Managing your finances is a lot like managing your diet. There’s only so many calories you should consume in a day. There’s only so much money you should spend each day.
Knowing that doesn’t prevent us from overindulging. Bad spending habits have a way of sneaking up on us, just like too much late-night snacking does on our pants.
In the last few years, we’ve paid off $40,000 in debt and I lost 30 pounds. It took some serious work to break our bad spending habits and change our diets. And it’s still something we work on today. But I have found some things that help me keep my budget in line.
Attitude is everything.
It’s not enough to say you want to change your financial situation. You have to want to make the change. You have to be willing to do whatever it takes to make the change. You have to be willing to roll up your sleeves and be willing to do the work to get to your goal.
You’ve got to deal with your emotions.
Your emotions play a huge role in your spending habits. You are going to have to take a hard look at why you spend money on things you know you shouldn’t. Is it because you’re trying to fill some kind of void in your life? Are you depressed? Is jealousy causing you to try to keep up with the Joneses? Are you spending because your bored? Are you being guilted into spending?
Think about how you feel before, during and after you’ve made a bad spending decision. Talk it over with a friend or even a therapist.
Once you’ve dealt with the emotions that cause you to spend money, you’ll be better positioned to recognize the feelings that trigger your bad spending habits. And if you can recognize those feelings, you can figure out ways to cope with them that don’t involve any retail therapy.
Figure out positive alternatives.
To truly break a bad spending habit, you have to replace the negative behavior with a healthier, more positive one. Instead of ordering take out, find a copycat recipe for your favorite restaurant meal and make that. If a certain store is dangerous for you to shop in, send another family member instead. Unsubscribe to e-mail lists that tell you all about store deals and sales. Go for a walk. Head to the library. Stop carrying your credit cards and stick to cash. Keep a running tally of your savings and post it where you can see it. Yes, you want to eliminate bad spending habits to save money. But frugality is not about deprivation. It’s about finding low-cost or even free alternatives. Make do with what you have.
Make all of your spending intentional. Shop with a plan. Shop with a limited amount of cash in your wallet. Only buy what you truly need or truly love.
Take things one day at time.
Chances are you’ve spent years developing your bad spending habits. You can’t expect to just go cold turkey in a day. Each day presents its own challenges. Some days it feels like each hour presents its own challenges! Start by making small, incremental changes. Once you’ve had some success, you can build on it. Which leads me to my next point:
Don’t beat yourself up over setbacks.
Slip-ups happen. We all make mistakes. Don’t beat yourself up over it. And don’t use it as an excuse to continue a backwards slide. Instead, acknowledge that you messed up, determine what caused it to happen so you can avoid it next time, and start again. Keep moving forward.
If you’re serious about changing a bad spending habit, find a friend or significant other who will help keep you accountable. Enablers need not apply for this task! You need someone to listen to you and to talk you down from the ledge when you’re about to spend money on something you don’t need. The buddy system also gives you someone to brainstorm positive alternatives to your spendthrift ways.
Celebrate your successes.
Celebrate your successes, no matter how small they are. Did you manage to make it to work without stopping at Starbucks for a $4 latte? YAY! Do a happy dance in your office. Managed to save $30 by not hitting the drive-thru? Put that money saved to good use (like putting it toward debt, building savings, or a special splurge). Tell others about your success and let them congratulate you. Surrounding yourself with supportive people and adding in a healthy dose of positive self-talk can do wonders for keeping you from falling back into bad spending habits.
Breaking bad spending habits takes time. Revisit these steps often to help you stay on track. Keep working towards your goals. I know you can do it!
Leave a Reply