Are you overspending? Maybe you don’t realize you are. But if you are currently in debt you are an overspender whether you like it or not.
If making your spending a reflection of your values is like setting up a fence around your spending to give you helpful boundary lines, then protecting yourself from overspending would be your plan to keep you from hopping that fence.
Here are five steps you can take to protect yourself from overspending. This will make it easier to stay within your fence and make it harder to make bad financial decisions.
Get rid of credit cards
Since I am a Recovering Spender, the first thing we did to protect ourselves from overspending was to remove the temptation of using credit cards by shredding them. Yes, we actually put them through the paper shredder. We felt that it was more damaging to keep the credit cards than to ask a family member for money if we had a life-altering emergency.
If you have a spending problem, get rid of your credit cards. After we removed credit cards from the spending equation, it was simpler to deal with our spending issues. Now we could only spend money we actually had. This is a huge way to protect against overspending.
Determine your spending weaknesses
Most spenders have a few areas where they are weak in spending — it could be Target, or Starbucks, or shoes or clothing. Mine was Hobby Lobby. Just take my money!
If you are in debt, typically these weak areas are responsible for your extra debt load. Keep your eye on these areas. Just as it is dangerous for an alcoholic to be in a bar, if you frequently overspend at a specific store, stay out of that store. I still live by a rule I made for myself a while ago. That rule is to not walk into a Target without another adult. Rules like this are safe boundaries for us, which leads us to number three…
Set up boundaries for yourself in those weak areas
Boundaries are good things. They keep us safe. If you overspend in a specific store, don’t go to that store, or only go with your spouse or someone you can be accountable to. Sometimes, it’s specific people or a friend that we overspend with. If that’s the case, be honest with them. Tell them you have to stop spending money with them. That doesn’t mean you can’t do things together, just budget for it. Or find less expensive things to do. Ask them to hold you accountable. You need to do whatever it takes to set yourself up for success by not going near temptation. Set. Up. Boundaries.
Using cash is a great way to set hard boundaries for yourself. When I say, “using cash,” I’m not saying just head to the ATM whenever you want. It is important to decide at the beginning of the month how much you are allowing yourself to spend in that area for the entire month. Take that amount out all at once and put it in an envelope that is marked as spending for that specific area. Once the cash envelope is empty, spending is done in that area for the month.
A few areas I recommend using cash for are clothing, date nights, eating out, groceries and creating a small miscellaneous budget. There is an emotional thing that happens when we spend cash as opposed to just swiping a debit or credit card. This little emotional flash is a good thing. It forces us to prioritize how we are going to spend that cash. It helps us use our money more wisely.
For instance, when I am at the grocery store with cash checking out and I realize I do not have enough cash for my entire order, I automatically get rid of the items that are not healthy and I don’t need. I would never put back carrots to save the Pop-Tarts. I would never get rid of the loaf of bread to make sure that I had ice cream. You end up making wiser (and more healthy) buying choices when you limit yourself to cash.
Erase credit card and debit card information from shopping websites
It is so easy to make an online purchase these days. Websites save your payment information so you can decide to buy something and have it appear on your doorstep in two days (or less) with one mouse click. It’s crazy. I recommend erasing all debit and credit card information for the online retailers you are tempted to spend with.
You are more likely to think twice about a purchase if you have to get off the couch, find your debit or credit card and punch in all of your billing and payment information every time you want to buy something online. You are setting yourself up for success if you make it harder to jump over the nice budget fence you put up by erasing online payment information.
Do a five-minute money check-up each morning
To keep yourself on track each day, take five minutes in the morning and think about anything you might need to spend money on that day. This is a great thing to do with your spouse. Maybe you have a birthday party to go to, and maybe he has a lunch meeting he needs to pay for. Whatever it is, you can start each day in control of your spending and prepared for the expenses. That also makes those impulse purchases much easier to control.
Protecting yourself from overspending by setting up boundaries can be the difference between staying stuck and drowning in debt or becoming debt free.