Even with a monthly budget, stopping myself from spending my money feels like a war I have to fight on a daily. The ‘I need to buy myself this,’ ‘I deserve that new dress,’ and ‘I should buy myself that perfume to make myself feel better’ sentiments always seem to win.
Having a budget is great, and it’s mandatory that you have one. But you can’t stop there. Sometimes I think that money is designed to run away from me.
Why do I think so?
Let’s say your Entertainment & Eating out budget per month is $150. At the beginning of the month, you have a clean $150 to spend.
You go out with friends at the beginning of the month and spend $30.
On one of those lazy weekends, you order in and spend $25. You spend on a fun activity, let’s say ice skating for $70. You only have $25 left to spend at mid-month.
The ideal thing at this point is to remind yourself that you’re almost depleting your Entertainment and Eating Out budget so you should be careful not to spend over $25.
But then, life happens…
A new restaurant opens up next to your place. It has very attractive offers such as ‘for every $30 you spend, they’ll give you a 20% discount on your next purchase.’
What does your brain do? If you’re like me, you’ll start thinking about how it’s not so bad to spend $5 more above your budget. That you’re doing good by supporting a small business. You’re spending on food anyway, and your life depends on it so it’s not such a bad decision. And many more justifications in that line.
It’s usually fine when you do this for one budget category. We’re human, and budgets are supposed to be flexible.
But I’ve noticed that the more I do this, the more I ‘okay’ this behaviour, which leads to overspending in more categories.
It’s important to be conscious of the stories you tell yourself about money, especially about your spending habits. If you don’t consciously warn yourself, you’ll end up in a blunder, or in debt.
Other times, I’ve noticed that people say ‘I’ll stop this habit next month.’ But they never do. Because next month will come with its own expenditures.
There’s even the dangerous one that somebody told me recently. That when their side hustle starts bringing in money, they will save more. Please note that they already earn a lot from their 9 to 5 but haven’t cultivated the discipline to save and invest. They’re making plans on money that they don’t have.
However tough this war may be, we have to keep fighting because comfort in our future literally depends oh the money decisions we make on a daily basis.
Apart from having a budget and sticking to it, I have to come up with many more tricks and tips to prevent myself from spending that money.
This is in addition to my previous article Minimalism: A guide to spending less
How to stop spending money
1. Creator vs consumer mindset
Instead of always being the spender, how I about you become the creator? To build wealth, you have to own something, for example, a piece of business or intellectual property.
Truth is, we have to spend money. On bills, on luxuries, on education, on investment products and services etc…
When you are on the other end of the table (the seller), you tend to value things differently because you know how much work and time it takes to create a valuable service or product.
This will enable you to view money as a tool to build wealth as opposed to just something that gives you a one-time burst of happiness or luxury.
Reroute your excitement to being a builder, a creator instead of the consumer. That’s how people make money. If you don’t sell something, someone is always trying to sell to you. And most times it’s stuff you don’t need.
2. First form the habit, then buy the gadget or item
One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is the intention to exercise more. Weight loss and healthier eating are number 3 and 4 on this list.
To achieve these goals, people rush to pay for gym memberships at the beginning of the year. This happens every year, which is good business for gym owners and fitness coaches.
But a whopping 80% of people quit within the first 5 months of the year. Cha-ching! More money and less work for gym owners and coaches.
A lot of us do this. We have these mega intentions and resolutions to achieve a goal, so we go ahead and buy the gadgets or pay for memberships. Then we later realize that we wasted the money because we did not align these intentions with actions.
The best approach is to first form the habit, then go ahead and buy the stuff. By the time you buy, you will have proved to yourself and your bank account that it’s not a waste of money. That’s it’s a need, and it’s not going to be another gadget that gathers dust in your house.
When I decided to start writing these personal finance articles, my first approach was to buy a domain name for my website, pay somebody to design a logo and buy a theme. Those were the initial costs which amounted to around $281.
I knew that I hadn’t formed the habit of writing consistently, so investing that money in January 2020 would have been a waste. I decided to use Medium, a free platform for writers to publish my articles for 6 months. When I had proved to myself that I knew the amount of work and dedication it takes to publish on a weekly basis, I went ahead and invested the money.
You will save a lot of money by doing the same. Build a habit. Prove to yourself that you can put in the work. Then spend the money.
3. Remind yourself that you’re not rich
I have designed my Twitter feed in a way that 90% of the people I follow tweet about money and investing. In this way, I’m always learning from the very best. Sometimes, I hate it. I’ll be out here living my best life, buying myself a collection of fine fragrance mists because they’re on sale then somebody tweets…
“People in middle class remain in middle class because they spend a lot of their money doing things only wealthy people should be doing.”
And with that, I have to abandon my shopping cart, sit in a corner and remind myself that yes, I’m not rich. I should watch how I spend my paycheck because as it is, some corporate company somewhere owns my ass. That I’m still trading my time for money.
I literally look at myself in the mirror and tell myself ‘stop behaving as if you’re rich’ when I’m tempted to buy stuff I don’t need. It works most of the time!
4. Have conversations with yourself
Back in high school, we had this CRE (Christian Religious Education) teacher who once asked us ‘girls, do you ever talk to yourself?’ I wondered what she meant because talking to yourself is for crazies, right?
She told us that throughout our upbringing, a lot of wisdom has been planted in us by our parents, siblings, caregivers, friends and a lot of people we’ve interacted with.
As humans, we tend to forget that we know a lot and focus on what we don’t know. If you take time to think about all the good advice you’ve been given in your life so far, you’d be shocked to know how wise you are.
So she encouraged us to talk to ourselves often. To have conversations with ourselves. To remind ourselves of our worth when we feel discouraged.
It didn’t make much sense back in the day but as an adult, it does. I use this hack a lot any time I feel tired of this saving journey that never seems to have an end.
Do you ever ask yourself ‘okay seriously, when I’m I going to be rich?’ or ‘Will I ever be rich anyway?’
Talk to yourself. Loudly. Congratulate yourself for how far you’ve come. Remind yourself of all the wisdom about money you’ve accumulated and the lessons learnt from the bad money mistakes so far.
Remind yourself about what matters to you financially and what doesn’t. Hear yourself say positive things to yourself. Affirm yourself.
5. Have you saved first before spending that money?
On a good month, I transfer my savings and investments money to different accounts as soon as I’m paid. Only then can I proceed to pay bills and spend on other stuff.
But when times are tough, I have to pay bills first. Even during such times, I find myself thinking about this question. Have I saved first before spending this money? If the answer is no, I will try my level best to squeeze a little money for savings, to feel better about myself and the future.
If you ask yourself this question enough times, it becomes a part of you. You’ll have fewer regrettable financial choices.
At the end of the day, it’s not about seeking perfection because we might never get there, but making sure that we keep rewiring our brains to think savings before spending.
6. Stay calm
Have you met people who have to spend on alcohol when they’re angry as a way to cope with their anger?
Ever had a chaotic day that you just can’t seem to control then later realize that you bought something and you just don’t understand why you did?
I’ve had one of those where I feel so angry at someone that I end up opening one of those retail apps on my phone and buying a bunch of stuff to make myself feel better. Then later wondered why the hell I bought stuff I don’t need and can’t afford. Thank God for return policies.
Calmness for me comes from defeating the inner voice that always wants me not to stick to my schedule. That voice that tells me I’m too tired this week to publish a blog post. That I should take a nap before I do my daily exercise. If I ignore the voice and do the work anyway, it makes me feel better about myself which leads to inner calmness and rational financial decision making.
Being calm allows you to control emotional spending. My friend did a YouTube video on her money mistakes in her 20s and one of the mistakes was emotional spending.
7. Don’t replace things that already work
If you’re in your wealth-building stage, avoid this trap. Your phone or laptop is working perfectly but you buy another just for the sake of it. You have a small TV that works fine, and serves the purpose but because the neighbours have a new one, you go ahead and buy a new one.
Apart from overspending, you end up with clutter and a lot of stuff that takes up a lot of your time and attention.
8. Declutter regularly
Have you ever found an item in your house and were shocked that you actually own it? That it actually exists, belongs to you and that you bought it?
Sometimes I’ll be on social media, see something pretty that I’d love to own, take a screenshot and even write it down in my desire list. Then one day while going through my drawers during a decluttering session, I find out that I own something similar.
Yes, sometimes forget we already own something and go ahead to buy more.
Decluttering often (I try to do it on a monthly basis) reminds me of all the stuff that I own. And it hurts a lot when I remember that some of that stuff used to be cash money that would have been more valuable had I invested it.
9. Don’t be in a hurry to spend your money
When I moved into my current house, I didn’t buy a lot of stuff that I needed. Like a table and comfortable chair for my home workspace. I kept procrastinating because I honestly couldn’t afford a very good quality one. I also kept telling myself that I could still get the work done from the bed or sofa, which proved to be impossible during the quarantine period.
I finally bought them recently during a major sale. I got great deals and was glad I waited.
I also valued my purchases more since I realized that we spend so much time in our homes lately and that there’s nothing wrong with creating a little heaven for myself. It’s a place where I create and unwind, my only home.
Delay your purchases as much as you can as it gives you time to make better decisions, inform you whether it’s a need or want, and you end up valuing the items more.
10. Take care of your stuff
I have been using my laptop for 6 years. It’s now an old, slow abacus that I can’t wait to replace. However, it still works fine. I’m also the type who will use a phone for years and it’ll still look new when the time to replace it comes. In this way, I save a lot of money.
Take good care of your gadgets and other items, such as furniture and even good quality clothes so that you don’t have to keep spending money to repair and replace them.
This will also mean that your items will have resale value. When I was moving out of my previous house, I was surprised that I could sell almost everything because they were clean and well maintained.
11. Think of the opportunity cost
What will you lose if you keep overspending on the wrong stuff?
Let’s say you have a goal to go for a 2 week’s vacation. The whole vacation will cost you $1,000. If each day of the vacation will cost you $71, then you go ahead and spend the $71 on an item you don’t need, it means you’ve lost a day of your vacation.
Same thing applies to debt. The longer you keep spending money on the wrong things, the longer you’ll be stuck in debt.
Ask yourself if you’re willing to delay your freedom and happiness.
12. Appreciate your style
I have a friend from the UK whose wardrobe is made up of Bohemian style clothing. Like Frankie from that Grace & Frankie sitcom on Netflix haha. I lived with her for three months in 2016 and found myself wanting to rock the same style. In fact, I had started buying some pieces. I looked ridiculous, like a confused molecule.
We keep doing that, don’t we? We see a friend wearing something and we want the same exact thing, sometimes without considering if it would look good on us.
Appreciate your own style so that you don’t have to keep getting swayed by other people’s preferences. And just because it looks good on them doesn’t mean it will look good on you.
Another spending hack I have when it comes to clothing is creating a Look Book board on Pinterest. This, plus your budget, will serve as a reference point when you go out shopping for clothes.
“Before you buy anything, ask yourself: Does this help me live a better life now, or is this something my imaginary future self would own? Only buy for the person you actually are, not for the person you think the right purchases would make you.”— The Financial Diet
13. Use the Ian Cassel hack
“Every time I splurge on something, I take the same amount of money and invest it. So if I want to buy a $400 pair of shoes, I also have to buy $400 worth of stocks. Makes you re-evaluate how much you really want something since you have to save 2x for it.”
I’ve tried this hack severally when I have been tempted to splurge on stuff, the last one being sneakers. It made me realize I couldn’t afford both.
14. Use the Jaspreet Singh hack
The Minority Mindset by Jaspreet Singh is one of my favourite personal finance YouTube channels.
I watched a lot of his videos in 2018 and 2019 and one of the most memorable hacks I learnt from him was ‘if you can’t afford 5, then you can’t afford it.’ Easy and simple to remember.
I applied this hack on anything that wasn’t food and rent. I’d be walking around in the mall or in the streets, spot something pretty that I’d want to own. And then I’d hear his damn voice in my head saying ‘if you can’t afford 5, you can’t afford it.’
“A good deal may save you 30%. But if it’s not something you need, you can save 100% by not going for it.”
It also helps to write down your insecurities, then go ahead and guard yourself against marketers. What are you susceptible to? What is that one thing that you just can’t stop yourself from buying? Be self-aware and do what you have to do, for example, blocking ads.
“Stop thinking about what your money can buy. Start thinking about what your money can earn. And then think about what it earns can earn.”— JL Collins
Have you been in a situation where you just can’t stop spending money? Did you get over it? Which hacks did you use? Teach me and the tribe by leaving a comment below.
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