Tips to control your spending

Find out how to stop spending money impulsively, so you can spend on what matters to you.

Here's what you'll find out:

➜ Why it’s important to spend less than you earn

➜ Ways to stop overspending

It’s three days before pay day and you’ve got no money left in your bank account. Sound familiar? Unfortunately spending more than you earn isn’t uncommon, but it could be preventable.

On the odd month where you have an unexpected expense that blows your budget, you might be able to recover. But if you get into the habit of spending more than you’re earning, it can mean debt starts to build up. It can also lead to so pretty hefty interest charges if you cover extra costs with a credit card or loan.

There are some useful strategies you can use to keep your spending in check.

Avoid putting off payments

Buy now, Pay later services can come in handy if you're using them to smooth expenses, but the problem is they may encourage you to spend more than you can really afford. It’s easy to think, ‘In a month’s time I’ll have the cash to pay that back.’ In that time though, something else can pop up and prevent you from repaying in full.

There’s also an emotional reason to make the payment now rather than later. You’ll probably find that if you’ve already paid for something, you’ll enjoy it more – like a holiday. You won’t have the stress of knowing that you’ve got to find the money from somewhere and can properly relax.

Don’t let one purchase influence another

Ever bought new jeans then decided you need a shirt to go with it? This kind of spending spiral is known as the Diderot effect, named after the French philosopher who upgraded his entire wardrobe after buying a flashy scarlet gown.

One of the best ways to avoid this kind of spending is to pre-plan your purchases as much as possible. It doesn’t matter if you’re shopping in a store or online, if you have a clear idea of what you want and why you want it, it should help prevent you from splashing out on random items you don’t need.

It also works for nights out. Giving yourself a set amount you’ll spend on dinner and drinks can prevent you from waking up with a financial hangover the next morning.

Control your impulse purchases

Another tip to help you control your impulse purchases is to try and spend thoughtfully. An impulse purchase is a purchase you make in the moment, without having paused to think about whether it fits within your budget.

It could be a suggested item you see when you're making another purchase or a little treat you buy to cheer yourself up.

You can try to avoid impulse purchases by taking a shopping list to the supermarket when you do your groceries and sticking to it as closely as possible. Even stepping out of a store to think about whether you really want an item – and if you can afford it can help.

Take your time to make decisions

It’s a simple trick, but one of the best ways to make spending decisions – particularly big ones – is to sleep on it. Online retailers might mark an item as 'low in stock' and 'selling fast' to rush you into a purchase. Try and resist the push to buy. This will help you avoid making impulse purchases and it can stop you from getting swept up in the moment.

Research shows that environmental factors that may seem insignificant - like the level of lighting and type of music playing - can actually impact how we spend money. Removing yourself from the situation and taking some time to breathe or sleep can help you become immune to this.

If it’s quite a big financial decision, you may want to chat to someone you trust about it. Together you can evaluate the pros and cons, or the risks and potential rewards.

Understand and eliminate your spending triggers

There could be particular factors in your life impacting your spending. Perhaps you know them already, but if you don’t you could look through your transactions to see whether there is a time or occasion where you spend more than you’d like to.

This could be associated with:

  • Pressure - keeping up appearances with friends and family
  • Environment - regularly visiting shops on the weekend
  • Mood - online shopping because you’re bored

You don’t need to stop doing what you enjoy but knowing these triggers can help you avoid them. It could also help you come up with workarounds – like going to make a cup of tea when you’re tempted to start shopping.

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