Everyone is feeling the pinch these days and looking for ways to cut their spending. Intending to practice smart spending is one thing, though, and accomplishing it another for a number of reasons. First, old habits can be hard to break. Second, new habits take time to become second nature. Third, the person having trouble with their smart spending strategies needs to understand their relationship with money can be a complex one.
In the same way that it is so tough to diet, eat right and exercise, financial fitness can be an elusive goal because of the emotions involved in spending. An emotional high, because the person is bored, the reward mentality; these all come into play when it comes to out of control spending. There is even shopping addiction, both online and in the real world.
“I work hard, so I deserve this,” is true to a certain extent. But that person also deserves financial security, with savings for an emergency and enough money to live on to enjoy a comfortable retirement if they start planning early and stick to their plan.
Financial fitness can help people through unhealthy times in their life when money is scarce, such as the loss of a job or poor health through illness or accident.
Emotional Issues Connected with Money
One of the biggest challenges is the “Me too” thinking that is so prevalent in modern society. “Everyone has one, so why not me?” Except that you may not really want it or need it. Why buy an iPod if that person really doesn’t like listening to music everywhere they go.
Then there is the “accessorize” mentality. They buy the iPod and then “need” all the other little gadgets that go with it.
Electronic gadgets and the perception of newness is also a real danger. Some people will change their cell phones every three months or line up for hours just to buy the latest trendy laptop. Yes, it looks gorgeous, but is it really a need, or just another item on the list of never-ending desires they are constantly on a quest to fulfill?
Keeping Track of Spending
To establish one’s emotional relationship to money, track spending for a whole week, when, what, why, and what feeling drove the expense. “Was surfing online, saw this great pair of earrings,” suggests both boredom and a want versus need mentality. “Needed the latest music from iTunes,” is a habit you can get out of once you see how much you are spending.
Look over your household budget carefully. If you don’t have one, now is the time to start. Using the budget and the tracking worksheet, see where your money is really going. Then try to plug the holes in where the money is going and divert the cash from spending into a savings account.
An Attitude of Gratitude
One of the ways to cut down on spending is to look at all the positive things in one’s life which money can’t buy, friends, family, pets. Money obviously helps to enjoy the better things in life, but there is no need for closets full of clothes and shoes that have never even been worn. If a person finds himself or herself bringing new purchases home and then just leaving them in the bag or putting them away unused, that is the sure sign of emotional spending.
If a person lies about what they spent on something, or hides the fact that they have been shopping, that too is a sign of shopping addiction or an unhealthy relationship with money. The next time they are tempted to go shopping, they should instead go through their closets to find all the things they have bought that they have not used and either appreciate and use them, or find a smart strategy for dealing with the mistake they have made.
This can include selling them new or like-new on eBay, donating to charity, or going to a clothes swap or consignment shop.
Taking Control of Your Money
If the person discovers they have a ton of items they have never even used, all is not lost. Items in good condition can be sold on EBay or Craigslist. More scuffed up items can be donate to a charity like the Salvation Army, and they can get a receipt. The amount on the receipt can then be deducted from their taxes at the end of the year.
There are many ways to cut corners and adopt smart spending and saving strategies. Once a person identified their emotional issues with money and spending it will be easy to get rid of old habits and start to save more.
More Smart Spending Strategies
Re-thinking your relationship with money and spending is the key to smart spending and savings.
One of the main reasons many people over-spend is out of boredom. Another is that they are out with friends and there is social pressure to spend in order to have a good time. However, the important thing about socializing should be whom we spend time with, not how much we spend.
Spending Time and Money Wisely
If a person finds that they have too much leisure time on their hands that gives them a lot of time to spend out of boredom, there are a number of things they can do to spend more smartly. They can take a second job or use their skills or a favorite hobby to start a business of their own to start bringing in more money. They can collect recyclable cans and bottles with the whole family, or just make the time to take their own back to the store to get the deposits back. They can all add up to big savings.
If a person finds themselves spending a lot on things like eating out, they can start to learn how to cook themselves to save money and eat better. This can also be a very romantic date night for a couple cooking together at home. If a person enjoy cocktails when they go out (in moderation of course), they can learn how to mix them themselves. If they enjoy wine, in many cases they can buy a whole bottle for what one glass will cost at a local bar or restaurant.
If they have a bad latte habit, they can invest in a disc-based coffee machine system and flavored non-fat creamers to save both money and calories. If they spend a lot on lunch every day, they can brown bag it. With all the money they save, they can set a goal to keep them motivated, such as a nice vacation, a new car, or something with a real dollar value to it. In this way they can put the money aside in a special savings account and see how their money starts to build up in order to get to their target amount.
If smart spending strategies sounds like a bad time out, not a good one, you can still socialize, just more frugally. Instead of going to the movies with friends, get a subscription to Netflix and rent DVDs or stream video from Netflix or Amazon.
Instead of an expensive gym membership, try the YMCA, or rent exercise workout DVDs from Netflix and try a variety of routines so you can keep fit and never be bored. Invite friends over for an exercise session and maybe even a pot luck meal afterwards.
Don’t forget to use the local library as well. They will have loads of books, DVDs and magazines and can consider requests when they are allocating their budget, so there will be no need to buy them yourself. If you have a lot of CDs and DVDs, sell them on eBay or second-hand in the Amazon Marketplace. If you have bought them from Amazon, they will even buy them back from you. Just go to the page for the product you purchased and look on the right hand side for instructions if you want to sell it back.
Savings Around the Home
Many people can also save a great deal of money by learning to repair things themselves if they break, or do their own painting and other simple home repairs instead of paying someone else to do it for them. Replacing old appliances even if they are still working may sound like a strange idea, but the energy efficiency of new appliances can add up to huge savings on the water, gas and electric bills.
Making sure the house and boiler has good insulation, setting the thermostat or air conditioner a degree or two lower, can all add up.
Also have a look at the cable bill, internet and phone bill. Is that bundled package really the best deal? When is the last time anyone watched all those channels on cable? It may sound like only $10, but that adds up to an extra $120 a year for other things.
We’ve already suggested renting DVDs. It is also possible to do that with computer games. Or try something that doesn’t require electricity, like a good old fashioned board game or card game night at home with family or friends, or neighbors. Renting big ticket items or pooling resources amongst the neighbors such as gardening tools can also help save money.
The company RAC will allow you to rent, with a view to buy as well. Just be sure you really need the item and are not just indulging yourself.
Everyone will have to spend at some point, but comparison shopping is one way to save money. Also think about cutting coupons, shopping only the sale specials in the local supermarkets and buying a chest freezer. The freezer can not only be used to stock up on good store bargains, it can be used to store homemade “TV dinners” made from cooking large portions, eating the meal once or perhaps twice with the leftovers on another day, and then freezing the rest. The meals can then be used for lunch on the go or a handy meal to heat and eat in the microwave.
Other Daily Ways to Save
Is driving to work really the cheapest option, or taking public transport? Can you organize carpooling with colleagues or neighbors? Can you give up your coffee habit for a week to see how much you save? Best of all, can you kick butt and stop smoking, for even bigger savings in terms of money and your health?
There are many ways to cut corners and adopt smart spending and saving strategies. All it takes is a little creativity and the willingness to put savings ahead of spending.