How to Stop Spending Money You Don’t Have
Another payday hits, and you’ve already got the itch to go shopping. Next thing you know, your paycheck is spent before the weekend is over. Unfortunately, it’s another 2 week stretch to keep yourself afloat until the next payday. You know you need to stop spending money you don’t have, but how?
If this sounds like a familiar struggle in your household, don’t fret – we’ve all been there at one time or another. You might often buy things you don’t need, or spend too much on food or clothes or other unnecessarily items.
The key to stop spending money you don’t have, or overspending, is to readjust your habits.
Why do i keep spending money?
Sometimes we overspend to feel included, or try to find happiness. Maybe you hop online to shop when you’re bored or even angry at your spouse. (No judgement – I’ve done tons of rage shopping in my day!)
There can be a ton of triggers that cause us to overspend, each one a unique as the person it affects.
It’s important for you to figure out what your triggers are, because they are unique. Maybe you like to use shopping as a way to connect with family or friends. Or maybe you’re lonely and it’s a perfect way to fill your time.
No matter what the reasons, once you’ve pinpointed your overspending triggers, it’s time to move on to figuring out how to avoid them.
How to stop spending money on unnecessary things
Now that you know why you spend, you need to figure out the best ways to help you stop spending.
Here’s a great list of tips and tricks to help you avoid continuing to spend money you don’t have:
Use cash envelopes or pre-paid cards.
Assuming you already have a budget in place, switch to cash only or pre-paid cards. Create individual envelopes or cards for each budget category. Once the money is gone, it’s gone. There’s no way to overspend when you don’t have the cash on you!
Unsubscribe from store emails.
Just because something’s on sale, doesn’t mean that you need it. Remove yourself from any email lists that are just too tempting, and keep any that are only for necessities (like groceries). Without the temptation in your inbox every day, you’ll avoid drooling over sales and spending what you don’t have.
Avoid your favorite stores.
If a particular store is your downfall (I’m side-eyeing you, Target!), then make it a goal to avoid that store. Try just setting a goal of not going for 2 months. Once you start to see how it positively affects your bank account, you’ll be able to more easily avoid it in the future or at least be able to cap your spending there.
I know, I know. That’s like asking you not to breathe (or maybe that’s just me?). But it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the pictures and stories of other people’s great new purchases and vacations. And it’s even harder not to be jealous and to be spurned into buying something yourself because you think you deserve it. Stack on top of that, all the companies that advertise via social media? It’s a black hole of overspending. Try to limit your time, or at the very least make the conscious effort to be aware of the marketing going on around you.
Update your budget often.
When I suggest updating your budget often, I mean daily or every other day, at first. Why? Because you’re hyper aware of where you money is going, and how much you have left in each category. It’s hard to purposely overspend when you know you don’t have the budget for it, and can see it in black and white on paper (or computer screen).
Figure out your hourly wage.
As discussed in this overspending blog post, knowing your hourly wage creates a checkpoint when spending. If you know you make $20 an hour, and that purse costs $400, the idea of working 20 hours to pay for it should make you cringe. Your time is the same as money – and looking at it that way can put some perspective on your purchases!
Substitute another free or cheap activity for shopping.
Shopping can be a great way to pass the time or alleviate boredom. I get it, I do it too. But is it worth going into more debt? Why not spend that time going for a walk, cleaning out your garage, or making money instead?
Find other ways to spend time with friends or family.
Why not find another way to have fun together that isn’t as costly? Maybe it’s a $5 coffee and a walk, playing board games, or binge watching the latest season of The Great British Baking Show (I like to fancy myself a non-practicing amateur baker). What’s important is spending time with them, not buying stuff. Talk to them and be honest about your struggle and why you want to change. Chances are, they’d love to support you and could probably use a break from spending money as well!
Stick to a list.
Make sure that before you go shopping, you create a list of what you need. Make it a point to only purchase what’s on that list, and anything else can wait.
Parents, you have my full support in leaving the kiddos at home with your spouse or a babysitter to shop in peace. Er, I mean…to avoid overspending. Kids are notorious for wearing you down til they get what they want, so do yourself a favor and avoid the situation at all costs! Your wallet will thank you, and grocery shopping while feel a bit like a vacation. Win-win!
Leave your cards at home.
Avoid temptation altogether by leaving your credit cards at home. If you don’t have them, it’s easier to avoid spending money you don’t have (since that is essentially what they’re for!). Even better – if need be, freeze them, lock them in a safe, or – if you’re feeling really brave – cut them up!
Kick it all off with a spending freeze or savings challenge.
A no-spend challenge is a great way to get started with changing how you use your money. They can be a fun way to pause your current spending habits and work on incorporating new ones. I have a list of 37 creative and fun challenges here to help you get started!
The biggest steps you can take to stop spending money you don’t have is to look at your behavior. Figure out why you’re doing it and what triggers it. Once you pinpoint that, remove yourself from those situations as much as possible. Changing your money mindset will go a long way to changing your financial situation.
Just remember that if you do mess up and overspend, it’s not an excuse to chuck it all and go nuts. Stop, take a breath, and get back on track as quickly as possible. We all stumble, it’s just how quickly we can recover that matters!
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A forty-ish web designer/developer by day, a budget & financial fanatic by night. I’m a mom, wife, avid reader, and DIY enthusiast who’s tracking our journey to debt freedom. Read More