After more than a year of being cooped up indoors in order to evade a deadly plague, the U.S. has mostly reopened. How do we honor this pivotal moment? Well, if you’re anything like me, you might be spending a lot more money than you were during lockdown. You’d think I didn’t already own a closet of cute clothes based on the way I’m spending on new dresses and shoes. I want to attend all the concerts and so I’m scooping up tickets left and right. Restaurants are back so I’m going out to eat all the time, and I’m already looking up airfare for the first major trip my husband and I can take since our honeymoon.
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According to a new poll conducted by Affirm, 45% of Americans are planning to spend more money in 2021 than in the last two summers combined. While a little splurging here and there is well deserved after the hardships Americans endured, things can easily get out of control (feel free to use me as your example). Before we blow all our cash on all the things, we might want to take a breath, reassess and consider ways in which we can curb our spending on the glorious reopening.
Last updated: August 3, 2021
1. Keep Track of Everything You Spend — and Self-Reflect Before Buying
“The best tip to curb your reopening spending is to plan and keep track of everything you spend,” said Ray, at IAM The Financial Feminist. “Before you go out to eat with your friends, check your budget and set a spending limit. Before you buy anything, stop for 5 seconds and reflect.
“This simple tip to practice mindful spending will prevent you from digging yourself into a financial hole. In fact, you should keep this mindful spending habit for the rest of your life. Have fun, be mindful of every purchase and enjoy your post-quarantine fun.”
2. Take the Opportunity To Review Your Regular Expenses
“The best way to make a budget easier to follow is by increasing it,” said Gary Hemming, commercial lending director at ABC Finance Ltd. “Obviously this can only be done by earning more money, or reducing your outgoings. Reviewing your expenses with the world reopening is wise.”
3. Assess Your Broken ‘Habit Loops’
“You likely broke many spending habits during lockdown,” said Brie Sodano, personal finance expert, From Sheep to Shark. “Take a few moments to evaluate which habits you don’t want back. For example, a daily deli habit or shopping on your way home from work. Since the habits are already broken it will be easier to not go back. Steer clear of rebuilding habits you don’t want.”
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4. Don’t Follow Reopening Sales
“This is one of the major causes why one would end up overspending,” said Rasti Nikolic, a certified financial consultant at LoanAdvisor. “So, my advice would be to not follow these sales and ‘good deals’ too closely unless you absolutely need to buy some essential items; moreover, if you already have stockpiled the products, there’s no need to buy them again even if there are good deals.”
5. Set Up an Automatic Payment To Pay Yourself First
“Every paycheck you receive determines a set amount that will go right into a savings account that should be completely separate from your operating account, where you pay your household bills,” said Jaclyn Strauss, CPA, founder, My Macro Memoir. “You are worthy of being paid first, and ensure you implement this habit. Avoid looking at the balance of this account until the end of the year. You will be celebrating, I promise.”
6. Organize What You Already Have on a Spreadsheet
“Once we take the time to sit down and put pen to paper or keyboard to digital document storage, you will likely see with clear eyes that you have too much,” Strauss said. “This can go for material items as well. Take self-inventory, leveraging organization tools, and take the time to celebrate what you have and perhaps identify if any gaps must be filled. Only ‘need to have items,’ not ‘nice to have items,’ should be considered for purchase.”
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7. Allocate Another 1-2 Months Aside in Emergency Savings
“If you’ve established an emergency savings, consider setting aside one or two months worth of expenses in a savings account that you’ll use for everyday spending and get away from living paycheck to paycheck,” said Tania C. Foster, founder and financial advisor with TF Wealth Advisors. “This way, you’re always one month ahead. Your utilities company and phone companies require you to pay in advance for services to reduce risk of default, why not approach your own financial situation the same way?”
8. Prioritize Your Spending on Those Who Really Matter
“The COVID-19 pandemic showed us exactly what we needed to survive and sifted out the unnecessary luxuries,” said Amanda Ramkissoon, a personal finance blogger and owner of The Frugal Mom Guide. “Even more so, the complications associated with social distancing and staying at home put a strain on many relationships.
“Relationships that were non-existent during the lockdown should not be a financial priority when the world re-opens. If a friend took time to stay in contact with you consistently, go ahead and get together for a meal. Get them that present. Prioritize your spending on the people who really matter. You’ll save way more than you’d think.”
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9. Pay With Cash Instead of Debit/Credit Cards
“Paying with your card can seem convenient but when you don’t regularly check your balance, you just might end up overspending,” said Christopher Liew, founder of Wealth Awesome. “Try to pay in cash instead. That way, you can withdraw a fixed amount from your card to serve as your budget. Being able to see how much goes out of your wallet and how much is left can be a good way to make you hold back on spending too much.”
This tip should be easier to follow than it was during the height of the pandemic, when we are cornered into doing most of our shopping online in order to heed shelter-in-place protocol.
10. Commit To a Spending Freeze
“One way to halt the post-pandemic shopping spree is to commit to a spending freeze for any item that’s over a certain amount,” said Tana Williams, a personal finance blogger at Debt Free Forties. “For example, anything you want to purchase that’s over $50, write down and wait a week. Once the waiting period is up, revisit the idea and see if you still want to purchase it. Chances are, you don’t, and you’ll have saved yourself from falling knee-deep into a new (or larger) pile of debt.”
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11. Don’t Panic If You Spend More Than Planned
“Things don’t always go according to plan, [so] if you end up overspending, don’t let it become a big issue in your mind,” Hemming said. “As long as you’re regularly reviewing things, you shouldn’t go too far off track, so just amend your budget for the remainder of the month to either bring you back on track, or limit how far off course you go. Having to cut back for the rest of the month also tends to focus the mind on not repeating the same mistake the following month.”
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