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 altogether. I did it and I promise you, the world does not end when you delete Facebook.
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?