If you often find yourself tempted to buy things you don’t really need, even though you know you don’t have the money to spare, it might be time to address your overspending habit.
Whether your vice is gadgets, clothes or entertainment, these strategies should help you fight temptation and get your spending habits in check:
1. Have a goal in mind
Think of an important financial goal that you want to achieve – it could be anything from buying your own house or getting a new car to putting your kids through university. Find a photo or drawing that illustrates your goal and put it in a small notebook. You’ll now carry this notebook with you everywhere you go, and when you are tempted to spend money, take out the picture and remind yourself how it’s going to feel to be driving around town in your new wheels or watching proudly at your son’s graduation ceremony. Now write down whatever it is you’ve decided not to buy and make a note of the value. Over time you’ll get great satisfaction from seeing how much money you’ve ‘saved’ towards your goal.
2. Find a distraction
Write down a list of things you really like to do (aside from spending money). Maybe it’s going for a walk in the park, reading a book, baking, or visiting art galleries. The idea is that every time you feel tempted to spend, you can turn to one of these activities to distract you and give you something else to enjoy.
3. Find a spending buddy
Or a not-spending buddy, as the case may be. Find someone who is happy to help you handle your compulsion to spend; it could be your partner, a friend, or a relative. They may even be struggling with the same problem themselves. Whenever you find yourself feeling the urge to go on a spending spree, call your buddy instead and let them take your mind off the urge to spend.
4. Stop, look, and listen
The idea of this strategy is to apply some rational thinking to your urges. You need to stop when the impulse hits you (deliberately not act on it), look at what it’s telling you to do (go now and spend money), and then listen to your more logical self (“I already have a suit that I can wear to the interview.”)
5. Make some new habits
The only way to truly break your overspending habit is to replace it with some new, more financially healthy ones. Practice going against what your shopaholic self would do with some of these exercises:
- Keep some money in your wallet for a whole month without spending it
- Leave your credit cards at home for one week (and no, that doesn’t mean you can still use them for online shopping)
- Give yourself a 24-hour cooling off period before buying anything over $10
- If you’re planning to buy something costing more than $20, check the price in three different locations before making the purchase
6. Find a new way to make yourself feel good
In many cases, people over-spend because it makes them feel better – at least temporarily. If this is the case for you, find something else that can meet these needs, such as taking a course to learn a new skill, joining a special interest club or doing some volunteer work. As you find a new sense of purpose through these routes you will hopefully lose interest in all that spending.
7. Avoid tempting situations
Know the situations in which you’re most likely to give in to your urges, and avoid them as best you can. If you find it hard to control your spending at the shopping mall, don’t go there unless necessary, and then only visit the stores for the items you need. If you know you get bored in the evenings and start browsing online shops, keep your computer off and find some other things to do with your time.
8. Keep a record of your progress
Every time you feel like you’ve taken a step forward by not giving in to temptation or by making a positive choice to avert your urges, write it down. The journey to better spending habits will take time, so it’s good to have a record of how far you’ve come.
9. Treat yourself
Allow yourself rewards when you hit certain milestones or accomplish particular tasks. If you manage to go without your credit card for a whole month, for example, you could celebrate with a night at the movies. You could even go for a shopping trip with a friend, as long as you make it slow and deliberate and you focus on enjoying the experience rather than the high you get from spending.
A combination of these strategies should see you well on the way to better financial management and, ultimately, greater wealth.