Have you ever wondered why you just can’t make ends meet each month or maybe why your income and spending just aren’t adding up? Where is your money going? Well, the majority of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Why? For some it’s because they cannot stop spending their money. Many times, this comes down to intentionality.
From all of my experience and financial coaching, the #1 thing you can do to curb overspending immediately is to make your spending a reflection of your values.
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Aligning your values and your money habits
At the end of the day, no one enjoys drowning in debt. No one enjoys feeling out of control with their finances, but many spenders don’t think about that in the moment. Meaning, many spenders don’t think beyond the “now” when they are in the store confronted with a purchase.
In the moment when I was overspending and impulse buying, I wasn’t thinking about all of the stuff I bought a week ago. I wasn’t thinking about getting a credit card statement at the end of the month. I wasn’t thinking about my kids’ college. I wasn’t thinking about retiring with my husband a few years earlier. I was living in the moment. The problem is, that in the moment, I was not thinking about the things that really mattered to me — my husband, my children and our long-term financial security. My spending was not reflecting my real values.
What are your values? Where do you spend your money? Do these two things line up? Is your spending putting your family at risk?
If you are a spender, my guess is that you’ve never sat down to define your values when it comes to money. I certainly never defined my values when I found myself in $40,000 of debt. Before becoming debt-free, I shopped impulsively and rarely thought of the consequences. I hardly even thought about what or why I was buying; it always just sort of happened.
Once I resolved to change, it became clear that making my spending a reflection of my values would take practice, intentionality and hard work. But it was worth it!
Here a few steps you can take that will make your spending reflect your values. That will allow you to take back control of your finances!
- Stop using credit cards. These can be VERY dangerous for spenders! And no one thinks being in debt is one of their life values. Either cut them up, or literally freezer them in water in the freezer. That way it takes you a long time to get to them, and by then you have hopefully thought about your purchase.
- Think about the people that matter to you the most. Is your spending going to be what’s best for them in the long-run? Will you be able to retire and live comfortably? Will you be able to pay for your kids’ college tuition?
- Think about the things that you cannot live without. Is cable TV, another gadget, or a new pair of shoes really more important than your electricity bill?
- Make a list of your bills in order of importance to survive. Think about family, food and shelter — that means things like groceries (not restaurants), house, utilities, childcare, etc.
- See how far your take-home-pay gets you down the list you made. Pay your bills in that order and if you run out of money, you’re done for the month.
- Keep spending your money in order of priority each month, and if you have a little extra, put it in savings or take the kids for ice cream. But make sure your top priorities are all covered and plan for the extra things ahead of time.
One huge thing I did years ago to change our spending deficit and get us in the black was to save money anywhere I could. The easiest place I found to do this was at the grocery store. Plan your meals around what is on sale that week, curb eating out, clip coupons, and shop at ALDI.
By doing this, it could easily cut $100 off of your grocery bill each week. That’s the same as working a small part-time job! I’d be willing to bet that with a little planning you could free up at least $400 a month at the grocery store. If you immediately had that extra $400 a month available, what should you do with it? I recommend putting that extra cash back into your bill priority list and make more financial progress!
Making your spending a reflection of your values isn’t just a fancy way of saying “stop spending.” It is still spending. You’re just telling your money where to go instead of your money and debt dictating your life.
I can’t tell you what your values should be, but what I can tell you is that once your money and values are in sync, it is much easier to stop overspending.