This is the third installment in a four-part series that helps you take control of your spending. Be sure to check out our first article on raising self-awareness and second article on fixing spending problems.
How many New Year’s resolutions have you made that were going strong in January but were sunk by July? I know, me too.
Permanent change is the most difficult kind of change to make.
For example, when I’m on a diet, there are certain triggers that always cause me to lose my way like warm chocolate chip cookies, fried mozzarella cheese sticks, and juicy bacon cheddar cheese burgers.
A spending diet can suffer from similar triggers, so let’s look at the most common and discuss ways you can fight their impulses.
Knowing You Have Money to Spare
This is the bedrock of spending impulses, and there’s no easy answer other than the realization that the whole point of saving money is to eventually have money to spare. And the moment you spend it, you’re back at ground zero.
One strategy to avoid that money-burning-a-hole-in-your-pocket feeling is to choose not to put money in your wallet and checking account in the first place.
Every time your paycheck comes in, determine the amount you don’t want to spend and immediately move it into a savings account. You’ll feel less temptation to spend it there, particularly if you can keep from monitoring your savings account balance as it grows.
Friends make life fun, but let’s face it, they can also make it expensive. This is especially true if your friends aren’t savvy with their money.
To cut expenses from your budget, sometimes you have to make tough decisions at the expense of your nightlife and popularity. It’s not easy to resist peer pressure, but it will be easier if you keep sight of your financial goals.
This won’t work for everyone, but it’s sometimes possible to turn your money frenemy into a money friend by including them in your new financial goals. Perhaps they’ve secretly wanted to make a change too.
How many times have you bought something because it was a bargain?
You can’t save money by spending it. This is why it’s a good idea to ban yourself from buying any item that is marked on-sale unless it is the reason you stepped foot in the store.
It may seem at odds with your money-saving intuitions, but banning on-sale items removes a lot of the temptation from your shopping experience.
A 2013 Ebates survey found that more than half of Americans engage in retail therapy.
Buying things feels good.
But doesn’t this spending just make us feel worse in the long-term? I’ve found no evidence that the effects of retail therapy are enduring, and I know I feel worse when I get the next credit card bill.
Instead of shopping, fight depression using healthy habits recommended by WebMD like exercise, sleep, and new activities.
When Mistakes Happen
Everybody splurges on occasion, so go ahead and accept that it will eventually happen to you. The difference between a lifelong smart spender and a lifelong overspender is the smart spender doesn’t use a relapse as an excuse for giving up. The smart spender uses buyer’s remorse as a tool that helps them keep from making more bad purchases in the future.
Stay tuned for the next installment, where we’ll tie together the lessons from this whole smart spending series.
What are your biggest spending triggers? Send them to me at [email protected] and I might blog about them in a future article.
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Adam Lucas holds a Finance degree and an MBA from the University of Kentucky. His work has appeared in many major outlets including AARP.org and GoBankingRates.com.