Yes, another year is almost over. Most of us take a few minutes to sit and ponder about how we can make next year better; more profitable, save more, spend less, max out the retirement plans, save for vacation, put money in our grandchildren’s college savings plan…. the list goes on. The key is to break bad spending habits so you can have that extra money. You have to control spending. After all, we love control in most areas of our lives but often, we fail to have it when we spend our hard-earned money.
So, here’s 5 tips that can help you achieve this:
1. Only take 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. Why? 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? Because, putting $20 of merchandise back at that point would be embarrassing!
But if you leave your cards 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.
2. Leave and come back
If you’re looking to make a purchase, force yourself to think about it. Put the item back, think about it and purchase it after you have had time to let it sink in. Some people have suggested waiting a day while others suggest even waiting a month if it’s over a certain amount. I actually recommend doing a “walk-through” before making purchases. This entails taking no cash or debit/credit with you when shopping. You can truly weigh the costs and benefits of a purchase.
3. 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 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. It could be the cheese deli, a particular online site or that new Gucci purse! Just know what makes you weak in the knees and stay away.
4. 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 to me all the time. So, I recommend taking 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!
Use a site like Still Tasty or Eat By Date to create a list of the fresh items you have, that way you can make sure you eat everything before it goes bad. 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.
5. 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. This process will help because you’ll realize that you can still spend money on things, but you just need to limit yourself so you can meet your other goals.
Remember. take baby steps...
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.
As always, if you need suggestions or help with budgeting, you can call your financial advisor.