One of the things I hear all the time is “I just can’t keep my spending on track” or “if I could get control of my spending it would be so much easier to meet my goals”. Here are a list of different things I have tried over time to keep my spending on track. Believe me I have tried many different things – so many, that I have split this list in to two parts. Keep reading for part 1…
1. Track your spending
You may have heard the saying “we manage what we monitor”. Gretchen Rubin talks extensively about this topic and its importance as a strategy for habit change in her book “Better Than Before”. In a nutshell, in order to gain control of your spending it is critical that you monitor it. There are a number of ways that you can track your spending – pen and paper, a spreadsheet, an app, the ‘notes’ section of your smartphone – and it doesn’t matter which you choose, only that you do it. Only when you are being honest with yourself and accurately recording your spending can you see the full picture and make real and lasting change.
Currently I am using a spreadsheet and that’s working well for me seeing as I spend time each day at my PC, but it’s important to do what works best for you. If you are stuck for expense category ideas, see my list here.
2. Try the cash envelope system
Some people find it too easy to tap or swipe their debit card or credit card whereas parting with cash can feel more ‘real’ or tangible and to be honest it can hurt a little more. 🙂 Try withdrawing your spending budget in cash, divide it into separate envelopes for each category e.g. food, petrol, clothes, fun money… Write the category name and starting amount on each envelope. As you spend money during the course of the month, update the amount remaining on the envelope.
3. Find an accountability partner
Do you know anyone else undergoing a financial makeover or money project? In Ireland in particular, it’s often considered taboo to talk about money. Finding someone you can talk openly and honestly with can help keep you on track. You can discuss your goals, how you plan to go about achieving them and check in regularly to see what’s going well and what’s not. It’s also good to have a sounding board if you’re struggling in any particular area.
4. Do your prep work and be organised
Don’t walk into the shops blind. Before you go shopping, make a list of items that you need (actually need :)) and price compare online for the best deals so you know where to go and what to look for. This works for food shopping, clothes shopping and even restaurants. It can also be helpful in shops to set yourself a time limit. The longer you spend in the shops, the more likely you are to make an impulse purchase.
5. Spending freeze
I will cover this in more detail again, but a no-spend challenge can be a great way to keep your spending on track because you are simply not spending anything 🙂 Tip #8 (in part 2 of this blog series) will help you to stay strong during a spending freeze.
These 5 tips should help you get started. That’s all for part 1, keep an eye out for part 2 coming next week.