Everyone benefits from spending less. And the key is to spend less than you make. It’s one of my first money success principles.
And it’s not optional… you must spend less than you make or you’ll battle your money forever.
Did you know that you have specific spending triggers? These triggers separate you from your hard-earned cash even though you have promised yourself that this month you will be frugal.
Some budget busters are not so easy to see; others hide in plain sight.
If you are married or have children, there are even more spending triggers luring you to spend when you don’t want to or overextend yourself.
But there is another way.
What Makes You Spend, Spend, and Spend Some More?
Insiders refer to them as spending triggers. These are emotional responses to external stimuli.
When you gain control over the triggers, you have a good chance of overcoming the spending habit. What complicates matters a little is that everyone’s trigger setup differs.
That said, there are commonalities especially in the spending triggers that catch you day-to-day.
The goal is to be methodical with your spending. You want to purchase based on meaning and how that item is going to add meaning to your life. You get to have some luxury items – but they need to have meaning for you.
For most people, spending triggers are those non-essentials that add no meaning and are purchased on impulse, emotion, or rush. The result is a quick dopamine reward hit in the brain, but a complete sabotage of your spending intentions.
Here are some easy examples…
1. Shopping lists are your friends. Resolve not to enter a store without a shopping list. Next, do not buy anything that is not on the list. Just walk away from the item. Frequently, retailers sell you on the impulse buy by pairing like products together. Case in point is the pack of hamburger buns you see near the grocery store’s meat department.
2. Take your time when buying things. If you are trying to fit in some shopping before going somewhere, postpone one or the other event. People in a rush make poor choices when comparing prices.
3. Buy the item, not the feeling. Advertisements try to sell you on a mood or emotion. If you buy this shampoo, you will be happier. This car will make people admire you. In your mind, you know that neither claim is valid. So, put the credit cards away when you feel emotions taking over. Buy the widget because you need it; not because an advertiser somewhere claims it will make you feel accomplished.
Positive Peer Pressure Works
Hold yourself accountable for where the money goes. Here’s where you can be selective and use peer pressure to your advantage.
Married partners should discuss their spending habits and impose limits. For example, a couple might agree that both need to approve of purchases totaling more than $50.
The worst thing you can do is hide your spending. Nothing good has ever come from secret banking accounts, charge cards, and cash reserves. And the secrecy erodes away at the trust in your relationship.
Along with the positive peer pressure is your choice of shopping buddy. The girlfriend who always picks up an expensive accessory and tells you how gorgeous you would look with it is not the person to take shopping with you. Conversely, bring the frugal friend who asks you when you think you will wear these shoes or that shirt.
Keep an Eye on Expenses and Adjust Your Lifestyle if Necessary
Know where your money goes.
Rich people watch their money like a hawk. They are intimate with their bank accounts and track their spending diligently. This is what it’s like to have a healthy relationship with your money.
When you know where your money is going you can start tracking your expenditures. Look at your monthly totals and make some adjustments. Take control of your money.
Write down what you buy. Yes, even the little chewing gum packets along with the afternoon soda at the gas station. You do not need to get fancy. Print out a ledger page from the internet and tally your results. Group your expenses. You will be surprised how much money you fritter away.
There is no shame in brown bagging your lunch. Just because you have always gone out for lunch does not mean that you have to continue doing so.
If you could save $50 per week, imagine how much you could sock away in a month! That is right, a cool $200. Not only that but you eat healthier along the way which is all part of a wealthywellthy life.
Credit Cards Should Stay at Home (out of sight and out of mind)
Everyone has that emergency credit card or five in the wallet. Take them out. Next, put them in a safe place. Maybe you could put them with the extra checks. Then, take out some old-fashioned cash money. Put it in your wallet. Now, you are ready to go.
The convenience of the plastic might make it easier to shop for groceries, but it does little when it comes to holding you accountable. As long as you are not over the limit, the charges go through. But when you are out of real money, you are out of options. Moreover, there is a distinct psychological appeal to paying for purchases with real money.
The loss of the money feels more real. You think twice before handing over a $20 bill – especially when you do not have another one in your wallet. The old-timers practice this budgeting trick with a lot of success. In this way, you do not spend money that you cannot afford to lose.
Here’s the exception. When you do have a handle on your spending, use credit cards that give you points or money back and only use them if you can pay them off in full every month. Then you’re not incurring high-interest rate debt, but using credit cards as a tool to build and keep strong credit ratings while earning cash or travel rewards back. If you can’t stick within your spending limits to do this with high discipline each month… leave them at home entirely and never use them for purchases if you’re still working on paying off their balances.
Set Some Short Term Goals
For example, you might want to pay off a bill or pay off debt. Commit to spending a specific amount on the item to pay it off within a particular time frame.
Where will this money come from? Once you start tracking your expenses and cutting out meaningless ones, you’ll have found money right there to put towards your debt. But this has to be written down and reviewed or built into a simple spreadsheet online for tracking. Written goals have a higher likelihood of being achieved.
Put these goals into a budget. This financial plan now affects your banking, shopping for groceries, and eating out. It is a good idea to make these goals attainable in six to 12 months – or even less. The brain is motivated by rewards and reaching success will keep you motivated and moving in the right direction.
Do Not Try to Borrow Your Way out of Debt
Curtailing your eating out expenses only takes you so far. But every day, you receive inbox messages about loans. They dangle the carrot of financial freedom in front of you. They urge you to borrow from the lender, pay off your bills, and enjoy the smaller payment.
In theory, this sounds like a winning idea. However, what happens when you do not cut up the credit cards? Or if you need to buy another car to replace the one you just paid off? Then you have the loans to pay off as well as the other bills.
Make a pact to refuse to throw good money away by the teasers that come your way. The goal is debt free, not compounding one debt on top of another.
Learn to live within your means…and below your means to really make headway towards your financial goals.
As you can see, spending money is easy. There are so many ways that vendors make the practice convenient. Saving is a little harder. However, if you are willing to take on some challenges, refine your character, and have the right people around you, you can stop wasteful spending today.
Instead of letting money come between you in your marriage, get on board with these principles and start bonding over the lifestyle you’re creating yourself of true financial freedom.
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