your cart and putting things back.
With ONLY the cash to work with, you have not other option but to make it work. There isn’t an out.
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?
Start tracking how you feel when you splurge on a specific item.
For example, if you buy a soda every day at 2:00 PM, write down how you were feeling.
Maybe you were bored. Maybe you ran out of things to do.
By identifying the underlying issue, you may be able to find ways to avoid the expense altogether.
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.
Find out what your trigger is, and make adjustments to ensure you deal with it in a more budget-friendly manner.
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3. Visualize the Prize
There are huge advantages to setting financial goals.
Once you create them, put them in a prominent place so you have to look at them each and every day.
This will continually 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 you’re striving to achieve.
Looking to buy a house? Print off a picture of something you like in your neighborhood and tape it on the refrigerator.
Want to be able to pay for your kid’s college expenses one day? Photoshop a picture of them with a graduation cap and place it in your wallet in front of your credit cards. That way you’ll always have to look at it before making a purchase.
4. Leave and Come Back
If you’re looking to make a purchase, force yourself to think about it.
Put the item back and only come back to it after you have had time to let it sink in.
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.
If it’s something that can truly fit in your budget, only after you think it through should you consider buying.
5. Shop With a List
What happens when you go to the grocery store for milk because it ran out mid-week?
I bet you come out with a rotisserie chicken, macaroni and cheese, grapes that were on sale, and several other items.
Does that sound like your life?
When you go shopping without a list, it’s really easy to go crazy.
So before entering the store, you need to write down the things you need and stick only to that list when shopping.
Have a plan.
If you have trouble sticking to a list, find someone who can.
Send your spouse who follows instructions with great detail.
Send your teenage daughter whom you’ve trained well.
6. Know Your Weaknesses and Avoid Them
When you go to the mall, do you always end up spending way more than anticipated?
Maybe you went to meet a friend for a smoothie, but ended up buying some shoes, a nice new jacket, a soft pretzel, an ice cream cone and to top it off, you had your eyebrows threaded.
That’s definitely NOT what you went in there for.
So if your weakness is the mall, avoid it at all costs.
Why put yourself through that?
I’m not saying that your 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’re 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’re 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’re being responsible.
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’re truly your friend, they’ll 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 you already own to ensure you’re not duplicating purchases.
A good tip is to take a picture of the contents of your refrigerator and pantry before heading to the store. Not sure if you are out of ketchup? Check the picture!
You should also keep a running inventory of the fresh stuff in your refrigerator.
So if you’re trying to figure out what to cook for dinner, you can check the list to see if there’s something you need to use ASAP before you can no longer eat it.
If you struggle with trying to figure out what to cook based on what you already have, try a website like Supercook.
Supercook is a recipe aggregator that searches multiple recipe sites to help you create a recipe based on the items you have in stock.
9. Place Reminders In Your Wallet
When trying to control your spending, you need to realize that you’re creating new habits.
So in the initial stages of making a change, bombard yourself with reminders.
For starters, try taping reminders on your debit/credit cards.
Take a piece of paper, put the phrase “Do I Really NEED This?” on it, and then tape it to your credit and/or debit cards.
I guarantee it will make you second guess the impulse purchase you’re about to make.
It’s also a little embarrassing if you have to hand it to the cashier. They might ask you if you really need it. :-)
10. Reward Yourself
Start rewarding yourself for a job well done.
Every time you find yourself not spending where you would have in the past, take 10% of the money you would have spent and put it in a jar.
After a few weeks, take that money and spend it on whatever you want.
It’s something to look forward to!
11. Budget In The “Fun Money”
Fun money is defined as guilt-free spending.
When you create your budget each month, be sure to budget for “fun money” and then spend it on whatever you like.
You could even use the money from tip #10 as your “fun money”!
This process will help because you’ll realize that you can still spend money on things, but you just need to limit your spending so you can meet your other goals.
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Take Baby Steps
Let me start off by saying from personal experience; you’re 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.
So, if you’re trying to go from spending $800 on groceries per month to $400, don’t be discouraged if you spend $750 in that first month after making changes.
There’s no way you can make that drastic of a change that quickly.
Even a slight change in your habits can have a lasting effect.
Slow and steady will win this race.