It happens—you ignore your budget and before you know it, your expenses have spiraled out of control.
Usually, it starts small. Maybe you like to stop for a morning coffee at the shop around the corner. While you’re there standing in line, your eyes wander over to the warm pastries peeking at you from behind the glass counter. Why not, right? You’re already there and one pastry won’t cost much. But tomorrow, the same thing happens and soon after that, you find yourself looking forward to the pastry every day.
It’s so easy to develop bad money habits and it’s incredibly difficult to break them. Difficult, but not impossible. If you need a little help spending your cash better and controlling impulse shopping, use these strategies.
How To Create Better Money Habits
It’s much easier to stay on track with your financial goals when you plan ahead. One simple way to do this is by meal planning.
Meal planning is a small step that can save you so much money in the long run. It reduces the number of times you eat out and you won’t buy groceries only to throw them away a week later.
If you’re new to this technique, read How To Save Time And Money With Meal Planning for a step-by-step guide.
Wait 24 Hours
Often, you see something and all of a sudden, you must have it. It seems like the most important thing in the world and you can’t live without it.
Retail stores are designed to push these natural impulses. That’s why there are sweets and other tempting items right next to the cashiers in grocery stores. While you’re waiting to pay for your groceries, you look around and see a yummy candy bar right within arm’s reach.
So, what do you do? Grab one of course, or several if you have a giant sweet tooth like I do.
When you see an item that’s not on your shopping list or you had absolutely no intention of purchasing it, wait 24 hours. Usually, within that time, you’ll completely forget about the impulse buy or it won’t seem important at all anymore. If a full day passes and you just can’t stop thinking about that item, budget for it and buy it when you can afford it.
Honesty IS the Best Policy
One of the worst money habits we tend to develop is dishonesty.
Are you tracking all of your transactions?
ALL of them??
It may seem like small purchases don’t matter so you don’t take note of them. But think about it this way… If you spent $2 every single day for an entire year, that’s $730!
What could you do with an extra $730 each year? Make an extra payment on your mortgage, take a short trip, increase your emergency fund that much quicker.
When it comes to finances, honesty is the best policy. We choose not to pay attention to all of our expenses when we’ve gotten derailed. It feels easier somehow not to “fess” up to what we did.
Instead of burying your head in the sand or beating yourself up, get back up on that horse. Assess your bank statements, add up receipts and see what you need to do to get back on your planned financial path.
Sometimes, the best way to break your bad money habits is to just quit cold turkey.
Determine what you will stop buying during this time. Is it all unnecessary purchases or just specific areas where you struggle the most? Personally, I have a hard time with eating out as cooking is not my favourite pass-time. So, when I decide to go hard-core, this is the area I cut out.
Next, decide how long you want to go without spending any money on unnecessary expenditures—a week, one month? If it’s your first spending freeze, start small and try one week. It may seem daunting but it’s entirely possible if you follow my first tip and plan ahead. Meal plan and prepare your food for the upcoming time. Plan activities at home like a movie night with some microwave popcorn instead of going out.
Let your friends and family know about your intentions. This way they’ll be more understanding and won’t make suggestions that might tempt you. Striving to save money is nothing to be ashamed of so don’t be afraid to inform those closest to you.
If your bad money habits have led to unmanageable debt, seek professional help. Don’t dodge debt collectors or risk losing your home. It’s important to find a trusted source that can get you back on your feet.
While your spending habits may not be to the point where you’re deep in debt, you may still recognize that you need a hand. Speak to a family member or friend who will take your concerns seriously and be willing to guide you. Sometimes, having someone to lean on that can say no and remind you of your goals is all you need.
One of my friends had racked up a huge credit card balance and turned to her mother for help. She actually froze her credit card in a huge block of ice and left it at her parent’s house. I had heard about this on T.V but never actually knew of anyone who went ahead and did it in real life. But, it worked for her. She no longer had easy access to the card and was able to slowly pay off her debt. I don’t recommend freezing your card in case it gets damaged but if you need to take drastic measures, then do it!
The key to curbing your bad money habits and to control impulse spending is to know your weak spots and take the necessary precautions to avoid them. Be aware of your budget and be completely honest with yourself. Even if you do occasionally go off the rails, you’re human and it happens to the best of us. Pick yourself up and move on!