Are you an emotional shopper? Or do you shop because you are bored? I have been guilty of both, although not recently I am happy to say. It can be so hard to find the will power to stop spending sometimes.
It’s just too easy to spend money! We don’t even need to leave the comfort of our armchairs to have a splurge. You can be idly browsing the internet one minute and have a virtual shopping basket full of goods the next. I am no shopaholic, but if I am not careful I can easily pop into town for one thing and come back with another four items that I didn’t realise I needed until I saw them.
So if you need to pay off debt or build your savings, how can you learn to resist temptation and just stop spending?
This is my number one way to stop spending. If I don’t hit the shops or look online then I don’t really spend anything. I know that I don’t need a lot of stuff and I don’t shop as a leisure activity. This includes charity shops! These are a weakness for me, even if they are full of bargains that I don’t need!
Stop spending on the small stuff
Even if you resist actually going shopping, it is easy to forget small purchases such as a coffee on the way to work, a magazine at lunch time, or a couple of glasses of wine with colleagues at the end of the day. If you find money being leeched from your bank account because of a lot of inexpensive items, try keeping a spending diary for a month. Seeing in black and white how much money you waste on avoidable purchases can help put you back on track.
Don’t shop with children
If you have kids around it is even harder. Not only do you have to resist your inner shopping demons, you need to stand firm against their constant pleas. If it is remotely feasible to leave them at home, even if you are just grocery shopping, then do! Even now that mine are adults, I still spend more if they are with me!
Set a budget and track your spending
Setting a budget was the action that finally gave me control of my spending. I know how much I have at the beginning of the month, how much my bills are going to be and the amount that will go into savings. What is left over has to last the month. There are loads of different apps around now to help you budget, but I prefer a basic spreadsheet.
Check your balance regularly too to check that you are on track.
Set clear goals
Having a goal to aim for can really focus your attention and help you to stop spending. Try to make your goals specific. Rather than saying ‘I want to pay off my debts’, say ‘I will pay off £100 towards my credit card every month’. My goals for the year were to put a fixed amount each month into my emergency savings fund and the same figure into a holiday/birthday fund. These goals are measurable and achievable. I feel good when I manage to achieve them!
Avoid the sales
Oooh, the sales are a dangerous time! It is so easy to tell yourself it is OK to make a purchase when an item is 50% off. This is why I often have a no spend January. Most of the sales are over by the time I dust off my wallet.
Hide your credit cards or cut them up
I have a single credit card for emergency use only. I don’t take it out with me unless I am going on holiday. It is hidden away in a drawer so that I am not tempted to grab it at home to make an online impulse purchase. I have heard people suggest freezing your credit card in a container full of water – genius! Dave Ramsey would say not to have a credit card at all (‘Cash is king’) and this is a good idea if you are a serious shopaholic. Cut it into a million pieces and throw it away. Which leads onto…
Cash is harder to spend than credit or debit cards. You can feel the money in your hand and you can see it leaving you. It hurts more to hand over the paper stuff than flash your debit card over the pay machine. If you go out to make a purchase with £20 and no cards then £20 is all you are going to spend.
Have regular no spend periods
Have regular no spend days, weeks or even months. Once I have a rule that I am buying nothing except essentials for a set period I find it easy to stop spending. The rule is absolute, so no arguing with myself or anyone else. No, I can’t go out to dinner/the pub/the cinema, I am on a no spend month. Yes, new shoes would be nice, but actually I am on a no spend week so I will wear one of the 10 pairs already in the cupboard.
Unsubscribe from newsletters
I try not to get sucked in to subscribing to updates or newsletters when I make an online purchase. However, sometimes those clever companies make it easy to miss the little box you have to tick. Just unsubscribe when they come through, then you won’t be constantly tempted by special offers or discounts.
If you still receive glossy catalogues through the post, cancel those too. Put any you have lying around in the recycling. They make everything look so beautiful and tempting!
Don’t buy glossy magazines
These are even worse than catalogues. They present the perfect (expensive) lifestyle. It’s easy to feel rubbish if your home doesn’t look as stunning as those in the carefully set up scenes, your garden isn’t full of expensive furniture or exotic plants or you haven’t got a wardrobe full of immaculate clothes like the stick thin models. Who do you know you actually lives like that? Well, there may be a couple, but most of us cope with furniture scratched by the cats and wander round in our trackie bottoms and no bra as often as we can get away with it. (Please don’t tell me that is just me!)
If you want to keep your spending to a minimum get organised. Keep a running shopping list and plan your meals. You are much less likely to buy food you won’t use or give in to a take away if you know what is for dinner each night.
When you are out and about takes refreshments. I don’t even go into town without a water bottle and often even a flask of coffee. I keep a stash of cereal bars to take out as well. Occasionally I love a coffee out, but this can become an expensive habit if you aren’t careful.
I deserve it
I remember when I first had a Saturday job, aged 16. One of my colleagues often said (as she spent most of her pay packet before she had even left the shop), ‘A working gal needs to treat herself’. For a while I followed her example, but pretty soon realised I was just handing my employer back my hard earned wages!
It’s really easy to fall into the trap of treating yourself because you have been working hard, or feeling poorly, or are a bit down… Just remember what your goals are and how much better you will feel when you make it to the end of the month with no overdraft.
Shop from home to stop spending
When I feel tempted to buy new clothes because I ‘have nothing to wear’, I go through everything I already own. A wardrobe declutter will always reveal some gems I forgot I had. The same with books, CDs (if you are old fashioned, like me!), kitchen gadgets, tools, etc. This will take your mind of the temptation to buy something new and you might find some unwanted items worth selling. Which brings me to…
Sell instead of buy
As another distraction technique for the shopaholic, how about going through the stuff you already have and making some money? There aren’t many folk in the Western world who don’t possess lots of ‘stuff’. Items that were purchased on impulse and not used, or bought for a particular occasion and used just the once. I am a big fan of decluttering as a kind of therapy. It makes me feel in control and living a (slightly) more minimalistic lifestyle feels less stressful.
If you can sell some of the things you declutter and put the money towards your savings goals or paying debt, you get a double benefit. Time for a spring clean, maybe?
I’ve blown the budget already
Once you have given into temptation, it suddenly becomes so much easier to spend more money. It’s so weird as you would think the opposite would be the case. I find once I have loosened the purse strings a bit I need to be careful not to go crazy with my spending. It is easy to think, ‘Oh well, I have blown the budget now, I might as well get this too’. Be aware if this is you and try to extract yourself from temptation as quickly as possible.
Build in treats
If you do need to stick to a tight budget, it is important to build in some treats. A sense of deprivation and resentment can soon set in if you don’t, no matter how determined you are. A monthly Chinese takeaway, an occasional trip to the cinema or whatever you fancy will be guilt free and more enjoyable when you know you can afford it.
Beg, borrow, share
As many of your family and friends will have useful items such as steam cleaners, hedge trimmers and various power tools that don’t get used frequently, ask to borrow rather than buying new. Offer use of whatever gizmo you already own in exchange.
Join Freecycle or Freegle and see what is being given away for free. You can also post wanted ads for particular items. Just don’t be one of those annoying people who always takes without occasionally giving though!
Understand your triggers
Often your triggers for spending are obvious when you start to think about it. PMT, a tough day at work, loneliness, boredom…. Try to identify yours so that you can develop a strategy to deal with it without spending money. If you are bored or lonely, how about volunteering? If your spending patterns are filling some kind of void in your life, maybe it is possible to find another way to fill it.
The money saver’s chant
Can I afford this? Do I really need this, do I really want it, will I still need it tomorrow? The more you ask yourself these questions before each purchase, the more likely they are to become a habit.
What do you do to stop spending?