Maintaining a budget is the first step toward financial health. This is a fabulous habit to start but sticking to a budget can be tough! We can all agree on this, right?  It's easy to spend more than you've allotted on things like dining out, entertainment, the latest fashions, and other non-necessities. Allowing yourself some non-discretionary spending each month is smart; otherwise, you'll feel deprived and unhappy. However, too many slips can hurt your progress.

These little overtures can add up to big issues. Stopping at Starbucks for your morning latte fix may be cutting into your house fund. The high cost of your premium cable service could be keeping you from paying down that credit card debt. Creating spending goals and sticking to them is crucial to reaching the financial goals you set for yourself. Take a look at these tips to help you change your spending habits and gain control of your budget. 

Know Your Weaknesses

Retail therapy is often the subject of jokes and the plot line in a movie or two, but overspending when you're feeling stressed out, sad, or upset can be a destructive habit. Ask me how I know!  Yes, been there and done that.  When this happens, try to identify your spending trigger. Perhaps consider writing down how you're feeling when you have the urge to make an impulse purchase. 

Think about your past spending habits to see if you can identify any patterns. That trigger, once identified, is only half the battle. Acknowledge the trigger and determine with what you will replace the urge to spend. Stopping something old requires starting with something new. There is no way around this.  Knowing your weaknesses when it comes to spending can help you to address these things in the future and make better choices.

And, if we’re being honest, it might require some deeper work with professional help to get a handle on this area of your life – and this my friend, is my testimony of growth.  I share often that I’ve been financially sober since 2008 and it’s been a journey ever since!  These things are way too easy to discuss in a email or conversation but quite another to work through.  Please know that I understand that and I understand we all have different stories and trauma even around money.  

Spend With Cash but Only Carry the Cash You Need 💵

Having a debit card or credit card handy can be detrimental to your willpower. It’s easy and convenient. But, carrying your entire week’s worth of spending cash in your pocket can be just as risky. So what to do? 

  • Keep a minimal amount of cash on your person when you go out. 
  • Bring just what you plan to spend to the grocery store, movie theatre, or restaurant. Some people call this the envelope method -divvying up cash into specific envelopes for weekly spending. If the envelope runs out of cash, you just can’t purchase the item. It’s time to go home. I used to use this method and it did me good. It makes you better at stopping yourself from spending. 
  • Carry the biggest bills you can. This is a psychological trick. It’s been proven that people will not spend a Benjamin as fast as a five or ten dollar bill. 

Plan Big Purchases

If you know you are going to need a new stove or your office chair is driving you crazy and you want a new one, just plan for the purchase. Add this into your budget, and start putting money away for this purchase weekly.  While you are saving, start looking for the exact product you want. Maybe this is totally online or it’s you trekking to Home Depot or Office Depot to “try out” the options. Taking time to shop, research, and choose the best item causes you to think about it for a long time. This generates excitement as you look forward to getting it, and, once gotten, will cause you to appreciate it more. 

Wait It Out (my LEARNING TO LOVE fave) ❤️

There are some purchases you'll want to allow yourself. After all, you work hard for your money and should be able to spend it on things that bring you joy. A good rule of thumb when considering whether to buy something is to wait for a specific period of time before making the purchase (even for small things). Waiting 24 hours is common, longer for larger purchases. This ensures you've given the matter some thought, done your research, and have consulted your budget. You'll feel better about such buying decisions – knowing you made them carefully and with purpose.  My best friend and business partner, Marilyn, is SO much better at this than me and I am learning to love it.  The rewards of this “pause” that I am experiencing are keeping me engaged to keep going – lol! 

The Bottom Line

These are a few proven ways to change your spending habits for the better and to gain control of your budget. Keep them in mind the next time you have the urge to make a purchase. Try incorporating one or two of these till they become a habit. Small steps still lead to big outcomes – all the time!