The movie ‘Confessions of a Shopaholic’ is a feel good, relatable, and fun flick to watch. It’s packed with humour, money mishaps and lessons learned that we can all benefit from.
The main character, Rebecca Bloomwood’s experience is awesome for big screen drama and entertainment. But struggling to keep spending in check in real life, and being crippled with debt as a result, is far from fun.
Thankfully there are things we can do - strategies we can implement - to help curb the temptation to overspend.
Here are 5 strategies that I’ve personally put in place to curb spending.
These strategies help my husband and I manage our spending, keep our bank balances in the black, our marriage intact (no more disagreements about money), and our future selves happy - because ain’t nobody got time for money anxiety or conflicts from unhelpful spending habits! So, if you find your spending habits are impacting your wellbeing, relationships, credit file, or peace of mind, consider giving these strategies a go. They’ve certainly made a difference in my life, and I hope they can do the same for you too 😊
1. Cut up Credit Cards
When I was 19 years old, I learnt about credit cards the hard way. In a relatively short time, I racked up $5,000 in debt and I couldn’t tell you what I spent that money on. All I know is that I spent it quickly (on inconsequential things), and then spent the next two years paying it off. It sucked! I had no idea how to effectively manage a credit card, and got myself into serious trouble as a teenager.
It’s not uncommon either. According to research, the average credit card debt in Australia in 2021 was $5,221, and 27% of credit card holders don’t pay off their card debt each month - paying up to 20% interest + fees.
So, what did I learn from that experience?
The key takeaway I took was: pay with cash, not credit.
If I don’t have it, I don’t buy it... My options are to either wait until I do have the money, or to forget about it.
I won’t waiver for any discounts or promos either. As my Mum always says, "if it’s a good deal today, it'll be a good deal tomorrow".
Spending other people's money (i.e. the banks) is digging a debt trap for yourself that can take years to get out of. So if you’re like how I was at 19, consider cutting up your credit card(s). Then pay it off, and steer clear from getting another credit card in the future (unless you cure yourself from overindulging in credit, can clear it monthly, and manage it well).
2. Have your own Fun Account Dividing money into separate accounts is a great way to clearly see where your money is going. Having four accounts labelled Bills, Fun, Savings and Emergency Fund is a great place to start.
A set up like this helps ensure all your necessary costs are covered, gives you confidence and security (because you know where your money is and what it's allocated to), and also freedom to spend money on fun things too - because you have a separate account delegated to fun spending (Yay)!
Your fun account needs a debit card attached to it and a set amount of money that you contribute to it each month. The rules of the fun account are:
Spend it on whatever you want, and
Once it’s gone, it’s gone. You can’t top it up or take money from other accounts. Once you’ve spent your quota for the month, you have to wait until the following month for a refill before you can spend again.
For a time there, my husband and I shared a single fun account, but we soon discovered that didn’t work for us. My husband is a better spender than I am, and the fun money would quickly disappear on coffees and mountain bike parts - which of course would cause an argument.
Solution? Now we have two individual fun accounts and our money conflicts have gone (woohoo!) Now he doesn’t have anyone nagging him about what he spends money on, and I’m not complaining about getting the short end of the stick. Win - win!
3. Create Spending Plans This is something we do with our kids now too. It helps us avoid mega meltdowns in the shops over toys they see, and gives them ownership over their money. In the early days, their spending plans were less written lists, and more coloured in drawings. But that's okay - it's all about getting them used to the money habit early... the writing will come later 😊
Our spending plan is a five step process. Before we hit the shops (whether it’s for the weekly food shop, school supplies, new clothes or kids toys), we do this:
Identify what we want and write it down (if there's more than one item, a shopping list is a must)
Research on the internet the costs and where to buy from
Check our cash to make sure we have the money in the bank to afford it
Head to the shops and have fun shopping (or buying online)
Then we celebrate! This is one of the most important steps... Acknowledgement. Acknowledging how well you did with creating and working your spending plan (espeically for the kids), works wonders in encouraging this behaviour again in the future.
While creating a spending plan does take a little longer than simply grabbing something at the shops and impulse buying, the time spent is worth it if you're looking to curb unnecessary spending, get the best bang for your buck, and nurtture a great money habit!
4. Avoid Afterpay and Buy Now, Pay Later schemes
This one is a different version of the ‘cut up credit cards’ point above.
If you can't afford to buy it now with your own money, you can't afford it.
While Afterpay and BNPL aren’t necessarily listed on your credit report, if you default and miss payments, that can be reported in some cases - impacting your credit history.
Plus, if you’re considering applying for a home loan in the future, mortgage brokers and lenders will see these payments on your bank statements, and it isn’t the most favourable for your application. Something to keep in mind and perhaps more motivation for you to avoid these schemes in the future?
5. Get Creative
I am all for takeaway dinners (especially after a big day!) and celebratory catch ups with friends and family, but the cost of going out can add up. So to help save some dollars here, I love getting creative! Whether it’s baking the kids snacks on the weekend over buying in store treats, cutting sandwiches into dinosaur or puzzle shapes with cutters to make school lunches look more enticing than tuckshop, planning family picnics where we all bring a plate or enjoy a family games night in, day trips hiking or beach going with friends where we pack snacks and share meals… finding other ways to have fun with the people we love, doing cost-effective activities and outings can be a great way to reduce spending. Added bonus: we get to discover new places, enjoy new experiences, and find other ways to connect with one another, which is priceless!
So, there you have it - 5 strategies to curb spending all wrapped up.
Which strategy are you going to take on and apply in your life? Or perhaps you have a great strategy that I haven't noted above? Feel free to comment below and let me know what actions you're going to take to nip unnecessary spending in the bud, today.
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