Your finances are finite, and the more you squander today, the less you’ll have tomorrow. But there’s always a chance to rid yourself of reflexive spending patterns and learning to spend less and save more is easier than you think. Take stock of your current spending habits with these tips on how to practice smarter shopping habits.
Check Your Records
Visualizing a non-physical concept is never easy, except when it comes to spending. The act of spending never becomes more real than when the bills show up the next month. Sit down and review your bills, bank statements, receipts, and any other printed or emailed record of your purchases. Total them up and do a side-by-side comparison with your sources of income. If your spending sprees are outstripping your assets, something’s got to give.
Don’t despair. Focus on how you spent money. Are some days spree days? Do you buy more during stressful times? Are you regularly frittering away money on recreational things? Make a note, then resolve to do things differently starting now.
Remove the Temptation
Another way that money is made less real is through using credit and debit cards. One swipe or click is all it takes to buy anything, making purchases feel like magic. But it all adds up. Make a point of only using cash to pay for things. It physicalizes the experience and you have visual confirmation of how much you’re allowed to spend. Leave your credit and debit cards at home, just to be sure. Next, wipe your credit card numbers from your browser and payment services, and block the online retailers you visit most frequently. Speaking of those retailers…
When You Need to Spend, Spend Where It Counts
One of the chief personal finance problems of the day is that the Internet makes it too easy to spend and send money to certain gigantic online retailers who promise next-day delivery. Likewise, in real life, big-box stores provide convenience and the illusion that you can truly find anything at their places of business, so why shop anywhere else?
When you do spend money on actual necessities, be sure you’re supporting retailers who really need it. In general, supporting local businesses supports you and your community in the long run. Also, independent stores often offer better service, and regular customers may be eligible for special deals and discounts.
Slow Your (Bank)roll
When figuring out how to practice smarter shopping habits, the best defense against overspending is time. Before you make a purchase, tell yourself to get it next week, then see if you still feel the need to buy it. Make a list of “must buys” (things that sustain or improve the quality of your life) versus “maybe buys” (frivolous and fun things you don’t really need) and subject the maybes to a month-long cooling-off period. Finally, don’t shop sad or mad. The momentary elation of buying something fun never lasts, but debt can stick around for a long time.