So many of us spend money without thinking about what we’re buying. Then we look at our bank and credit card statements and wonder why the totals are so high.
If you’re trying to cut back on your spending, here are some easy ways to limit your purchases and reel in your spending to make budgeting a bit easier and help you hit your financial goals:
1. Wait it out
One of the easiest ways you can save money is by imposing a time limit on your shopping. Some people like to wait at least 24 hours before buying something, for others a week is more appropriate. If I’m unsure about a dress or a bottle of nail polish, I’ll put it back and see how I feel a couple days later. Usually this keeps me from buying things I don’t need. If I can’t stop thinking about something, that’s a good indicator that I really want it.
When you have a problem with overspending, you don’t realize that you can still buy things. You just can’t buy everything. Now, instead of buying every bottle of nail polish I like or scanning every sale rack for a new dress, I’m more selective. Most of the time, the things we want aren’t going anywhere. If we take the time to think about those items without being in the store, we’ll realize more easily what we really want.
2. Choose stores with a return policy
If you’re like me, you get buyer’s remorse easily. That’s why I only try to shop at stores that have an easy return policy. That way if you come home and decide that you can’t afford a new wallet, you can take it back without any issues.
Make sure to read the receipt so you know what you need to do to get your money back. It sucks to return something only to find out you can only get store credit.
3. Make a list of what you already have
During the first year I lived in an apartment, I would go grocery shopping without a list and without an idea of what I already had. My parents paid for all my food, so I didn’t have a huge incentive to save money.
After that summer, when I was cleaning out my cabinets, I found five boxes of brown sugar. Apparently, every few weeks when I would go grocery shopping I would buy brown sugar, forgetting that I had a box. This happened so often that I ended up with what would be enough brown sugar for a small bakery.
Take an inventory of what you already have. We shop so often that it’s easy to forget what we already own. If your room is messy and disorganized, it can be even harder to see what you have. But if you take stock, you’ll feel less inclined to go shopping and more grateful for everything you do have.
4. Start a shopping ban
Since I’m Jewish, I’ve never done lent. But I’ve always been interested in the idea of a temporary ban on the things we can’t help buying. If you’re trying to save up for a trip, but find that those weekly shopping sprees at Target keeping you from your goal, take a shopping ban.
Make a list of the things you can spend money on (groceries, basic necessities, deodorant), and stick to it. If you’ve written down what you can and can’t buy, it’ll make it easy to keep to your budget and say no. Some of my rules include not eating out unless I’m with a friend or eating a snack before I run errands.
5. Have a friend keep you accountable
Most of the time, our friends encourage us to spend more. It’s a way to live vicariously through someone else. But if you’re serious about cutting back, ask a friend to pull you away when you’re about to make a bad decision.
It can be awkward talking about money, but it might give your friend permission to ask the same favor of you. If you become regular shopping buddies, you can recognize your habits more easily and prevent your friend from making the same mistakes.
6. Recognize what bad habits you have
Do you splurge on organic cookies when it’s your period? Make a batch, freeze a dozen before the big day and bake them when you’re feeling miserable. Do you forget to pack a lunch on Mondays? Keep cans of soup in your desk at work.
Since I’ve started keeping walnuts and oatmeal at work, I know that I’ll never have to run out for candy bars. Find what’s keeping you from saving money and think of solutions that can fix your problems.