Published in: Banks | April 7, 2020
By: Lyle Daly
You don't need to drive yourself insane to cut spending.
When you have a serious problem with overspending, it's hard to find advice that's effective without being completely over the top.
On one end of the spectrum, you have such gems as "make a budget" and "track your spending." Good enough for the typical consumer, but not for anyone who constantly finds themselves tempted to spend more than they should.
On the other end, you have the ridiculously extreme methods. Freeze your credit card in a block of ice (and hope it still works afterward?). Give yourself a small electric zap every time you use your credit card (no thanks!). These may help, but they're certainly not convenient or healthy.
What you need is a middle ground -- methods to curb overspending that won't have a negative impact on your life. Here are five that will do the trick.
If impromptu shopping sessions have been costing you a lot of money, try leaving your credit cards at home on days when you don't need to buy anything.
One of the most surefire ways to avoid unnecessary purchases is to make them less convenient. Keeping your credit cards at home means you can't buy whatever you want at a moment's notice. You'd need to go home first, and that extra effort is often all it takes to make you reconsider your plans.
It's already hard enough when you're the type of person who enjoys shopping and that little rush you get from buying something new. Promotional emails from retailers only make it more difficult to resist those cravings.
Take some time to go through your email and unsubscribe from any retail-related email lists. Whenever you make a purchase online, look for an option to opt out of future promotional emails so you can stop them before they start.
You may miss out on discounts this way, but you'll save much more by virtue of not being bombarded with ads all the time.
Most online businesses give you the option to keep your credit or debit card information on file with them. This makes the checkout process more convenient, but once again, convenience isn't the goal. The goal is to make it harder to buy things.
If you're going through the checkout process on a website or app, make sure the box to save your payment information is left unchecked. If you've saved payment information anywhere in the past, go back and delete it.
When there's extra money lying around, the overspender's natural urge is to spend it. This doesn't just apply to cash, either. Extra money in your bank accounts can also disappear quickly on an impulse buy.
To counteract this, never leave your money sitting around with nothing to do. Figure out the purpose of every dollar you make and put your money into action as soon as you get paid.
Let's say your paycheck is $1,000. Of that, you plan to put $250 into your savings account, use $600 for bills, and use $150 for discretionary spending. A smart approach would be to set up an automatic transfer of $250 to your savings and pay as many of your bills as possible immediately after each paycheck. For bills you can't pay straight away, consider setting up a separate account specifically for bill money that you don't touch for any other reason.
A common mistake among consumers who want to improve their spending is aiming for perfection. It's extremely difficult holding yourself to that kind of standard, and any slipups will wreck your motivation.
You may have heard about the way that people who eat healthily give themselves the occasional cheat meal. The same system can work wonders for improving your financial habits, except instead of a cheat meal, you give yourself the occasional cheat purchase.
Here's how it works -- set a timeframe, such as one or two weeks, during which you won't make any unnecessary purchases. If you meet that requirement, you can treat yourself to something you'd like. For example, you could try a new restaurant or plan a shopping day at some stores you like. Just make sure you also set a budget for your reward.
All the recommendations above are simple and effective ways to improve how you spend money. It takes time, but if you find ways to prevent yourself from overspending, you'll gradually start to replace your bad spending habits with newer, better ones.
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