How to Stop Spending All of Your Money

It can be hard to stop spending money if you've never budgeted. Here are 3 simple ways to stop spending money foolishly and not give up happiness.

Saving money is an easy idea in theory, but sometimes putting it to practice seems downright impossible. We know what we need to do– save more money and quit buying so much– but for many of us, it is such a hard habit to form.

It seems to be so easy for us to part with all, or at least more than we should, of our money. Maybe that’s because spending can be such an emotional experience. Think for a minute about what you’ve spent money on recently. Likely, it’s been a mix of functional or utilitarian purchases and emotional or ‘want-based’ as opposed to ‘need-based’ items. It’s those ‘want-based’ items or discretionary spending that I’m addressing in this post.

Why is it so hard to stop spending?


We all have bad habits. We always seem to be chasing after the next thing that’ll supposedly enhance our lives. We’re constantly telling ourselves that we “need” this or that and that we “deserve” to have nice things because we work so hard. Yes, we do work hard but all of these have a common theme: they are excuses.

We need to stop making excuses for our purchases and our shopping behaviors, and start keeping some money in our pockets once and for all. After all, we worked hard for it, and we do deserve to keep it. But where do you start? It’s hard to break habits that have been with us for decades.

When we started to become seriously frugal, I had to learn how to stop spending all our money, but it wasn’t easy because I didn’t know where to start. Sometimes you just have to jump in headfirst to make good things happen, so that’s what I did. If you don’t know where to start, here’s how to stop spending all your money.

Track Your Spending


I know you’ve probably heard this one before, but it’s only because it’s true. You will never know where all of your money is going unless you track your spending, and it doesn’t have to be hard or tedious.

To start, carry around a small notebook to record every last purchase you make for a month. If that’s too tedious for you, use your debit card for every single purchase, just so you can see it recorded in one place at the end of the month. Either way you choose, just do it. The first time is a very eye-opening experience, and one that could help spur some big financial changes in your life. If you prefer something more digital, you can also use a free app, like Personal Capital, to help track your spending and monitor your finances.

Map Your Triggers


Once you have your first month’s results, review it and be honest about where you need to cut back. When I first tracked my spending, I realized that I overspent every time I visited Target or Etsy. Guess what that meant? I had to delete my Etsy account and stop driving to Target. It wasn’t rocket science, but by removing myself from temptation, I magically started saving money and not making as many impulse buys.

Maybe your weakness is a shopping app on your phone, sale emails that you receive from your favorite store or envy that is sparked when you see a new purchase a friend has made on Facebook.

If that’s the case, then the solution is simple: cut it out of your routine. Unsubscribe from email lists, delete that app from your phone, unfriend the people who make you envious or delete Facebook all together. I did it and I promise you, the world does not end when you delete Facebook.

It can be hard to stop spending money if you've never budgeted. Here are 3 simple ways to stop spending money foolishly and not give up happiness.

Think About How You Used to Live


My best reminder when I’m tempted to spend money that I shouldn’t is to think about how I used to live, before lifestyle inflation crept in. When I was in college, I had little money and few possessions, but I was very happy. My life was filled with great experiences, and I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything or that I needed more. I had an old car, no debt, and few worries. It was a simple, happy time and one that I can reflect on when I think I can buy myself a little happiness at a store. Good things in life don’t revolve around buying things.

Whether it’s staying out of the mall or making your own coffee at home, you probably already know what your spending weaknesses are and what you need to do about them. If you really want to start saving money, you’ve got to stop making excuses and fix the problem, period. There’s no magical method about how to do it, you just have to start.


What are your spending weaknesses? What helps you save money? When do you think lifestyle inflation crept in on you?

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Robin is a freelance writer who chronicles her financial missteps and victories on her blog


  • We still experience some lifestyle inflation, but most of it is kept in check by our zero-sum budget. Since we map out our spending for the month, it’s easy to stick to that plan.

  • We’re pretty frugal most of the time, but sometimes I have to try really hard keep my spending in check, especially this time of the year.

  • Oh good. I thought it was just me that decided I needed to break off my unhealthy relationship with Target. 😉

    Doing a minimal spending month in October definitely helped me see where my weak points lie and where I was spending on things that didn’t really contribute to improving our quality of life. I have a much better idea of what’s important to us now.

    • I threw Target in there because I suspect that a LOT of people have trouble with Target. I always say how much I hate Walmart (and I do), but then I go and blow way too much money at Target, which is really just a “fancier” (read: more expensive) version of Walmart. It’s the same thing!

  • Latoya S says:

    “Good things in life don’t revolve around buying things.” – Wow this is so true! This post really resonates with me because even though I preach about a budget, I have still have a spending problem that and a bunch of budget leaks.

    Not only does it come down to entitlement issues, but these things become unhealthy addictions. For instance, my leaks for the last few weeks all started with a delicious Reese’s cup.

    Every time I drive by a store or go through checkout, I have to go through ten reasons why I shouldn’t get it before I end up caving in and buying it. Then I’ll tell myself it’s the last time.

    The struggle is real, but I guarantee if I track those Reese’s temptations as you suggested, I’d immediately put it back once I realize how much it’s costing me.

    • Well, I’d say if Reese’s is one of your biggest spending temptations, at least it’s just a buck or two at a time, so I don’t think it’s that bad! But there is the problem of all that added sugar… (I have the same problem!) 😉

  • Hannah says:

    One of my spending triggers is stepping foot into a grocery store, so I’ve found that I can limit my spending by shopping at just one store, and just once a week. When I fill up my cart with meats, produce, and staples, I don’t have as much room for fourteen types of fancy cheese, or an ingredient that I would love to use eventually, but isn’t a very economical choice.

    • I only shop once a week as well, and that has really helped me save money at the store. However, I’ve recently changed my thoughts on trying to save so much money on groceries. The way I see it, as long as you’re not throwing out a bunch of wasted food, then grocery store shopping will always be cheaper than going out to eat… Not to mention it’s healthier, and healthy foods typically cost more. So I think it’s worth it to splurge a little at the store to eat healthy foods and stay out of restaurants, even if that means buying too many fancy cheeses (which we do, too!)

  • A great way to keep lifestyle inflation in check is to automate savings. If we get a raise, we increase our 401k contribution…we don’t see the extra cash in the paycheck or checking account…out of sight, out of mind.

  • I definitely love to shop, but I don’t want to spend a lot. I guess because of my shopping habits, I tend to side hustle a lot. This extra earned money is great, because I don’t have to worry about going over my budget. I think my spending habit comes from my childhood as I grew up in Eastern Europe where there was absolutely nothing to buy. So now the capitalism gives us all the opportunities. Another thing that does work for me is just not going to near a mall at all! 🙂

    • I’m the same way– as long as I stay out of the shops, I’m fine! No temptation.

      That’s an interesting point you made about growing up in Eastern Europe and not being able to buy much. I thought I was the way I am with shopping because I grew up with it as a “hobby,” but since you didn’t and you still like it, that makes me think…

  • I arrange with my bank to automate my savings. Before I spend my income, I already set aside my savings.

    By focusing on my long term goals help me to avoid temptation to spend more what I can afford of. I leave my credit card and debit card at home every time we go for shopping. It is very easy to control my expenses if I use cash to pay.

  • Ours varies between actual limitations and us relying a bit too much on those limitations. Sometimes we really aren’t well enough to be organized and get everything we need on sale/at a cheaper store/whatever.

    But I do think I need to renew the effort to be a bit more proactive about keeping certain things in stock at our house. It’ll save us in the long run.

  • I agree with minimizing trips to the store–whether it’s the mall, Target, or even the grocery store as people commented. I used Amazon subscribe & save for certain household items because the prices are competitive even compared to generics, and it saves me trips to the store and the risk of impulse purchases there.

  • Kathy says:

    My weakness is buying books. Our local library is not the greatest and I keep most of the books I buy. One thing I’ve started doing is buying used books in very good or like new condition from Amazon vendors. You can get huge discounts and the books are often good as new.

    • I used to be a book hoarder, too, because I was an English major in college. I really wanted a full room dedicated as a library, even with a ladder and everything. But then I became a minimalist, and I’m lucky to have the most amazing library ever that can order me any book I need.

  • Tracking your spending might be difficult, but it’s definitely worth it. I did it for my spending and then was able to cut out a nice little chunk of unnecessary spending. This adds up over time. I also like the idea of finding your triggers. I guess mine would be being bored. I read a LOT, so if I don’t want to order from the library or if I’m out of town, it’s very easy for me to get 5 or 6 Kindle books at one time…. and that adds up too. 🙂

  • When I really need to lock down my spending I ask myself one question with all of my spending choices “Is it life or death?” If the answer is yes, then I will spend the money, if not, then it’s not something I need to spend money on. It’s amazing how little you realize you need to spend when you put it in terms of life or death.

    • That’s a pretty fool-proof trick, I bet! I have a similar thing that I do– I think, did anyone even need this 100 years ago? That’s another one that’s pretty fool-proof, even though sometimes it feels a little silly.

  • Lifestyle inflation is tough to deal with, and it’s not something I think about often as I haven’t experienced it to any great degree. I know that it won’t do much if you ALWAYS inflate your lifestyle, but I still think for 20-somethings that increasing your income is going to have a much bigger impact than pretty much any other personal finance “move” or “improvement.”

  • Robin, what helps me stop spending my money is I never go to shops and I save first before I buy. These are just simple ways but they have helped me so much with achieving my financial goals.

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