Who are the financial enablers in your life? Avoid falling into their traps with these strategies to stop overspending and save money.
The urge to be smarter, be fitter, be better looking, have nicer things, have more fun and acquire more stuff is strong in most of us, and we all have certain weaknesses or pressure points, aka financial enablers. It can be hard saying no to these, for example, heading to the mall with your shopaholic friend, dining out with your family, buying the same expensive new car as your neighbor or splurging on any other “want.”
But if you keep falling into these traps, it could lead you to financial disaster. Instead, arm yourself with practical strategies for staying focused on what you really want — the ability to make good spending and saving decisions without risking your financial future. Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to avoiding bad financial behaviors and sticking to your plan to save money.
Shift Your Bad Habits
Just like being on a diet, giving up everything you enjoy in order to make your goal doesn’t always translate into success. Instead, shift your old habits that are costing you extra money and reward yourself for a job well done.
It’s not necessary to end these habits completely. But it is important to re-evaluate and set limits for yourself. For example, take a look at how often you’re eating out with your family or friends. Could you cut back by even just once or twice per month? Could you suggest alternative restaurants or activities that are less expensive?
If you like to shop for things like clothing and other “wants” versus “needs,” take a look at what you can really afford. Look at your credit card or checking account statements to see where you’re spending your money — the discoveries you make might surprise you, especially when it comes to what you’re spending on non-essentials items.
Set aside a specific budget for these nonessentials and allow yourself to spend that money only after you’ve paid the bills and met the rest of your monthly budget goals. Having this kind of discipline will earn you rewards in both the short and long term.
Always Have a Plan
If you find it hard to say no to expensive social gatherings and family get-togethers, it’s time to take the reins of your social calendar. Be the one who makes the plans and start inviting your friends and loved ones to more affordable events and outings of your choosing.
Instead of catching up over an expensive dinner or after-work drinks, host a potluck at your house and ask everyone to bring their beverage of choice. Going for a run or hike and picnicking at a park are also low-cost alternatives.
Do some research to uncover free lectures, art openings, classes and other inexpensive events happening in your community. You and your friends will enjoy trying something new that’s both fun and engaging — and bonus, doesn’t involve spending a lot of money. Once you open yourself to the many affordable options available for socializing, you’ll be amazed at what you find — and what you’re able to save in the process.
Prepare some go-to suggestions for the next time a friend or co-worker asks you to get together and you’ll have a plan in place for how to redirect these invitations toward budget-friendly activities.
Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
We see our friends treating themselves to facials, new suits, shoes or an expensive vacation and we want to do the same whether we can afford it or not. But it’s necessary to be honest with ourselves when it comes to what we should really be spending on these nonessentials. You don’t have to cut out everything that’s good and fun in life to be better off financially — just be wiser about how you spend.
In order to avoid succumbing to peer pressure leading to bad financial decisions, remember that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence. Just because your neighbor or coworker has a shiny new toy doesn’t mean he’s in better shape financially than you.
The next time you get envious, remind yourself of what you already have and the things you want for which you’ve already budgeted. Having a realistic sense of what you can already afford, what you’re working toward and what makes up your unique financial profile will help you say no to keeping up with the Joneses.
You can still enjoy what you love in life. But do it in sensible, financial moderation that’s fully in sync with you and your budget, not based on what your peers are doing. Before splurging on something that’s probably outside the boundaries of your budget, ask yourself whether it’s going to be worth the stress (think a big bill, a higher credit balance, higher taxes, less money for groceries and utilities) that will definitely catch up with you later.
Focus on Your Dream
Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to saying no to your financial enablers? Your hopes for your financial future.
Did you have peers in high school or college who always put off studying and assignments and found other things to do almost every night of the week? Maybe you were even one of them. That kind of crew looks cool and definitely has a lot of fun, but they also fail to see the big picture. It probably wasn’t until much later that they realized how much of that time could have been better spent productively building their future.
It’s the same concept when it comes to your finances. As an adult who wants to make responsible financial decisions and save money for your future and your big dreams, whatever they may be (your wedding, traveling, starting a business, pursuing your education, having children, buying and maintaining a house, founding a charity), you must keep your eye on the prize, as they say. Don’t fall into the trap of wasting your precious time and money without even realizing the risks.
Determine what your money’s future looks like in order to manage your present spending. Where do you want to be in the next five years? What do you want to do with your money? Be as specific as possible when answering these questions for yourself and yourself alone.
If you can keep the big picture in mind, it will be more difficult to be distracted by your financial enablers and make poor financial decisions in the moment. Focus on the possibilities of tomorrow and know that they make it worth it to invest in yourself today.