Overspending is the curse of the modern age. And temptation is everywhere. Years ago, once you had walked in your front door you were safe from temptation. You physically had to leave your house to buy the goods. (Not counting those people who used to come to the door selling dusters.) Now at the click of a button a whole world of shopping is at your fingers tips. Turn on the TV and shopping channel celebrities are there, urging you to buy low fat fryers and exercise equipment. Just pick up the phone. See something on the internet you fancy? A couple of clicks and its yours. Better still you won’t even have to reach into your purse to find a note – it will glide from your bank account without you even knowing. It’s all too easy. The pressure to consume is both relentless and ridiculous and if we are not careful the consequences can be mounting debt and endless clutter.
So how do we avoid spending on stuff we don’t really want or need? Here are some ways to help you confront your spending demons.
Identify your main cash culprits
What do you love to buy that you could really do without? I’m not talking essentials here, but the little luxuries you buy to ‘treat ‘yourself. Do you have a passion for big ticket items like technology or designer clothes, or does your cash drip, drip, drip away like a leaky tap on coffees, takeaways and DVDs? Write down how many times you make your favourite purchases in a year and their average cost – add it all up and you might surprise yourself. How could you reduce this total? How many items do you really need and what could you buy with the money that would enrich your life in other ways?
Work out what factors trigger your spending spree
Do you shop because you are bored or lonely. Do you feel pressure to look a certain way, or own the latest gadgets? If you are feeling depressed, does shopping give you a lift?
Has shopping become your social life?
Do you meet your friends and end up going shopping? Do activities like a visit to the Zoo for your family seem really expensive, so you end up ‘going round the shops’ for something to do on a weekend? If the later then work out the cost of the activities versus the cost of the things you have bought at the shops. You may be surprised to find the totals may be similar.
Are you shopping for tomorrow instead of today?
This includes clothes you plan to slim into, hobbies you intend to take up but then never get round to, craft projects you never make, or meals you buy elaborate ingredients for and then end up festering in the cupboard. If you have little time today it’s likely you will still have little time tomorrow so be realistic about what you can achieve. Find a cheap alternative until you know that the diet, job, cookery course is for you.
Have you set your budget?
Every book on saving money will tell you to do this but how many people actually do it? Once you have worked out your incomings and outgoings you can identify any surplus. If there is no surplus then why are you still spending? If there is surplus why aren’t you saving? And if you are saving then maybe you can have a little treat – in budget – but don’t waste it on rubbish. Money should enrich your life not impoverish it. Also remember to update your budget when your circumstances change. I forgot to factor in childcare and suddenly I was in the red.
Have you considered the cheaper alternatives?
The internet gives us lots of opportunities to get the same thing at a cheaper price. Whether its online discount stores or price comparison websites there are savings to be had if you go searching for them. Vow never to pay the full price for anything – book in advance or wait for the sales. Have you tried websites like Freecycle where people give away items for free? And don’t forget charity shops!
Remember fun is free
Revisit some of the activities you did as child – picnics in the park, long walks, swimming outdoors – collecting shells on the beach, sitting round a campfire playing guitar, sleeping under the stars. Summer is particularly good time for finding free local events. Can’t find anything you fancy – start up your own.
The bottom line is think before spend. Don’t reach old age and find you only have shopping trips to remember.