Bad spending habits: We all have a few. The good news is that, with a little effort and a lot of determination, you can replace those bad habits with healthier, money-saving behaviors. Here are some tips that may help:
Identify and acknowledge the spending habits that might be hurting you.
Start by asking yourself some questions: Do you track your spending? Are you in the habit of paying for purchases with a credit card? How often do you find yourself splurging on flashy gimmicks you see on social media or at checkout? How often do you turn to “retail therapy” when you’re feeling stressed or sad? Be completely honest with yourself: Recognizing bad spending behaviors enables you to attack them head-on.
Track your spending.
If you aren’t already in the habit of drawing up a monthly budget, this might be a good time to start. A budget provides you with a single organized document where you can track your spending. Each time you spend, make a note of what you bought and how much you spent. Breaking your monthly expenses and expenditures down into different categories may help you pinpoint specific areas where you tend to overspend, such as entertainment, restaurant meals, clothing or technology. Seeing where you’re spending the most money may help you cut back in those areas in the future, or inspire you to reconsider unnecessary purchases.
Set specific savings goals.
Short- and long-term savings goals can motivate you to have self-discipline when you find yourself in a situation with the potential for overspending. Saving for a new car? You’re probably going to rethink some of your daily purchases so you can keep tucking away dollars here and there to reach that goal. Your goals should be your own, so think carefully about what you want your money to be doing for you. And remember, the more specific, the better. For example, a short-term goal might be “This month, I’m going to spend half as much at restaurants as I did last month.” Compared to a vague statement such as “I’m going to save money this month,” your specific goal enables you to easily track your progress during the month.
Watch how much you buy on credit.
A “buy today, pay tomorrow” mentality can catch up with you quickly, and not in a good way. While you know you need to exercise restraint when you use a debit card or cash — you can spend only the amount that’s in your account or in your pocket, after all — getting into a habit of always using a credit card can give you a false sense that you have more money to spend than you actually do. Of course, this comes back to your budget, too. Rather than buying things on impulse, consult your budget, see how much of a spending allowance you can comfortably give yourself while still working toward your savings goals, and know that once you’ve spent that amount, whether with cash, credit or debit, you’re done for the month.
Shop from a list.
Before you set out to go shopping, whether for groceries, clothes or anything else, make a list of the items you need. This can help you differentiate between necessary buys and items you simply want. If you need something enough that you put it on the list, get it! But if it’s something you spot at the store that just appeals to you in the moment, maybe skip it this time around. While you’re at it, consider grabbing a basket instead of a shopping cart. All that space might encourage you to fill it up even once you’ve crossed everything off your list.
Be diligent about fees and subscriptions.
Today there are a million tiny ways our spending can add up, many that we don’t even realize. Some, such as ATM, overdraft and late fees, can be easily avoided if you’re conscious of them. Others, such as services you’ve subscribed to but no longer use, may require a little more consideration. Sit down and check your monthly statements to determine whether you really need those streaming or subscription services, or whether you can comfortably cancel them. If you’re not using them, don’t keep them just for the sake of keeping them; that’s money you could be saving for another day.
Need help creating a budget? The PNC My Finance Academy Student Budget calculator is made specifically for college students to make budgeting easier and maybe even fun!