If opening your credit card bills, your checkbook or your wallet are traumatic events, you may have a problem with overspending. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and you’re certainly not alone, but there’s a good chance that it is keeping you from achieving some of your goals. If you have a dream of buying a car or a house, paying off debts, or any similar financial goal, then putting an end to overspending will help you get where you want to go — and it’s not as hard as you think it is.
Financial experts have come up with plenty of strategies to help you break your overspending habit and divert your money into where it serves you better. Some are better and easier than others, but the four that follow are among our favorites:
Always start with a budget. Budgeting sounds boring and hard, but it’s really just a matter of doing a little simple research, a bit of math, and then exerting some control. You start by making a list of everything you spend in the next month or so. Don’t try to use last month’s spending because there are bound to be expenses that you won’t remember. When you start writing down every expense you will be amazed at how often you reach into your pocket without thinking about it and how much those incidental purchases can add up. Once you know what you’ve spent, divide it into categories. That will help you see what can be eliminated and where you actually have to spend money. You also need to record how much cash you have on hand, then assign your available money to where it should be spent and where you can save. Once you have these areas identified you can take advantage of one of the convenient budgeting apps available for download to help you stick to a plan. You will be amazed at how much money you can save once you have actual numbers in mind. You’ll feel a much greater sense of understanding and control.
Buddy up on sticking to your budget. Like we said before, you’re far from alone in terms of overspending. There’s a good chance that if you ask a friend or family member whether they’re struggling too, the answer will be an emphatic affirmative. Agree to be accountable to each other when it comes to unplanned expenses. You can even make it a contest to see who is better at sticking to their budget each week. Just make sure that the loser isn’t forced to spend money on the winner, as that would defeat the whole purpose!
Excercise 24 hours' worth of restraint. We’ve all been there. We’re at the store and see a cool new item, or the social media algorithm puts an advertisement up that’s hard to resist. If you impose a rule that forces you to wait 24 hours before making an unplanned purchase, there’s a good chance you’ll end up able to resist the impulse buy and stick to your savings and budgeting goal. To make the rule even more effective, expand the rule by adding a day of waiting for each $100 the item would cost. It’s a great way of cooling down the urge and waiting to see just how badly you really want the item.
Be forgiving of yourself. We all know that being too strict invites overindulgence. The kid who isn’t allowed to eat sweets at home dives into the candy jar at their friend’s house. The college freshman with the strict curfew at homestays out all night their first weekend on campus, and the dieter who tries to restrict their calories to barely enough to sustain them eats whatever they can get their hands on by the third day of their diet.
The point is that if you cut your budget to the bare minimum of your essential needs, you may end up spending a lot of money on something crazy. Giving yourself an allowance for spending on splurges will help you stick to your budget and achieve your long-term financial goals.