Everywhere you turn, you need to buy something. Grocery stores put impulse items next to the registers, so you’re sure to see them before you leave the store. Your favorite stores send you emails showing you their latest deals. Maybe everyone’s talking about a show, and you’ve been dying to see it, but downloading will cost you $1.99 an episode. All these little things add up to a lot of temptation to your financial self control.
All these superfluous purchases you make throughout the month add up to nothing left in your wallet by the end, or may even cause difficulty with paying bills. This happens when you have little or no self-control when it comes to your spending. Your lack of self-control causes you to spend a few dollars here or there, so you get a little instant gratification instead of the benefit of saving your money or paying down debt, and you probably don’t realize you’re doing it. Bad short-term choices can have bad long-term consequences, especially when it comes to spending.
Fortunately, you can overcome your lack of financial self-control and make sounder financial decisions that can have a huge impact on your financial future.
Here are six strategies that can help you regain control of your spending and exercise some financial self control.
1. Need vs. Want
Before each purchase you make, ask yourself, “Do I need this or do I want it?” Understand that this isn’t the type of need you mean when you say that your dog “just needs to have that blue sweater with the fire hydrant on it.” Is it something you need to have to survive? If you can live without it, do so. Otherwise, the purchase is just going to push you further into debt. Of course, if you deprive yourself of all treats or fun entirely, you won’t be able to stick to any kind of plan. Treat yourself now and then, but for the most part, stick to the Need vs. Want method.
2. Don’t Make Excuses
Sometimes, we convince ourselves that we need something by making excuses. Perhaps you’re feeling a little tired this morning, so you stop for a $5 latte on your way to work. Instead, make yourself a cup at home and make it a little stronger than usual. Making excuses for frivolous purchases will only result in more debt. Often, one excuse leads to another, and you find yourself back where you started.
3. Stick with Cash
Credit and debit cards don’t feel like real money. It’s so easy to use them that it hardly feels like you’re spending anything, making it barely register with your financial self control. A swipe here and an insert there, and you could have any little thing you want without feeling like it costs you a dime. If you use cash for everything, you feel your hard-earned money leaving your hands, and you may be less likely to let it go. Using only cash makes it easier to budget your spending, too. Calculate how much money you want to spend for the week and take only that with you. If you run out, don’t spend anymore.
4. Avoid Temptations
Think about the places where you like to spend money on things you don’t need. Is it the coffee shop? The mall? Maybe shopping online is your vice. Unsubscribe from store emails or texts, and stay off Amazon! By avoiding those places where you’re most vulnerable to non-essential spending, more of your money will stay right where it belongs, with you.
5. Skip Expensive Social Events
If you meet friends for dinner and drinks regularly, you’re overspending. Sure, going out for meals, movies, concerts, or other social events is fun, but it can be expensive. This doesn’t mean you have to become a recluse; look for other ways to gather with your friends such as picnics in the park or getting together at someone’s house for a game night or movie marathon. You’ll probably find that your friends will enjoy your newfound financial self control and saving money, too.
6. Track Everything
Impulse spending usually gets out of control because it’s easy to lose track of how much you’re spending. Whether you use a notebook or you download an app to your phone, recording every purchase and reviewing it to see where your money is going will open your eyes to wasteful spending. This can be a menial and frustrating task, but it doesn’t have to be a long-term one. Once you know where the waste is, you can change your spending habits to eliminate or reduce it.
Self-control is an important part of life. If you eat too many burritos and spend all your time watching reruns of The Office, you’ll gain weight, and the same principle can be applied to your finances. It takes self-control to eat healthy foods and exercise regularly. Creating good financial self control takes the same type of discipline. If you can keep your spending down and your savings up, you can have a healthy financial future for you and your family.