How to Break the Spending Habit

If you're having a difficult time spending less and saving more, it may take more than sheer will to make that change. Overspending is a widespread problem, and one that can seriously wreck your ability to save. But there are a few strategies you can adopt to help you put that bad habit to rest and stay out of debt.

01
Go Cash-Only

Woman taking cash out of wallet
triocean/iStock

Credit cards make it easy to overspend, but you can't use them if you don't have them with you. Leave your credit cards at home, and stick to cash or debit for all your purchases.

02
Set Long-term Goals

Find yourself blowing big bucks on small purchases like coffee and vending machine snacks? Here's a simple way to crush the habit: Pick something you really want.

It could be a vacation, a fat emergency fund, or getting out of debt. Now, remind yourself of this goal each time you feel tempted to blow money on a non-essential.

Then, take the money you would have blown and put it towards your goal. Before long, you'll be sunning yourself on a tropical shore or sitting on top of a mound of money. Who knew breaking bad habits could be so rewarding?

03
Distinguish Needs and Wants

Do you need those new shoes or do you just want them? Ask yourself this question each time you find yourself contemplating a purchase. If it's a need (and it fits within your budget), go ahead and buy it.

If it's a want, spend some time weighing the impact of your purchase. What will these shoes do for you? Will they make you happy? Fill a hole in your wardrobe? Can you afford to buy them? Is there something else that you want more?

Be honest about how your purchase will impact your life, and then decide if that want is worth the asking price.

04
Shop With a List

Ever gone into a store for a few items and emerged with bags and bags of stuff? Fortunately, there's an easy fix for this common spending trap: shop with a list.

Jot down everything you need from the store, then only shop for the items that are on your list. Tempted by something extra? Make a note to add it to your next shopping list.

05
Give Yourself an Allowance

Look at your budget and decide how much money you can afford to spend each week. Then withdraw this amount from your checking account at the beginning of the week and spend guilt-free.

Just remember: When the money's gone, the spending stops. No exceptions.

06
Institute a Cooling-off Period

Are you coveting the latest bobble or gadget? Time to head for the nearest exit! Institute a 24-hour cooling-off period before buying any big-ticket item.

This will give you time to decide whether you need and can afford the object of your affection. Are you still smitten after 24 hours? Then go back to the store and buy it.

07
Find a Shopping Buddy

Do you have a hard time saying no to your shopping impulses? Find someone who can talk you down. Designate a friend or family member as your voice of reason and only shop when they can go with you.

Or go ahead and shop alone, but call your friend whenever you find yourself worked into a shopping frenzy.

08
Shop Without a Cart

Have you noticed how big shopping carts are getting? Those babies are designed to keep you shopping! Avoid this clever spending trap by only taking a cart when you have a lot to buy.

Otherwise, grab a shopping basket or carry your items. You'll be less tempted to shop when you don't have anywhere to put your selections.

09
Let Someone Else Shop for You

If you're not sure you can stick to your list, or shopping without a cart doesn't seem to help, you can always let someone else shop for you.

Make out your shopping list and hand it off to someone you trust. You won't be able to add impulse items if you're sitting at home.

10
Survey Your Selections

Before you head to the checkout line, take a minute to look at your selections. Do you need everything that you're about to buy? Are there items that you should put back or think about for next time?

Keep editing your selections until you feel good about them. Then check out with a clear conscience.