Are you ready to stop living paycheck to paycheck? Get control of your spending and finally reach your financial goals with these fifteen tips.
How To Get Control Of Your Spending And Finally Reach Your Financial Goals
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1. Clarify Your Why
Why do you want to get control of your spending? Do you want to pay off debt? Save for a vacation? Be a better steward of your financial resources?
Now clarify that why. For example, say you want to pay off debt. How much debt? How long do you want to take to pay it off? How much do you think you could put towards your debt each month?
Your why should be a goal that is feasible, but challenging. It should have a timeline that is doable, but will mean you will have to work at staying on task to meet it.
Most importantly your why should spark passion within you. It should be something that excites you and makes you want to dig in and become a better manager of your money not just for today, but for all the days ahead when you are struggling with the harsh reality of living within your means.
Write your why down and place it somewhere you can see it daily. Make a wallet-friendly sized reminder and put it in yours so each time you are reaching for your cash you are reminded of your goal and it will help you take a minute to think–is this purchase worth delaying your financial goal?
2. Hold A Family Spending Freeze Challenge
With your goal ahead of you, now is the time to do the cold turkey method to control your spending. For at least one calendar month don’t spend money on anything not 100% necessary for survival. The longer your spending freeze, the more money you will save and the more bad money habits you will break.
Two excellent books that will help you plan your spending freeze are:
- 31 Days of Living Well and Spending Zero: Freeze Your Spending. Change Your Life
- The Spender’s Guide to Debt-Free Living: How a Spending Fast Helped Me Get from Broke to Badass in Record Time
Here are a few things that are examples of what can be cut for the duration of your spending freeze:
- Eating out
- Clothing purchases
- Home decor purchases
- Entertainment expenses
- Babysitting expenses beyond those for work purposes
- Cosmetic purchases
- Gift purchases
Basically, you don’t spend a dime unless absolutely necessary. It is time to use up those free samples of shampoo lying around when the bottle of your favorite brand runs out.
You don’t hit the grocery store without raiding the cupboards first and seeing what food you could make with what you already have.
If you find a gift card to your favorite restaurant or find out that you have enough points from your favorite rewards company to cash out for one, then fine, you can go. But you can’t spend more than the amount on the gift card (except for the tip, of course. Don’t make the waitress part of your no spending experiment, that is just wrong)
If you run out of something and you need it, see if you can make do by using something else you have in your possession or by using ingredients or supplies you have on hand to make your own.
- This requires out of the box thinking. Here is an article I wrote about how I tap into this type of creative thinking.
- My Pinterest account is full of boards that show you how to make your own items and supplies by altering something into something new (like a pillow for a gift out of a sweater). Go here and join me on Pinterest.
3. Track Your Spending
You can begin this during your spending freeze or start doing it when your freeze is done. The quicker you do it, the better, but I don’t want to overwhelm you either. One step at a time changes are often longer lasting –so if you want to get control of your spending for good, don’t be hesitant to give yourself at least 30 days to get used to these steps before moving on, or as long as 90 days if need be. Improve at the pace that works for you.
As for how to track your spending, keep it simple! Collect receipts all day long and then write them down in a notebook. Use a spending app if that is more your thing. Use a note app and create a new note each day and write purchases down as you make them. Do what works for you.
The most important part of tracking your spending is to note what category of your budget the money was spent on. So if you stop at Walmart and spend $100 but $50 was on food, and $25 was new shoes for you and the last $25 was dog food you would write down Walmart $100 ($50 food/ $25 clothing/ $25 dog supplies).
This gives you an accurate picture of where your money is going and on what.
4. Create A Realistic Budget
So many people create a budget based on how others live. They see a blogger on the internet that feeds her family of 5 for just $50 a week and figure they should shoot for that number too. But you are not living their life–you are living yours. Perhaps they have better access to grocery markdowns or they still have a store that doubles coupons. They could have children that can eat anything whereas yours all have allergies. It is possible they have a giant garden and the only land you have available is a little patio.
When it comes to budgeting, your budget should be as unique as the needs of your family are. Take the numbers you have from tracking your spending and make a realistic budget based on those. You can always go back and lower specific budget categories as you learn ways to reduce your expenses.
For help with how to create your first budget, I recommend the free budgeting resources (when you subscribe to their email list) found at Crown Ministries. My family used Crown over 20 years ago to set up our first budget and found their resources to be very helpful in creating a spending plan that works no matter what your income.
5. Make Sure Your Budget Includes Some Wiggle Room
A budget doesn’t have to include essentials only; it can and should consist of a few categories of things that make life fun or at least more enjoyable. Yes, you do have to make your budget equal the same or less than your income, but hopefully that means you can fit in at least $50 to $100 worth of extras like eating out, date night or blow on what you want money.
No room in the budget for these things? Create some wiggle room by following these tips.
6. Figure Out Your Spending Triggers And Avoid Situations That Place You In Them
If HGTV makes you run to the store for home decor items–stop watching it. If every time you go out with a particular couple you find yourself having financial remorse the next day over the money you spent on just one dinner, see if you can convince them to eat in at your house instead of going out. If your current route to work takes you down the street of your favorite coffee shop and you have a hard time not swinging through the drive through each day, figure out a new route.
Look at your spending logs, where are you spending more money than you planned to? Those are your spending triggers, and you need a plan to avoid them.
7. Spend Only Cash Or Use Gift Cards
Our thrifty family is pretty good about not overspending, so we use our debit cards for 95% of our expenses. One area where we use cash, though, is for eating out. As a busy work-at-home mom, I would much rather eat out than eat in after a long day of work and errands. To make sure we keep our eating out in check, we use cash. When the cash is gone, we are done eating out until next payday.
If you are transitioning to living within your means, I suggest you use cash for as many categories of your budget as possible. If you don’t feel comfortable carrying around large amounts of cash, you could consider looking into pre-paid debit cards (make sure to read the fine print about any possible fees).
Another consideration is gift cards. Using gift cards can also save you money when you buy them through websites like Cardpool where they are available at a discount. Whenever our family is doing a large renovation project, I often buy gift cards from Cardpool for Lowe’s as this helps us stay on budget and save an additional 5-10%.
8. Find Free Ways To Relax And Spend Time With Others
What you do for fun or relaxation doesn’t have to cost a thing. Seriously–there are free options available all around you.
Here are four free entertainment sources:
Free books: Join My Reader Rewards Club for free Christian fiction and nonfiction books shipped to your home for zero out of pocket. You do need to do a few points earning actions to get a book, but most take seconds to a few minutes.
Free magazines: Join Recyclebank and earn points as you learn about how to help the environment. Cash those points out for magazines.
Free movies, books, classes and more: Join your local library and check out all they have to offer. Ours offers two free memberships to apps that offer audiobooks, movies, and eBooks. When I visit the library, I can check out books, magazines, DVD’s, books on CD, music CDs and more. Their events calendar features story hour and craft time for little ones, a monthly knitting class for adults and much more.
Free hikes, festivals, museums and more: Check out the All Trails apps for free hiking in your area. For free events in your state, visit your local tourist website. I also like to find free places to visit through Trip Advisor and Only In Your State. Two last spots I check are Pinterest where I punch in “free things to do in…..” and local blogs for the area we are visiting (to find them I google “blogs about….”). And don’t forget geocaching is free–download the app and see if someone has hidden a treasure in your area and if not, hide one.
For more free entertainment ideas check out:
- 50 Things You Can Get For Free: Reduce Your Budget–Not Your Lifestyle
- 10 Fall Dates That Cost Zero
- 15 Wintertime Family Fun Activities That Cost Zero
9. Ask This Question Before You Buy Anything
10. Do This Before Getting In Line To Pay At The Register
I learned this simple tip from the book Slaying The Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After. Every time you go grocery shopping take a minute to look through the contents of your cart before you go up to the register and remove at least one item. This will help you become more aware of your impulse shopping and should reduce the number of items that linger in your kitchen cabinets because they sounded good while shopping, but you have yet to find a recipe to make with them.
11. Create A Financial Goal Inspirational Reminder
The picture of the keychain above is the perfect example of what I mean by this point if you wanted to get control of your spending so you could save money for a home.
If your goal is to create an emergency fund so you are no longer blindsided by unexpected expenses, perhaps a picture of a broken down car stuck to your fridge would be a great visual reminder.
Whatever your goal, there is a visual reminder for it and by keeping it where you can see it several times a day you will be constantly reminded why you are working at controlling your spending.
12. Remember: One Failure Does Not Make You A Failure
If you make a financial mistake along the way to your goal, don’t use it as an excuse to quit. We all make mistakes, what differentiates those that meet their financial goals and those that don’t is the willingness to try again after a setback.
13. Make Sure Your Savings Account Is Hard To Get To
Don’t link your savings account for your goal and the account you use for day to day expenses in any way. Open the goal account in another bank and don’t get a checkbook for it, a bank card, or online access. The harder the money is to touch, the less you will touch it. We do this for our saving goals, and it really works. Yes, it does mean you have to get to the bank during banking hours to transfer money in or get it out, but that extra effort is what keeps you from digging into it when you shouldn’t.
14. Find Ways To Get What You Need Or Want For Less
You can reach your financial goals faster if you learn how to spend less money on everyday expenses. This is the next step after you have learned to control your spending. It requires learning from thrifty ninjas who are willing to share their money-saving secrets. Lucky for you, I happen to be one and I keep all the links to every one of my money saving tip posts like this one on one convenient page that you can return to again and again.
15. Your Financial Problems Could Be Deeper Than Overspending
There is a chance that even after getting your spending under control, start budgeting and learning to save, you are still living the life of more month than money. If this is you, the answer may be that you need to increase your income.
Here are a few articles to help you raise your income:
- Where To Inexpensively Learn The Skills You Need To Become A Work-At-Home Mom
- 12 Side Jobs Almost Anyone Can Do
- 19 Ways To Turn Your Smartphone Into A Money Making Machine
Remember, you can learn how to control your spending and reach your financial goals. It will take time and effort, but it will be worth it.
For a list of 52 different websites, apps, and stores our thrifty family uses to help us keep our expenses low, click here to visit our Thrifty Tools Resource Page.
3 More Posts That Will Help You Manage Your Money:
- How To Perform A Spending Tune-Up And Get The Most Out Of Your Budget
- 15 Websites And Apps You Can Use To Earn Gift Cards
- 10 Ways To Save Money On Groceries
Want to save or earn money? Join my Thrifty People Of Snail Pace Transformations Facebook group.
In Thrifty And Thriving: More Life For Less Money I don’t share your typical money-saving tips. Instead, I share shares more than 40 key practices and principles that thrifty families use every day to do more for less money.
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