How to Talk Yourself Out of Spending Money

It's time to develop that spending discipline you've always admired in others.

Have you looked at your budget recently and been a little, well, disappointed with the results? Are you wishing the total on your credit card statement is a mistake? Do you have trouble telling yourself “no” when it comes to buying things?

Not spending money can be difficult when you’re used to a certain lifestyle or routine, and turning your habits around can take some time. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, though.

If you want to talk yourself out of spending money so the numbers in your budget don’t have you in tears, then use the following strategies while you’re out and about to develop better spending habits.

Always keep your “why” in mind

This is one of the easiest strategies I’ve used to stop myself from spending money. All I do is compare what I’m spending on to my goal of paying off my student loans. I can either spend X dollars on this item, or I can use it to pay off my debt. When I compare whatever I’m thinking about buying to my “why” – becoming debt free – most purchases don’t stand a chance.

Are you working toward something financially meaningful right now? Maybe you’re saving up to quit your job, travel around the world, or put a down payment on a house. Or maybe you’re trying to climb your way out of debt.

Either way, make sure you keep reminders of your biggest financial goals around as a deterrent. When you’re tempted to spend money, you can easily remember how you’d rather use your money.

Make it a challenge

A lot of people like “no spend challenges,” and they take a variety of forms. You can put yourself on a complete shopping ban for a few days, a week, or a month, or you can target specific weaknesses and tell yourself “no coffee/clothes/beer for [however many days].” You don’t even have to talk yourself out of spending money – you know you have a set period where you can’t spend!

This strategy can be enough for people to break bad spending habits, and sometimes, they’ll even realize that they don’t miss whatever they were spending on in the first place.

Just be careful not to deprive yourself too much. You don’t need to go crazy like some people do and enact a clothing ban for a year if you normally buy a new outfit once or twice a week. Take baby steps!

Question your purchases

Another easy strategy is to simply question why you’re buying what you’re buying. This is literally talking yourself out of spending money, and it’s something I do by habit. If I’m looking at a cute shirt, I ask myself why I need it. Do I even need it? What for? Don’t I have other clothes at home I can wear? What purpose is this serving for my wardrobe?

It might sound silly at first, especially for smaller purchases, but the point is to establish a habit to break impulse purchases. Many times, people buy things they want on the spot because they just have to have it. After a few days, they may experience buyer’s remorse.

If this has ever happened to you, or if you return a lot of things after buying them, question why you want to buy something in the first place. It will save you trouble in the end.

Budget for it

Going back to the previous point, you don’t want to completely deprive yourself of fun purchases. So instead of completely talking yourself out of spending, why not budget for it instead? Review your spending and see if there’s any category you can take money from, or see if you can spare $10 a month for a treat.

For example, maybe you can cut back your grocery spending a little to afford a monthly manicure, day at the spa, or tickets to a movie you want to see. Build some breathing room into your budget. Having this “limit” will make you more conscious of your spending and how you treat yourself, and once you hit it, you know you don’t have any more money to spend.

Remember, the goal isn’t to stop spending on everything cold turkey. You just want to control your spending within the context of your budget so you don’t end up negative every month. Give one or two of these strategies a try the next time you’re tempted to spend money!

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Posted 04.13.2016 - 04:45 pm EST