Instead of trying to take on everything at once, to change you’re bad spending habits all at once, try and change one bad thing about your spending habits each week. Too many people simply give up on budgeting and living frugal because they’ve tried to bite off more they can chew too fast. I’ve gone through this viscous cycle of being really good for a week or two or even a month, then to give it all up by wasting money on something I really didn’t need, nor budget for. Two weeks or more of being frugal and thrifty, thrown away in 15 minutes at the store buying something I really didn’t need or could have waited and paid cash for. Below, I want to share some tips on changing your bad habits permanently, rather than for a short time period that will inevitably fail because you’re trying to do too much at once.
The first step is to become aware of you’re bad spending habits. Don’t worry, this is not a 12 step program for bad spenders (maybe I’ll put this together later). More than likely you’re already aware of you’re bad spending habits, and you’ve been working on breaking them. You’ve probably sworn off frivolous spending numerous times, just to go back to it a week or two later.
Instead of saying I’m going to stop wasting money, be specific, pick one thing per week that you won’t waste money on, and stick with it. Don’t let yourself rationalize for one minute that it makes sense to buy that “thing” at any time.
Set yourself up to succeed, not fail. Let’s take an example of tackling wasteful spending at gas stations. Instead of saying I won’t spend money at the gas station buying crap, make a goal of not buying soda or candy. It’s not enough though to say that you won’t buy soda or candy, you have to give yourself an alternative, to fill in for that sometimes painful desire. Be prepared by carrying a bottle or small container of water or two as well as snacking alternatives (if you’re trying to be more healthy too consider keeping a small cooler with fresh veggies or fruits on hand – it’s easier to do this in the winter time so plan accordingly). If chips is your thing, or candy or soda for that matter, and you’re unwilling to give it up – consider buying at the grocery store and making yourself a survival kit for the car. Being frugal doesn’t mean you can’t have the things you want, it means being prepared, and getting the best value for your money. You could buy a $3 bag of chips at the grocery store and make 15 bags of chips that would cost you $15 at the gas station.
Tackle one thing a week at a time, but remember to be specific. By the end of the month you’ll have changed 4 to 5 bad habits. Instead of saying you’re going to do it all at once, suddenly things will seem more manageable and more likely that you will keep your changes permanent. Before you know it, a year will pass and you will have changed 50 bad spending habits. The key to being successful is to not be too broad in the things you want to change. This leads to too much wiggle room and allows you the ability to rationalize with yourself to buy certain things you shouldn’t.
Like I mentioned above, it doesn’t make a difference if you’re being frugal or thrifty on a daily basis if you go out and make one large stupid purchase. Having said that, besides changing one bad thing per week, you must change the way you make big purchases. This means any purchase you’re making that’s for a good or service that’s over $50 (maybe a big purchase is less than this to you – use whatever amount you consider to be big – but don’t set that limit higher than $100), you must delay the purchase one day. If you still feel it’s a good, frugal, and completely necessary purchase after 24 hours and you’ve done your price comparisons, go ahead, buy it. By delaying your desires one day, you will gain perspective as to the necessity of the purchase. Want to take it a step further? Don’t make any large purchase unless it’s with cash. That will make you really think about your purchase.
By doing the above, you will certainly make a change for the better and be much better off in the near future and on the way to freedom from the grips of materiality.