Help with Spending Control
It’s almost too easy to spend money these days, and that makes it even easier to get carried away by our spending habits. If you feel like your spending has spiraled out of control, it’s best not to ignore it. There’s no shame in admitting to a spending problem – in fact, the sooner we recognize our spending habits, the sooner we can improve our financial health. Let’s start by looking at signs that indicate a spending problem and what can be done to overcome it. Of course there’s no reason to do this alone, your Brightside Financial Assistant is here to help you, just ask.
Identify the Problem
The first step to getting control over our spending is to recognize that there might be a problem. Some signs of a spending problem include:
- Using credit cards but only paying the minimum payment each month
- Running out of money toward the end of the month
- Monthly rent or mortgage payment is greater than one third of your take-home pay
- Having to choose between which bills to pay first
- Falling deeper and deeper into debt
- Leaving stores with items you hadn’t intended to buy
- Hiding purchases from others
Identifying the Triggers
An important step for many people is understanding the things that cause them to spend money. Identifying the emotional or psychological triggers that lead to spending can help you make changes and remove temptations to allow you to take control of your money and bring your spending in line with your values and what’s most important to you. Taking this step can help you neutralize the triggers and spend with purpose. There are many common triggers that affect people – if you can relate to any of the following ones, know that you’re not alone.
Time of day: There may be certain times of the day when you’re more likely to spend. One common example is when you’re tired, either physically or mentally. Find times to shop when you have more energy and less mental strain. You’ll find you make wiser decisions when you’re rested, calm, and not pressured.
The setting: Are there certain places where you’re more likely to spend or feel obligated to do so? Like a favorite store, a craft fair or home shopping network, or a mall? Identify the places that may be a problem and have a plan to either limit how often you go, or how much you’re able to spend (take a specific amount of cash, don’t bring credit cards, etc.). Going with a plan can limit or often eliminate impulse purchases. Especially be aware of going to these places when another one of the triggers listed here also exists (time of day, social situations, etc.)
Social situations: Do you tend to spend more when you’re out with friends, family, or coworkers? Do you feel the need to spend more during holidays or for gifts? Even well-intentioned friends can influence you to spend in ways you otherwise wouldn’t. Plan a certain amount of spending into your budget for social events. Find ways to say “no.” It’s ok to decline an invite or to suggest an alternative that requires less spending (coffee instead of lunch, potluck dinner instead of eating out, clothing swap instead of retail shopping). You can communicate your situation without revealing all your financial details, for instance instead of saying “It’s too much,” or “I don’t have the money,” you can say you’re trying to reduce your spending to accomplish one or more goals. When you approach it this way, they may be able to help and provide positive peer pressure to help you stick with it.
Emotional state: Is shopping an outlet for when you’re feeling stressed, angry, anxious, or sad? Some refer to it as retail therapy but it may cause its own stress. Find other outlets that help without adding costs, such as going out for a walk or other outside activity. Be aware of what moods or emotions may cause you to spend more; have a plan for how to respond and what you’ll do to make it through without breaking the bank.
Something is too good to pass up: Do you find yourself making purchases just because you found a deal – even if you don’t really need the items? Or perhaps you need what’s on sale but you buy other things you hadn’t planned on? Be aware of how these apply to you and think of ways you can address your specific situation. Perhaps setting a specific time frame in which you do research or consider if you need the item(s) – Giving yourself 24 hours is a good start.
Gaining control of your spending isn’t easy, but your Financial Assistant is here to help you. Even implementing small steps such as using cash instead of credit cards, removing apps and websites from your phone and computer can have an impact on your overall financial health.