What is your financial Achilles Heel? Shopping too much? Do you fall prey to every electronic gadget released? Or do you just ignore your spending habits and cross your fingers every time you make a purchase that the transaction will go through?
Breaking bad spending habits starts when you first admit you have a problem and then writing them down in list. When you have your list completed, take a long hard look at it. Now that you have taken that crucial first step of acknowledgement – ask yourself if you are ready to make a commitment to change. Correcting bad spending habits won’t happen overnight as it took more time than that to create the habit in the first place. Be patient and diligent.
Here are 5 tips to get you started:
- Prioritize saving money over spending money. Tracking where your hard-earned dollars go each month is a great way to get a look at the overall picture. Whether you are comfortable with a notepad from the discount store or by downloading expenditures digitally, going over your days expenses each night will show your spending patterns. Once you have an idea where your money is going you will be able to figure out your weaknesses and begin to build a realistic budget for yourself.
- Work on the easiest one first. Maybe not having a muffin with your coffee purchase each morning will only save you a couple of dollars, but once eliminated you will be $50 ahead by month-end. There will be sense of accomplishment and make the elimination of the coffee so much easier. Plus you will get to buy a snappy new reusable cup to carry your home-brewed coffee in.
- Remove the temptation to spend. If you are triggered to purchase by certain behaviours, then start by changing the behaviour. Many times we just act without thinking. For example, If you regularly lunch in the food court at the local shopping mall, start packing your lunch. Not only will you save money but you will also not be tempted to shop on your way out. One positive new habit replaces two negative ones.
- Set a goal with a reward. Positive re-enforcement, such as putting a sticky note on your refrigerator or car dash, provides a physical reminder of what you are saving towards. Imagine each time you that note it reminds you of what is important, such as a much deserved holiday vacation or the adoption of a rescue pet. That little reminder may be all you need to push you closer to something important to you.
- Use cash only for a month. Using your monthly income as a starting point, subtract your fixed expenses and savings, and with the remaining money work out a daily/weekly allowance. Canadian budgeting guru Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s budget binder and magic jars are a great way to start using cash instead of credit and help focus on saving not spending.
Once you have familiarized yourself with the spending habits that are eating up your income, you can begin to break yourself of them. If you need an extra push, try The Habit Factor app for help in building positive habits and for breaking your bad ones.
Remember to reward yourself with each financial goal you meet. Nothing extravagant that will undo all you are saving but something reasonable and satisfying. It could be as basic as a donation to your favourite charity, ordering take-out or a night at the movies with a friend.
Helen Siwak is Editor-in-Chief of BLUSHVancouver & EcoLuvLux Lifestyle Blog | Lifestyle contributor to Daily Hive (VancityBuzz) | West Coast contributor to Retail-Insider | contributing writer for Marble Financial.