6 Ways To Get Out of Bad Spending Habits

The writer is a Delhi, India based Certified Financial Planner CFPCM, conferred upon by the
Financial Planning Standards Board. If you are an Indian resident looking for a financial plan prepared according to your needs & goals, write to her at shruti(AT)richesawait.com

Impulse buying, going over-budget, showing off, buying everything that’s on sale are all signs of bad spending. When such a spending pattern turns into a habit it causes problems.

Bad spending habits have a huge impact on your financial well being. They are a blow to your budget & can increase your debt. They can also be very difficult to overcome. Marketers spend billions of dollars every year on packaging, promotions, advertising, conversion optimisation, consumer behaviour research & subliminal messaging – all to make sure you buy more & more.

All this psychological manipulation can sometimes feel overwhelming. You buy things you don’t need, wasting money that could have been better utilised elsewhere. But a few smart strategies can help. Let’s get rid of these bad spending habits with the help of the following tips, so that you can bring your financial life back on track:

  1. Shop with a list
    You enter a grocery store with the intention of buying a few essential items but come out with bags and bags of stuff? Well, here is a quick and easy solution – shop with a list. Before entering the store, jot down everything that you need from this store. and shop once or twice a month. Too many visits in a short time will defeat the purpose of this plan so make one comprehensive list to limit your visits. The less you go to the store the less you’ll be tempted. There is a psychological element to this trick too: if your cart is empty you feel the urge to fill it with stuff. This is where the comprehensive list comes into play. Now while shopping, stick to this list. Purchase items which are written on the list and nothing else. If you get tempted by something extra, then make a note of it so that you can include it in your next shopping trip if required and if you really need it buy it when you come back again next month.
  2. Opt for cash only
    When heading for grocery or any other planned and budgeted shopping trip, take only the amount you have budgeted for in the form of cash and leave all your credit and debit cards at home. For example, if you have budgeted for say 3000 then only take ₹3000 with you (along with traveling expenses and some change) and nothing else, leave all extra cash and cards behind. This cash only method will prevent you from giving into the temptation or buying on impulse. When you have a limited amount to work with, you will have no choice but to stick with basic requirements.
  3. Find out your spending triggers
    Find out what makes you overspend, knowing your spending triggers will help you understand the root of the problem. So take a while and think about the last time you overspent. Was it because you were bored, angry, or sad? Do you go over-budget when you shop alone or do you splurge extra while shopping with your friends? Do you get hypnotized when seeing the word SALE and end up buying more than you planned for? Or does online shopping with its 1-click checkout makes you buy more? Find out what your spending triggers are and start avoiding such situations. If you are aware of the problem you can start addressing it mentally. Let’s say you realise that you buy more at the grocery store when you go before having lunch or dinner. You can address this problem by going shopping on a full stomach. This kind of A/B testing breaks down the problem into smaller parts that can be then managed.
  4. Set financial goals
    There are many advantages of setting financial goals. Find out and write down what you really want, it could be a much-needed vacation, being debt-free, buying a new car etc. and place your goal list in a place where you can look at it everyday. Next time when you find yourself contemplating spending big bucks on something you a want (but don’t really need) you will immediately realise how this will impact your goal. Chances are, instead of spending that money you will put that amount towards fulfilling your goal. This way you will get out of a bad spending habit and will be able to go on that vacation as well, a win-win situation for you.
  5. Budget for “Fun Money”
    While making your monthly budget create a category of “Fun Money” and decide how much you can afford to indulge every month. You can spend this amount guilt-free on whatever you want: it could be shopping. dining out, anything. This way you don’t have to deprive yourself and you can fulfill your wants. But make sure when your budgeted amount is spent, you stop. No exceptions.
  6. Let someone else shop for you
    If, despite all the measures, you still find yourself overspending then the best solution for you will be to let someone else shop for you. Ask someone you trust like a family member or friend, who can take care of this chore on your behalf, and give them your shopping list. Or ask them to tag along and let them know that you have a tendency to spend on non-essentials so it would be helpful if they help you steer clear of those traps. This is not an admission of failure. Being a shopaholic is unhealthy and if you can reach out to a trusted friend and admit your weakness it will be a good start.

These small changes and steps will help break bad spending habits, putting a stop on money leaks, and make your financial life better.

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