Friday, September 5, 2008

Coping with the Urge to Spend

One of my favorite personal finance blogs had an interesting reader post today on addiction to spending that got me thinking. I am really proud of how I've taken responsibility for my financial situation in the past six months and how far that I've come. I thought that it might be good to note the behaviors and new habits that have really helped me change.

1. I have been very good about not shopping for things that I haven't already noted that I needed. (I did make a couple of mistakes.) To do this, I avoid the mall entirely. I think that I've gone twice in six months - once to buy an interview outfit. The second time I spent money on items I wasn't planning on and I remembered why I am avoiding the mall. This also applies to general window shopping or superstores. I have a really hard time with Target. I use their pharmacy and every time I run in to pick up a prescription, I have to really focus so as not to wander the rest of the store.

2. I have a short list of personal finance and frugality blogs that I read daily. I find it really encouraging to read about other people's struggles and successes and I've been learning a lot of tips on how to save money and still live a rich life. Here are some of my favorites:
Get Rich Slowly
Frugal Dad
Blogging Away Debt
Simple Living America

3. I've created and revised and revised again my budget. I did in it Excel because I didn't want to spend on a new software program and felt nervous to do it online. Plus I know it well enough to tweak it to all my own needs. But the really successful part of this is that I've kept it updated. I use it to track my bill payments, all of my discretionary spending and my debt snowball. Seeing where my money goes has helped me to tailor the categories and be able to anticipate costs instead of just reacting to them.

4. I have set very specific savings goals. I would like to pay for a wedding in cash when the time comes. In five years, I would like to be fully debt-free and that includes my student loans. Specific goals help me to keep from being tempted to spend on unneeded items. Sometimes it kind of sucks to not buy any new clothes and wear things out before replacing them, but ultimately I know the other goals are more important and plus it's better for the environment anyhow.

5. I have set a very small amount of money in my budget for me to blow on whatever I want each week. It's just $20, but with a little planning that pays for some time out with my friends and maybe a couple of coffees or a little treat.

I am really interested in hearing how other people stop themselves and keep focused on the bigger goals. I love hearing new ideas and tips of how to stay on track.


andrea said...

so, since it's been over a year since i've gotten a steady paycheck, the biggest thing i've had to do is adjust to a lifestyle that does not involve much spending. and it was actually damn easy. i'd say the following things are the biggest things i have done to minimize my expenses:

1) not going to the movies more than a couple times a year. if i see a good preview, i go on netflix and add it to my queue, then be patient.

2) splurging a bit on groceries. we rarely eat out, and i swear it's because we eat so well at home, it makes it less appealing to bother going out. plus then it is so much more of a treat when we do.

3) sell stuff to buy stuff. i try to get in a habit of selling old books, cds, clothes, etc if i feel like going on a shopping spree. it doesn't all equal out of course, but it lessens the guilt, and leaves a little more room for the new crap.

4) i don't pay to park unless totally necessary. my biggest splurge by far is my stupidly expensive monthly gym fees- i refuse to give up that luxury, but what i have done to try to offset it is to refuse to pay to park in central downtown oakland, and instead use the free two hour parking several blocks away. i consider it my warm up. :) and really, that saves me about $25 a month. that adds up!!

5) most importantly- i appreciate the money i have saved, regardless of how much. i really try to stop and think about what an achievement it is to have savings (especially as a moderately unemployed grad student) and to think about all the things i can do to continue to not spend more than i need to.

andrea said...

oh, and of course this summer it was lovely to be able to save on energy by line-drying clothes in the backyard. :) i'm guessing with the humidity in savannah, that probably doesn't work, huh?