I’m never spending money again.
I’ve made that declaration plenty of times, usually when facing a spending hangover from buying something I didn’t need.
But real solutions for how to cut back on spending are simpler and less drastic than never spending another cent.
How to cut back on spending
In our consumer-centric society, a few simple changes to your mindset can transform you from being an over-spender to a super-saver.
Here are seven ways to avoid retailers’ spending traps, make fewer purchases, and get more value out of life.
1. Stop and think before each purchase
Central to figuring out ways to cut back on spending is to start paying more attention to it. Think through your process for making a purchase, then challenge your assumptions about what’s worth buying and what’s not.
Get in the habit of questioning each purchase before you make it. Do you really need it? Or could this wait until you’ve saved for it? Try and answer these questions honestly, and avoid making excuses or justifications for unnecessary purchases.
2. Switch to cash-only spending
An easy way to be more mindful of purchases is to switch to paying with cash. Paying with cash is a more tangible process compared to inserting a digital number attached to your bank account.
Psychologically, parting with bills is inherently harder than swiping a card, too. It puts a natural check on your spending. And unlike swiping plastic, you’ll avoid credit card costs like interest and other fees.
3. Look at the full costs of an expense
You probably regularly consider the sticker price of an item before making a purchase. You might even look around for a discount or deal on it.
But you should also think through other costs a new purchase will bring. Try to picture how you’ll be using the item or service in the future. Perhaps you’ll have to spend money, time, and energy to maintain it. Or, maybe it will just take up valuable square footage in your home.
Make sure you’re considering all potential costs of your new purchase before deciding if you’re getting a good value.
4. Beg, borrow, or rent before you buy
Just because you want something doesn’t necessarily mean you have to part with cash to get it. Do some research and see if there’s a way to get what you want without spending money.
Ask your social circle if someone has the item you want who would be willing to lend or even give it to you. Check local listings to see if you can find it for free or for cheap.
Even renting can be a better option than buying, especially if it’s a purchase you’ll only occasionally use.
5. Develop a resistance to advertising
As a suggestible person, advertising has a strong affect on me. Unfortunately, that’s led to some pretty stupid spending. Here’s looking at you $100 eye cream that did nothing for the dark circles under my eyes.
Building up a resistance to advertising was one of my most effective strategies for cutting my spending. I avoid looking at ads whenever I can. And when I’m being advertised to, I keep a healthy dose of cynicism.
Most advertisements first make you believe you have a problem and then promise they have the best solution for it.
For example, an ad may tell me that those dark circles under my eyes are making me ugly. However, this $100 eye cream is just the cure I need to look and feel beautiful again!
Don’t believe everything the ads tell you. Turn up your skepticism and question whether you have a problem in the first place. And don’t take their word that this product they’re advertising is actually the best way to solve it.
6. Tune into messages that tell you to spend less
You’re constantly getting messages and ads designed to get you to spend. To combat these even more effectively, don’t just tune them out. Replace them with ideas and messages that motivate you to save more and spend less money instead.
Whatever your favorite entertainment medium, find content that helps you learn more about money and encourages responsible spending.
Try following social media accounts centered on saving. Listen to a radio show or podcast about money management. Bookmark your favorite money-related blogs and news sites and read them regularly.
7. Focus on creating as well as consuming
In addition to spending less, could you also be creating more income? On top of limiting purchases, you might be able to offload unused items for cash and free up resources.
Perhaps you could eat cheaper and healthier at home by cooking more meals. Or maybe you’d be more entertained working on an income-generating passion project instead of zoning out in front of the TV.
Remember, at the end of the day, there’s more to you than just being a consumer. As you make this more of a focus, your spending habits will naturally change to reflect that. And finding ways to cut spending will be the norm, not the exception.
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