Did you have a big month of spending? Or perhaps a big year?
Maybe you’ve even considered cutting up your credit card or putting it in a giant block of ice (but since you’ve already memorized your credit card number, it wouldn’t do you much good).
...create some margin in your budget.
Avoid your spending triggers
Each person will have different triggers when it comes to spending money. But the most important thing is to know what your specific triggers are.
Here are a few of the most common triggers when it comes to spending money:
It starts innocently enough. You thought you were just killing time by scrolling through your Instagram feed and seeing what your friends have been up to.
Next thing you know, you’re clicking on the link of the home decor blogger you follow to find out where her throw pillows are from. Or worse, you see that someone you know has just purchased a new car and you start looking into buying one yourself when you 1) aren’t in the market for a new car and 2) can’t afford to buy one anyway.
If social media leads you into a downward spiral of spending or coveting after things you do not need, consider a ban from these channels for a while.
If you are like most Americans and Canadians, you are an online shopper. According to studies, between 92%-96% of North Americans are shopping online today, with that volume increasing every year.
When I shop online, I love getting a deal and if that means I have to subscribe to a company’s email list to get that discount, I’ll do it.
However, the problem comes after the fact, when I continually receive their weekly or sometimes daily emails conveniently telling me about their newest big sale.
I usually tend to ignore the promotional emails I get (since sadly, I receive so many), but once in a while if the headline is catchy enough, I’ll open it. What turns into a "quick look" becomes another shopping spree because the deals were “too good to miss.”
The problem is that seeing these promotional emails plants the thought in my mind that I might need something, when I clearly don’t. Be proactive and unsubscribe from all emails to put all those impulsive "needs" and “wants” to rest.
When I need something, I’ll know where to find them.
In addition to staying off the internet where advertisements barrage you from all angles, stay out of actual stores and shopping centres.
A few places that serve as triggers for me are discount home goods stores such as Marshalls and, when I’m in the states, Target.
I may have intended to only go in for one very specific item, but will come out with several miscellaneous items that were likely unnecessary. Sure, one trip to Marshalls may not break the bank, but going in once a week spending $50-$100 each time will not bode well for my budget.
When I'm in need of a shopping detox, I stay far away from these stores.
Consider which store is your achilles heel. For you, it might be home improvement stores or food stores. Once you figure out where you spend money unnecessarily, avoid such places for a while.
Hail to the budget
Although this "b" word gets a bad rap, it shouldn’t be seen in such a negative light.
In fact, your budget is what will keep you on track to fulfill your money goals and therefore your life goals.
The key to making a budget something you enjoy is to create it in a way that serves you. And if you are in a serious spending frenzy, a budget is what will get you back on track.
Keep a money diary
Just like dieters are asked to keep a food diary, getting all your spending down on paper will be an eye-opener for financial dieters.
I remember the first time I did a money diary where I wrote all my expenses out for a three-month period. I was astounded at the number of "empty purchases" I spent my money on.
Just like it’s wasteful to eat empty calories devoid of nutrition, it can be disheartening to see how many times I’ve spent money on things that were of no value to me. And being able to see how I spent money on things so flippantly made me think twice on spending in the future.
Pay yourself first
For those who are tempted to spend money as soon as they receive it, it is important to have money automatically moved to your savings account before you even see it. Out of sight, out of mind...
Saving for a rainy day and for retirement is an essential part of a strong budget. If you are used to saving nothing, start with a conservative figure: 10%. Then each payday, add one percent until you reach a minimum of 20%.
If you’re trying to pay off some serious debt or recover from a super spending month, then aim for a stretch goal of saving 30%-40% in a given month.
Otherwise known as a "cheat day" in the dieting world, part of making a budget (or a diet) feel less restrictive is to have a bit of margin to allow for some indulgence.
In the case of a budget, this would mean creating a small fund for miscellaneous expenses. Having a large discretionary spending amount is what may have gotten your budget and spending out of control in the first place, but keeping it minimal forces you to be more mindful about what you spend your money on.
On the flip side, not having any margin in your budget for miscellaneous spending can be overly restrictive causing you to "break the budget" in a detrimental way. And if you can manage not spending your margin one month, then carry it over to the next month giving you even more margin for the month you do go over the top with your spending (i.e. birthday months, Christmas, vacations.)
Change your perspective
While you can’t change your money situation in one day, you can change the way you think about money and your life in a moment.
Overspending usually happens when we feel as though we’re lacking something in our lives and we try to overcorrect by buying things we really don’t need.
So in order to grow your mind (and your bank account!), consider adopting these productive attitudes:
- Gratitude is everything. When you make a concerted effort to find all the good in your life and count your blessings, you are less likely to focus on what you don’t have.
- Serve others. Fill the time you would typically spend shopping to help others by offering your skills or services. Recently, I was chatting with a new mom in my neighborhood who was looking for work, but had no idea how to write a cover letter (English was not her first language). I helped her write it over a couple of afternoons and I made a new friend out of it, too.
- Educate yourself. Wealthy people don’t waste a lot of time bingeing TV, but they do spend a lot of time reading. It can be anything from professional development to potential business ideas. Whatever you read, challenge yourself to grow your skills and knowledge.
- New hobby or side hustle. After reading a few books, you might even realize that you have skills you want to pursue as a business. It was only after I started blogging as a creative outlet (hobby) that I realized I could also be paid as a writer. Your next hobby could just as easily turn into a side hustle!
- Spend time with people you love. When you spend time with the people you love, you experience many benefits to your mental and physical health. And health is wealth, ultimately. Also, spending time with others doesn’t have to be costly. Invite a friend over for tea or go for a walk together. Your brain, body and budget will thank you for it.
Related: How To Eat Healthy On A Budget
How do you avoid spending?
Put these tips to the test and watch your bank account grow.
And if you have any other ideas on how to keep your spending at bay, please leave them in the comments below!