How to get your spending under control
Do you feel like you work your whole life away but have very little to show for it in your bank account? It might be time to put your spending on hiatus—a.k.a. a “BUY-a-tus.” When you hit pause on mindless spending, you can train yourself over time to become more considerate about where your money goes each week. If you feel like you’re consistently overspending, the good news is you’re not alone—and it’s honestly not even your fault. Our consumer-driven culture is obsessed with getting you to throw your money away and spend out every single month. Here are some ways to rein in your spending so you can regain control and watch your savings account (finally) start to stack up.
1. Scroll less. Save more.
Part of the reason we’re so hungry to shop is we have ads coming at us every second of the day. Your social media feeds are designed to upsell you a plethora of things you never knew you always wanted—but definitely don’t actually need. And companies make it far too easy by linking to shopping features and by auto-filling pertinent credit card and shipping information. An easy and efficient way to put a cap on mindless spending is to cut off the source of these pushy messages encouraging us to “buy now.” The fastest way to stop the flow of temptation is to set aside a week or two where you resolve to scroll less and set boundaries and time limits on how long you allow yourself to be online. If you don’t want to ditch social media altogether, you can temporarily mute the brands that tempt you the most—think cute dresses, bags, home decor—whatever your main weaknesses are. Or go through your feed and do an elimination diet—where you unfollow brands and influencers in favor of concentrating more on friends and family members than commerce-focused companies.
2. Make it harder to click “buy now”
Speaking of those autofill features, a sure-fire way to get a handle on your spending is to add natural hurdles along the way that give you time to pause and think, “Do I really need this, or can I live without it?” When you have to put down your phone and go off in search of your physical credit card, it adds a layer of complication (or at least annoyance) to the process that gives time for doubt, mindfulness, and intention to come into play. Disable the card numbers stored in your phone and on your laptop, and you’ve already won half the battle.
3. Enforce a “Use what you have month”
Thinking about buying a dress for an upcoming party or wedding? What about that little black number in the back of your closet you only wore once? What about the dress your best friend looked so great in last month? The mantra “Use what you have” is powerful and covers everything from frivolous expenditures to everyday household items. It’s a great exercise and can teach you to readjust the way you think when it comes to shopping overall. Maybe instead of buying a lint roller this week, you can use the masking tape in your junk drawer for touch-ups. Tempted to try that new shampoo (with a cabinet full of other perfectly-fine shampoos waiting for you)? Wait until next month and see if you even remember you wanted it. Every time you reach for the Amazon app on your phone, pause and ask yourself if you already own something that does the job for what you’re about to buy. After a month of reminding yourself to use what you already have in your closet and around the house, you’ll have a head start on healthier shopping habits, and you’ll teach yourself to redefine the word “need.”
4. Swap your stuff
One person’s clutter is another person’s party clutch. Rather than dropping money on something you’ll wear or use twice, host a clothing exchange. Pull together a list of your most stylish friends and have them scour their closets for things no longer in rotation. Your co-worker might be completely over last season’s leather skirt, but you might have tons of new ideas for styling it. We all have pieces that are in great condition but just never felt right for us, and never saw the light of day. This is a great way to re-home (or re-closet) items without listing them for sale or spending a single dime yourself. Plus, it’s a fun bonding activity where everyone leaves with a bag of new dresses, jackets, and tops to rock. Just don’t forget the wine!
Small steps make a big difference
Changing the way you spend can feel tricky at first, but it’s not impossible—you’re rewiring your brain and habits that have become automatic (but aren’t serving you). Start from where you are, and don’t beat yourself up for a lack of savings or any debt you’ve racked up. The trick is to take control starting today because even small steps can make a big difference. Trust us, the sense of accomplishment will last far longer than that super trendy thing you’ve been eyeing.
Elle Kensington is a lifestyle writer based in NYC.