We all overspend now and then. It’s part of being human. It’s about being susceptible to internal forces (like our emotions) and outside influences (like marketing). Splurging can be used as a reward for reaching the goals we’ve set for ourselves. But spending too much too often can wreck your finances when you’re racking up on credit card debt and struggling to keep up with payments on student loans and other obligations.
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Managing your urge to splurge can be difficult, especially if doing so is new to you. When I first started living on a strict budget so I could pay off credit card debt, I had a hard time sticking to it. But after trying a few different strategies, I finally found a few ways to control my spending that work for me (at least most of the time!).
1. Create a Wish List
Write down everything you want but don’t really need. On my list are things like a new purple purse, a bath mat and some music from iTunes.
Whenever I find myself feeling tempted to buy something I don’t need, I add that item to my list along with the date. When I have extra money in my budget, I look over my list and decide what I want the most. Generally, I find that at least some of the listed items can be removed because I no longer want them anymore.
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2. Know Your Triggers and Avoid Them
I’m a sucker for a good deal, especially when one of my favorite clothing stores is having a sale. I know that seeing their flier gives me the urge to go shopping, so I do my best to avoid it. I’ve unsubscribed from their email list and I no longer get their postcards in the mail.
Figure out what your spending triggers are and do your best to avoid them. Removing yourself from store email and mailing lists can be a great way to start.
3. Freeze Your Assets
Carrying cash and a debit card around instead of my credit card is another way I reduce my urge to spurge. When I first decided to start working my way out of credit card debt, I took all of my credit cards and froze them in a block of ice. This kept me from making rash decisions and using my credit card to buy what I didn’t need. If I must use my credit card, I’ll have to let it thaw out for a few hours first, giving me time to think carefully about my purchase.
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4. Keep Your Total Debt Amount in Mind
Every couple of weeks, I write down the total amount of debt I have on a sticky note and wrap it around my debit card. This reminds me to take my debt into account whenever I’m shopping. I’d much rather see this number get smaller instead of dragging home some purchase that isn’t necessary.
5. Look at the Bigger Picture
Constantly remind yourself why you’re living on a budget in the first place. My goal is to get out of debt. Yours might be saving up for a big vacation or a looming retirement. No matter what your aspirations are, you can use them to help you cut back on your spending. For some people, creating a vision board (with pictures of that vacation, retirement or debt-free life) allows them to literally see the bigger picture.
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