How To Stop Spending Money

Young woman preparing home budget, using laptop and calculator.
BartekSzewczyk / Getty Images/iStockphoto

It’s easy to get into the habit of mindlessly spending money on everything from your daily Starbucks drink to an impulse purchase on Amazon. Although the occasional unplanned purchase is fine, not being mindful of what you are spending money on and how often you are spending it can put you over your monthly budget. Fortunately, curbing your spending can be easier than you think.

If you need money-saving tips, here are 10 ways to stop sabotaging your money.

1. Keep Track of Everyday Expenses

You might not realize how much you’re spending every day on morning coffee, Uber rides or lunches out. To get a grasp on where your money is going, track each purchase you make for one month. You can keep a written record or use a budgeting app or online tracker. At the end of the month, review your purchases and see which ones you can cut back on or eliminate. 

2. Track and Categorize Your Regular Monthly Expenses

In addition to the out-of-pocket purchases you’re making daily, you also pay monthly bills for things such as utilities, streaming services, internet and rent. Track all of your monthly expenses, separating them into two categories: “needs” and “wants.” Next, subtract your total monthly spending from your monthly income and see if you have money left over or if you come up short. If you have a negative balance, slash useless expenses from your budget, and if you have money left over, funnel it to your savings. 

Make Your Money Work for You

3. Scrub Your Inbox and Social Media Feeds

If your email inbox and social media feeds are teeming with invitations and ads to purchase products, take action now. Unsubscribe from the weekly curated wardrobe or meal kit emails. Also, hide every hygiene product or shoe ad that tempts you on your social media feeds. On Facebook, for instance, look for the option to hide all ads from a certain advertiser, which completely removes the chance that you’ll see another ad for a different product from that particular advertiser.

4. Remove Online Payment Information

It’s easy to mindlessly make online purchases when all your credit card info is already stored and saved to your account. To help you resist the temptation to buy, remove all payment information from your online accounts and never have your wallet within reach when you’re on your computer or phone. Also, delete your favorite impulse shopping apps from your phone and delete any corresponding bookmarks from your computer.

5. Implement the 30-Day Savings Rule for Purchases

The 30-day savings rule is easy to implement. Every time you want to make an impulse purchase, you stop and make yourself wait 30 days before giving yourself the option of making the purchase. This gives you a chance to reconsider making the purchase, which will often work, especially if you were initially motivated to spend out of stress, boredom or a desire to have what someone else you admire has. If you get to the end of the 30 days and you still have a strong urge to purchase the item, you can give yourself permission to do so.

Make Your Money Work for You

6. Avoid Lifestyle Creep

If you fall victim to lifestyle creep, it can be a vicious cycle. As you make more money — such as if you get a raise at work — you spend more money. As you spend more money, you look for ways to bring in more money. As you bring in more money, you upgrade your lifestyle to spend the additional income, and so on.

Instead of spending all of the additional money you earn, make a point to save or invest the majority of it, with a goal in mind of earning compound interest and making, not spending, more money.

7. Automate Your Savings

You can cut down on spending and save money by limiting the discretionary funds you have available. Set up your accounts to automatically have extra money taken out of your paycheck or checking account and put into a savings or investment account, such as a 401(k). After using this savings strategy for a few months, you won’t even miss the money. 

8. Examine Your Financial Motives

You might have an almost uncontrollable urge to spend money and find it difficult to successfully implement these tips for the long haul. If that’s the case, you’ll need to examine your motives.

Make Your Money Work for You

The next time you find yourself tempted to spend, ask yourself if you really need to make the purchase, or if you just want to shop as a reaction to something else. Knowing why you’re buying something could lead to an easy way to save money. Bring the desire to buy into perspective by asking yourself if the purchase will really make a life-changing difference within a week, a month or a year. Chances are it won’t, so don’t buy it.

You should also think about why it’s more important for you to save than spend. For example, think about how gratifying it would be to be able to retire ahead of schedule.

9. Set and Achieve Financial Goals

Once you know why you want to save, use that information to set some financial goals, which will help you have a focus for your money.

First, make a list of both short-term and long-term goals. Short-term goals include saving for a down payment on a home or an emergency fund. Long-term goals could focus on retirement planning or paying off student loan debt.

Next, decide on the monthly amount you can contribute to each goal and also set a time limit on how long you think it will take you to achieve each goal.

Finally, review your goals and assess your progress at regular intervals. As you achieve each goal, set up a new one to keep yourself motivated.

10. Be Willing To Start Over When Needed

Unfortunately, even with discipline and determination, life can get in the way and disrupt your goals. If you get off track due to a break in income or a large expense, make a promise to yourself to get back on track as soon as you can. If you can’t maintain the standard you set prior to your setback, adjust your goals accordingly. For example, temporarily reduce the amount you were saving each month toward your goals to give you some financial breathing room. In doing so, you’ll still be making progress.

Why Is Spending Money So Hard To Quit?

Spending money on things you desire is a form of instant gratification. It activates the pleasure centers in your brain and feels good to you at the time. If you’re used to spending money on whatever you want, it will take a considerable amount of discipline to quit this habit.

The key is to discover specific reasons for saving instead of spending — reasons that mean more to you than that feeling of instant gratification when you buy something new. Once you do, set specific and measurable short- and long-term goals to help you save instead of spend and track your progress. And if life gets in the way, don’t sweat it. Instead, keep making small, manageable steps toward your goals and strive to get back on track with your original goals as soon as you can.

Gabrielle Olya contributed to the reporting for this article.

Our in-house research team and on-site financial experts work together to create content that’s accurate, impartial, and up to date. We fact-check every single statistic, quote and fact using trusted primary resources to make sure the information we provide is correct. You can learn more about GOBankingRates’ processes and standards in our editorial policy.

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Make Your Money Work for You

About the Author

Cynthia Measom is a personal finance writer and editor with over 15 years of collective experience. Her articles have been featured in MSN, AOL, Yahoo Finance, INSIDER, Houston Chronicle and The Seattle Times. She attended the University of Texas at Austin and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.
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