If you’re tired of the paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle or disappointed that a recent increase in your income isn’t letting you get ahead, you may need some help tackling a common problem: overspending. Even if you don’t go on shopping sprees or have expensive hobbies, it can be easy to spend too much on the basic necessities of life. Read on for a few tips and tricks to help you get (and keep) your spending under control.
Learn About Your Outgo
The first step in combating overspending is learning how you’re overspending. For a few weeks, keep track of your purchases (either via a smartphone app or with old-fashioned pen and paper) and then categorize them. You may be surprised to learn that you’re spending more on fast food or dinners out than you are on groceries or more on car maintenance than you are on your mortgage. Knowing where your money is going in the first place can help you make budget cuts that make the most sense.
Cut Your Access to Credit
Reducing your access to credit can often help you curb overspending. Studies have shown that people tend to spend more money when paying with plastic instead of cash. Although it’s a good idea to keep at least one credit card on hand for emergencies, you may want to close accounts you don’t often use or consolidate your existing debt onto a single credit card to eliminate your ability to rack up tens of thousands of dollars in debt.
Visualize Your Goals
Avoiding impulse buys and opting for cheaper alternatives to your usual expenses can be tough. You may find it helpful to work on a few goals that can be thwarted by overspending, then visualize how curbing this spending can further your goals. For example, you may have more incentive to pack your lunch most days (instead of eating out) if you can start planning your next vacation.
Make Savings Automatic
There are a number of different banking programs and apps that will “round up” each purchase you make and set aside the change in a separate savings account. Or if you’d rather make a more deliberate effort, you can set up an automatic recurring transfer from your checking account to a hard-to-access savings account. By proactively putting savings aside as soon as the money hits your account, you can avoid falling into the common trap of spending first, then saving whatever is left.