Personal finance

Strategic Spending: How to Tame your Spending Habits for Good

Let’s face it, in today’s world, we are constantly surrounded by temptation to spend money. The fact is, living beyond our means has become the norm as we’re driven by society to meet ideals and expectations, fuelling a desire for more, for bigger and for better.

We work hard for our money and when we don’t have the means to achieve what we want, it’s easy to succumb to the temptation and ease of borrowing that we’re exposed to on a daily basis. It’s really no wonder we find themselves in serious debt.

Yet, whilst on one level it’s the norm, there is a dark side to overspending. Over time, if not effectively managed, overspending and mounting debt can lead to serious problems which can have a significant knock-on effect to our mental and physical health and wellbeing.

So, if you’re spending habits are in danger of becoming out of control, now is the time to take action and get things back on track. There are two things that need to happen; you need to manage and address your debt and you need to regain control of your spending habits.

If you’re already in a situation where you feel things have gone too far and you’re seriously struggling to pay your bills or your mortgage, you’re not beyond help. Thankfully there are various avenues for support available and you can even stop repossession of your home if the situation has already reached this point.

Here are some great steps and approaches which can help you to regain control of your spending and help you to begin getting your finances in healthier shape.

Seek Support

If a part of you feels that perhaps your spending might have gone beyond the realms of a habitual behaviour and leaning more towards a possible addiction, it may be time to seek some professional help.

Awareness of there being a problem is the first step to overcoming any problem so if you can accept support, you could be well on your way to beating this.

That said, regardless of the severity of your spending behaviours, one of the best strategies you can have to address the problem is to have sources of support to get you through and keep you on track. Whether that’s a family member, friend or partner, sharing the problem with some will help you remain accountable and their encouragement will really help keep you motivated.

Keeping your problems to yourself will likely create avoidance behaviours and you might even feel in denial as it is your little secret. Once you speak it aloud it becomes more of a reality which will increase your drive to do something about it.

Take Stock

If you don’t know how much you have to spend on non-essential items each month, it’s extremely unlikely for you to ever stay within your means!

Therefore, your first step will be taking a realistic inventory of your regular outgoings. Record each monthly payment and when it comes to things like food and travel costs, simply work out an estimate based on the previous spending.

Once you have this, you can then take it off your monthly income. This leaves you with the money you have left to spend on non-essential items such as going out for a meal or getting your hair done etc.

Saving Opportunities

If you find that your budget is pretty tight, you might need to affect either the incoming money or the outgoing money.

To affect the incoming money, you would be making decisions about changing your employment or seeking additional income opportunities. At this point, avoid seeking additional money through loans or credit cards, this will not help you in the long term.

To affect your outgoing finances, you’ll need to look at all of your outgoings and look for savings opportunities, for example, shopping around for a cheaper energy supplier or changing where you buy your food shopping. You can also look to consolidate your existing debt into more manageable payments.

It can be very surprising just how much you can save by doing this exercise.

Once you know how much you have to spend, split out your remaining budget into where you will spend or save it. For example, putting it towards something larger or spending it at a social gathering.

Keep Track

Recording your monthly non-essential expenditure and keeping your receipts can do wonders for reducing compulsive spending, as it gives you a chance to stop and think.

If you do overspend or succumb to temptation, forgive yourself and seek to improve and adjust your budget to reflect the overspend. Beating yourself up could potentially fuel a spending spree as you look to make yourself feel better.

Reduce Temptation

Identify your high-risk areas and have some’ go to’ strategies in place for situations where you know there is a temptation to overspend. For example, leaving your credit card at home when you go on a night out, having a shopping list to stick to when you’re doing the regular food shop etc or leave all cards at home and just take your allocated amount in cash.

Another great way to keep yourself in check can be to ask yourself ‘Do I need this? Or do I want it?’ If the answer is you want it, then ask yourself ‘what will it give me?’ If the answer to this is something that is emotional and perhaps quite general for example ‘happiness’! Think of possible alternatives that don’t include spending money but could give you the same feeling or emotion. For example, calling a friend for a chat.

Overall, making small shifts and adjustments in your everyday lifestyle can have a huge impact. You’ll soon be surprised at the enjoyment you get from your ‘free’ walk in the park with your family instead of an expensive trip to a tourist attraction.

If you have any questions, please ask below!