If 2016 is the year you aim to take control of your overspending ways, congratulations on making the decision. Before taking action, however, it’s time to begin with awareness. If you don’t know where your money goes every month, track it. You can do this with the help of budgeting software, budgeting calculators that are readily available at most banks, creating a spreadsheet or the old fashioned way with a notepad and pen.
Tracking your money for at least a month can help you understand what’s happening in your financial life and if the results are a little shocking, it will help you identify where you can make savings by rethinking your spending.
There are a number of reasons to start treating your hard-earned money with a little more respect. You may well have a debt hangover after Christmas or you may just be wondering why you are not getting anywhere on the money treadmill. Working to pay bills is all very well but surplus funds for a rainy day is even better. It can be done, regardless of the size of your paypacket.
Here are some ideas to consider implementing in your spend-less strategy this year:
Limit your overspending
Put the brakes on problem spending areas by limiting the money allocated to them. Use lists to shop and a cash envelope system – for example, $100 in an envelope at the beginning of the month to spend on clothes. When that money is gone, it’s gone. And if it’s not spent it rolls over to the following month when another $100 is added.
Put a stop to discretionary spending
If you are racking up credit card debt, have no savings, are not saving for future goals, or are living from pay to pay, put a moratorium on all discretionary spending, or make it next to nothing and funnel that spending toward saving and paying down debt.
Think of your spending in hours rather than dollars
If you earn $20 an hour, then a $15 lunch is 45 minutes of your life. You may decide it’s not worth it.
Also, sleep on it before making a decision. You may be surprised at how easily you forget whatever the item is that you desperately need, or decide you no longer want it.
Assess the impact
Before you buy something, ask yourself: What impact is this purchase going to have on my life? The mere act of stopping in your tracks and thinking it over can put an end to impulse spending. After all, very few people look back on their lives and regret superficial stuff they didn’t buy. Behavioural economists say we get more pleasure from buying experiences (i.e., a week at the beach) versus buying stuff like a couch.
Change how often you spend on indulgences
Rather than give up your favourite treats entirely, limit the frequency or use them as a reward for reaching a savings goal. For example, if you go to a certain boutique coffee roasting bistro daily, try going weekly, and if you go to the movies weekly, stretch it out to once a month.
Look into refinancing your home
You could potentially save hundreds of dollars by getting a better home loan deal at a lower rate of interest. Check the current home loan deals available, but be mindful to add up all the costs involved in paying out one loan and starting another. The savings are there to be made though and better still, by researching your options, you’re armed with information to take to your own bank. They may well come to the party and renegotiate your existing loan down to where you want it – a win-win for all involved.
Ride your bike to work
Not only will you save on car and public transport costs, you’ll also skip hefty parking fees and be a lot healthier at the same time.
Plan out and cook your own meals
Dining out often is a huge money drain, particularly if it involves a $10 glass of wine or two. Cleaning out your fridge and pantry is a good start to making an inventory of what food you have actually got so you don’t need to buy double ups. Don’t buy more food than you can use or keep – throwing away food is the same as throwing away money.
If you have a solid plan to sock money away into an emergency fund, for example, you’ll think twice about spending on superfluous things.
Everyone’s financial situation, aspirations and spending patterns are completely different so you can tweak any tips to suit you. The most important thing is that they work for you and get you to where you want to be, whether that’s debt-free or plugging up those problem spending leaks that are causing a drain on your finances. Good luck with wringing the most out of your earnings.