5 Tricks to Help Cut Your Spending

June 3, 2014

Sometimes, even when we have a well-thought out spending plan in place, we lose focus in the moment and splurge anyways. For me, this issue usually arises when I have already planned on buying one thing, and another thing just happens to catch my eye (i.e. that killer pair of shoes to pair with the jeans I’ve already picked out).

If it was just about the dollars and cents of the matter, we’d probably be far more equipped to have laser like focus, remember the plan, and move on. But it’s not just about the dollars and cents of it. It’s about willpower and big picture thinking – the same things that hinder your diet or exercise plan when you’ve already been doing so well.

Our mind doesn’t always work in our favor. But these tricks can persuade it to do the right thing when it matters most.

Commit to Selling Before Buying

I had a friend who had a very obvious addiction to electronics, mostly of the Apple variety. While the purchases he made were very much within his budget, he had a rule – before he made a purchase, he had to sell something. Usually it was the old model of what he was trying to buy, but either way, he had to sell a belonging (usually on craigslist or the like) before going out to buy a new one.

It was important that he not reverse the order of the transaction, because waiting for the sale gave him time to consider the purchase and ensure that it actually happened before he spent any money.

Leave Your Wallet Behind

If you don’t have the means to make a purchase, you obviously won’t do it – especially all of those small, spur of the moment purchases that really add up at the end of the day.

Leave your wallet (or at least all means of making a purchase) at home or at the office whenever feasible. This forces you to be intentional about how and when you’re spending your money. You may have to forgo that midday snack, but that’s probably just as good for your waistline as it is for your wallet.

Adopt a 30-Day Rule

When I have a strong urge to eat something specific (usually related to sweets and carbs), but I don’t have access to it in that moment, that craving has usually subsided substantially by the time I revisit the idea later in the day.

In many cases shopping is the same way. If I have a strong urge to buy something, it usually fades within a few days if I didn’t purchase it in the moment. Or, I might just forget about it entirely. That’s where the 30-day rule comes in handy.

If you’re considering making a specific purchase, give yourself 30 days before you can buy it. (You might consider making this rule for purchases over a designated amount.) Still want it after 30 days? Then you have the green light to make the purchase – but there’s a good chance you just won’t care anymore.

Embrace Stress and Discomfort

Studies have shown that the more comfortable and relaxed you are, the more likely you are to spend more than intended. Apparently if we’re calm, we don’t perceive threats – financial or otherwise – so we make optimistic purchases with money we shouldn’t be touching.

Some experts even suggest drinking just enough water before shopping that you have to exercise the same kind of willpower you would need if you couldn’t find a bathroom. That willpower spills over into other decisions – not to mention it will also make you uncomfortable enough to speed up the shopping process.

Use Photos as Goal Reminders

If you’re saving, you’re likely saving for a reason (if not, goal setting should be your first step). Unfortunately, those down-the-road, big picture goals are easy to forget in the moment – unless you have visual cues to remind you.

Need to curb the credit card spending? Find a picture that represents what you’re working towards and tape it to the card. You can still use it – but you’ll have to combat the guilt that arises when you see that picture first.

Guilt doesn’t speak to you? Turn it around and make it a positive thing – if you don’t spend “x,” you’ll be one step closer to realizing “y.”

What do you do to trick yourself into not spending?