There are only so many ways to say the same thing. We tell ourselves every year we will get out of debt, save more, have a rainy-day fund, plan for retirement, prioritize our children’s education. But do we?
The truth is, life often gets in the way of our best intentions. We start out with a plan, usually on a Monday morning at the beginning of the month.
Every month. Yet somewhere along the way, it all comes undone.
Don’t call it a budget
Part of what prevents people from committing long-term to a spending plan is the perception that they’ll feel deprived of the luxuries and small comforts that get them through the hassles and stresses of life. And at times that might be true.
I’m speaking now to the people with some discretionary money that they can never seem to hold onto.
Let’s not forget that many people have already slashed their spending and still can’t always make ends meet.
But for those who continually try and fail to put their extra money to good use, a good strategy is to concentrate on what smart spending will give you, rather than focussing on what it takes away.
Instead of the mindset that “I’m on a budget—I can’t have that” we change our thoughts and attitudes towards spending.
When deliberating whether to spend money on something you know you don’t need, give yourself a mental image of where the money should go instead. Picture your vehicle being paid off, or the long-awaited mortgage burning ceremony you have planned.
Don’t let feelings of deprivation sway you from achieving your goals.
Create the illusion of scarcity
Many frugal people do this without realizing it.
It wouldn’t occur to them to replace something that still works, just because a more stylish model has arrived on the market.
Picture the world with a scarcity of resources. If we were running out of fuel would you walk to the store or drive? Or carpool? If you were down to your last few dollars would you still feel compelled to give in to the kids’ demands for treats and toys?
If you told yourself, continually, that there’s no more money for clothes, or makeup, or home décor (enter your own personal vice here), and stopped putting yourself in situations where you’re tempted to spend, it would get easier to divert that money to savings or debt.
A grim truth is that we all have a scarcity of time. How much of your life do you want to dedicate to those designer jeans?
You may want them today, put them on your credit card, but not actually pay them off for months or years.
How much have those jeans cost you in time worked and stress by the time they’re paid for?
When you consider how quickly time flies by, how much of your precious life do you want to spend worried about debt or working overtime to pay for things you’ve already lost interest in?
Telling yourself you have neither the time nor the money to follow trends is one of the most effective ways to change your spending habits.
Don’t be so emotional
There’s something about putting our money into percentages that takes the emotion out of it. Our bills seem impossible to reduce, in some cases because they represent things we refuse to give up.
Rather than looking at the grocery bill and seeing that expensive creamer you love or the snacks that the kids ask for, figure out what percentage of your monthly spending goes towards groceries. Now attempt to decrease that by five per cent this month.
The same goes for cable TV, the cell bill and eating out. Look at your splurges as a percentage of your income that you’d rather save than spend.
The best way to succeed is to keep trying. These strategies might work for some but not for others. Keep reading about personal finance here and elsewhere to find the method that finally sticks for you.
When you spend your time browsing through things you might like to buy, your thoughts and impulses are focused on spending.
On the other hand, when you seek out inspiration and motivation to keep you on the straight and narrow, you are more likely to make small gains that turn into large rewards.
Set yourself up for success by avoiding the pitfalls you’ve had in the past.
If you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting.
Don’t expect the credit card bill to decrease when you frequent your favorite websites and stores as you always have.
Use language that you find encouraging, create a lifestyle where saving is second nature, and focus your energy on activities that don’t cost money.