Do you find yourself accumulating a bigger balance on your credit card every month? Are your closets, drawers, and cabinets overflowing because you keep buying things you do not need? Do you take a nervous look at your bank account balance a few days before each paycheck and wonder where all the money went? Is it common for you to go to the store for one item and find yourself coming home with ten? Each of these can be signs that you have an overspending habit, where you spend more than you can afford. Overspending can cripple you financially and hold you back from reaching your long-term financial goals, but the good news is that you do not have to resign yourself to chronic overspending.
Tips to Break Bad Spending Habits
- Get on the same page with your significant other. If you are married and manage your money together, your individual efforts may not be able to change your joint finances if your spouse overspends. Sit down together to talk about your spending habits, and resolve to work together to cure any overspending habits you discover.
- Track your spending, so you know how bad your habits are. It is hard to solve a problem if you do not know you have a problem. If you suspect you've been overspending, keep a log of all spending for a week, or even better, a month. Note what you bought and how much it cost, and then add up categories at the end of your week or month. You may be shocked to learn how much you are spending on clothes, coffee, fast food, electronic gadgets, gifts, or other items that fuel your habitual overspending.
- Decide what you would rather be spending on. It helps to have a tangible financial goal to focus on when you have the urge to spend on things that are going to block you from reaching your goal. You may decide you want to pay off a credit card, build an emergency fund, get on track with retirement savings, save for a house, or take a dream vacation. Once you set your sights on a specific goal, it is easier to cure your overspending habit because every dollar you spend takes a dollar away from your goal. Remind yourself of this by writing your goal down and putting it in your wallet where you see it each time you buy something.
- Budget how much you will spend in each category. It is often difficult to go cold turkey and stop spending entirely, and some amount of spending can be appropriate for your lifestyle and helpful for your mood and well-being. Therefore, decide how much you would like to be spending in each category of purchases. You can budget these amounts per month or pay period, depending on what makes more sense to you.
- Use cash so you can't overspend. Swiping a card is far too easy, and you might spend more than you intended to in a category without even realizing it. Once you have a budgeted spending allowance, withdraw this money in cash and put it in a special place, like an envelope or a designated coin pouch. When the cash runs out, don't spend any more on that type of purchase until you get your next allowance at the beginning of the month or after your next paycheck comes in.
- Check in regularly to track your progress. Even if you think you have a foolproof budgeting system that will keep you from overspending, you may find ways to cheat, like saving up your spare change and using it to fuel your spending addiction. Every few months, spend a week tracking your actual spending of every penny to make sure you are not letting continued bad habits go unnoticed.
- Compete with a friend for support and accountability. It is always helpful to have someone you can talk to about your spending habits and goals who is in the same boat as you. Compare notes on a regular basis to see how you are doing, and maybe even set up a friendly competition to see who can cut their spending the most. Plus, when you have a friend who is trying to cut spending too, you can find inexpensive ways to hang out together, which helps you both achieve your goals.