Overspending is an issue facing many of us. Whether its going beyond our means when buying a new car or charging too many restaurant meals on credit cards, we’re regularly spending more than what our budgets allow. In fact, nearly half of Americans say their expenses are equal to or greater than their income—and for consumers ages 18 to 25, the proportion rises to 54%.
We reached out to our favorite experts in personal finance to get their best tips on how to stop overspending. Check out their advice on seeing the bigger picture, keeping track of the details and managing credit cards.
Seeing the bigger picture
“A wise man once said wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants. To spend less, you should take into consideration that true wealth involves learning to be content with what you have and not being envious of others. It does not involve buying expensive things, but in having few wants. Learning not to keep up with the Joneses is a great way to reduce reckless overspending.” Brian Meiggs, My Millennial Guide
“The act of overspending is very much behavioral and ties into self-discipline. Until you can get your overspending under control, it can be a struggle to save money, pay off debt, invest and have peace of mind about your finances. If you find yourself consistently overspending, focus on the big picture and your financial goals, then identify the triggers that cause you to overspend.” Bola Sokunbi, Clever Girl Finance
Keeping track of the details
“The first thing someone needs to do when setting out to reduce overspending is to set up a budget. Without a budget, there is no way to know how much money is being spent each month. If you're spending more than you earn, the excess is most likely being added to your credit card balance.” Sean Bryant, One Smart Dollar
“Here are a few practical tips: First, don't think in terms of dollars when making a purchase. Think in terms of hours of work: A $50 trip to a restaurant may not sound like much, until you realize it takes three hours of work to pay for it. Next, get rid of your credit cards and use cash instead. Constant trips to the ATM should make your spending rate more obvious to you. Also, write down how much you charged and what you purchased in a notebook. Read the list every day to remind yourself of how much you're spending. You can also consider lowering your credit limit. You can't overspend if your limit is relatively low. Lastly, always ask yourself ‘Is it worth it?’ before making a purchase.” Adam Juda, TapRun Consulting
“Try these three techniques: 1) Use Mint (or a similar app) to track your spending. The average person probably thinks they know how they're spending their money, but the reality is most people can't account for every dollar they spend. Mint makes it easy to track every dollar you spend from your various accounts, and it categorizes them so you can see exactly where your money is going. 2) Cook more at home. One of the best things you can do to reduce spending is to cook more at home. No more going out for lunch several times a week—prep your lunch at home instead. And be a smart shopper at the grocery store: Use a site like BudgetBytes or the MealPrepSunday community on Reddit to get some great recipe ideas to build your grocery list with intent. 3) Can you get by without a car? If you live in area with good public transportation or you can get by with sharing a vehicle with your partner, you may be able to get rid of your vehicle and save a ton on gas and auto maintenance. You could even use ridesharing services to get around if you don't drive a lot.” Eric Anthony, Houston on the Cheap
“My best tips to reduce overspending are: 1) Wait 48 hours. We've gradually become a distracted country with everyone's face always buried in their smart phones. Turn this distraction into a positive by putting your attention on something else for the next 48 hours. Chances are, you will forget about the item. 2) Have ‘me money.’ This is a budgeted amount for fun spending weekly. The idea of creating a budget is not to ‘starve’ yourself really but give yourself permission to spend properly while accounting for where exactly your money went. 3) Make your credit card difficult to reach. Some websites store your credit card information on their website for your convenience. Other times, your information is stored on your phone. Remove your information from the website or phone. You can also leave your credit card at home and carry cash. Once your cash is finished, you're done.” Ogechi Igbokwe, OneSavvyDollar
Managing credit card overspending
“The best thing you can do to reduce your credit card spending is to cut up the cards, of course. It's a time-tested technique to keep you from spending more. But, I know that's now always practical for many people. Another thing you can do is to literally freeze your cards in a cup of water in your freezer. Then, you have to wait hours or days for the cards to thaw out if you want to make a purchase. It puts a different spin on sleeping on a decision. Freezing your credit cards makes you stop and think if the spending is actually worth it.” Hank Coleman, Money Q&A
“One of the best manageable ways to curb credit usage is to create a plan to only use credit for certain expenses. I love the idea of only using credit cards for some of the regular, but variable expenses in my budget so that I don’t feel guilty about using the card, as I know it is controlled spending. For example, I’ll only charge gasoline for my car on to my credit card: it’s something that I need but cannot be overspent on. That way, I can continue to build my credit while not being tempted to use the card for anything else since I’ve created that rule for myself. It forces me to use cash for those expenses that may be more frivolous and think more about whether I need that temptation expense or not.” Greg Norris, Credit Counselling Society
“A great way to cut down on credit card spending is to force yourself to slow down when making large purchases. For example, try making yourself to wait a month before making any purchases of more than $50 on things that are not absolutely essential (e.g., food and shelter). If you still feel like you need that thing after a month, get it. Likewise, if a recurring expense on your credit card is not absolutely essential, cancel it. If you feel like you really need it a month later, then start paying for it again. Using this system, you’ll cut down on impulse shopping with your credit card, and you might be surprised to find out how much you don’t actually need.” Sam Schultz, Honeyfi
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