5 Ways to Change Your Spending Habits

Sexy smoker

Image by BBQ Junkie via Flickr

If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’re going to keep getting what you you’ve always gotten.  One of the hardest things about getting out of debt is changing your habits.     You need to break your habits if you’re going to get yourself to a new place, financially.

How can you do that?  Habits aren’t easy to break.  Ask any smoker, junkie, or overeater what it takes.  There are a lot of systems to break or establish habits, but they don’t all work for everyone.

Here are my suggestions:

  1. Commit to just 30 days.  I’m a big fan of doing new things for 30 days.   If you can do it for a month, you can do it forever, no matter what “it” is.   For just one month, don’t buy anything.  I don’t mean avoid buying groceries or toiletries and I certainly don’t mean to stock up on new crap the day before your 30 day spending fast or rush out for a shopping spree on day 31.  Just don’t buy anything for a month, no exceptions but the things necessary to stay alive and healthy.  No movies, no games, no cars, no toys, and no expensive meals.  Just 1 month.
  2. Switch methods. If you pay for everything with a credit card, restrict yourself to just cash.  If you pay cash for everything, switch to a credit card.  Breaking your long-established habits is a way to get used to spending consciously: taking the time to think about what you are doing, instead of just spending mindlessly.
  3. Identify your spending triggers. I can’t go into a book store and come out empty handed.  So, I avoid bookstores.   My wife has problems with clothing stores.   A friend can’t walk out of a music store without some body piercing equipment.  What are your triggers?  What makes you spend money without thinking?   Figure out what those things are and then avoid them like the plague…or the clap.
  4. Quit buying things for pleasure. Buying things makes us feel good.  It sends a rush of endorphins through our bodies.  The more we get that rush, the more we crave that rush, so the more we do to get it.   You need to stop that.  Before you buy something, ask yourself if it’s something you actually need, or if you just want a pick-me-up.
  5. Avoid shopping online.  E-commerce sites make it far too easy to buy things at a moment’s notice.   You don’t have to think about what you are doing or if you actually need whatever you are buying.  You just buy.   The best way too avoid them is to delete your credit card information from any site that save the information and delete the sites from your bookmarks.  Whatever you can do to slow down the buying process will make it easier to avoid buying things, which can soon be stretched into NOT buying things at all.

Habits—especially bad habits—are hard to break.  There is an entire self-help niche dedicated to breaking habits.  Hypnotists, shrinks, and others base their careers on helping others get out of the grip of their bad habits, or conning them into thinking it is easy to do with some magic system.   How do you avoid or break bad habits?

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    1. I really like the idea of 30 days. You’re right. If you can stick with something for a month then you usually can keep that habit going. I have applied this to eating and exercise but not to finances. Great tip. I will have to try it.

      • In January, I used the 30 day plan to get on a healthy diet, and have spun that into 3 months and 40 pounds. This month, I’m doing that with exercise. Last year, I spent a month NOT shopping for anything new. It’s just a good way to break some unhealthy habits and addictions.

    2. I find small changes work better when you are trying to make a change.

    3. IMO, 30 days is too short. 🙂
      My tip is to put off buying the doodad for a few days. Don’t buy right away and you’ll have a chance to think on it a bit.
      Impulse purchases are bad.

    4. It’s all about identifying your spending triggers. Most of my spending comes from going out too much! I make it a point to stay in on weekends more often now, it makes a huge difference.

    5. Just found your blog by way of the Financial Bloggers conference! Love what I have seen so far. Excited to be following you now.

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