There are obstacles to any major change in behavior, whether it’s losing weight, making a career change, or saving money. So once you’ve started a new spending plan, how do you resist the temptation to backslide into old habits? Here are a few tips I use to keep my spending plans on track:
Keep focused on your long-term goal. So you’ve decided to reduce your spending to achieve a specific goal, whether it’s to slash debt, increase savings, or afford a new car or dream vacation. Now you need to take action to motivate yourself to fulfill that goal.
Whether it’s writing down daily reminders or pinning photos somewhere that you will see them every day, keeping that goal at the forefront of your mind will help you stick to your budget.
Find others with similar goals and band together. Bringing your lunch to work and avoiding dining out is a good way to cut expenses, so find co-workers and others who are looking to do the same. Conversely, avoid hanging out with the crowd that eats out two or three times a week.
Find ways to reward yourself for short-term achievements. If your goal is to reduce your spending by $50 a week, reward yourself at the end of the week when you achieve that goal. It may be a ticket to a ball game or a movie—something small you would normally do or buy that you cut out of your budget to meet your goals.
Keep a daily spending journal. It’s much easier to see where your money goes—and where you can reduce your spending—if you just write it down. It may be a bit depressing to see how much money you spend on coffee, soda, and snacks, but it makes it that much easier to stop spending money on such non-essential items once you see it in writing day after day.
If you can’t keep a journal, make a note to check your online bank account daily and jot down all your expenses.
Consider closing one or more credit cards. Shopping these days means having access to an iPad and a credit card. If you spend too much money shopping online, consider giving yourself fewer options by having fewer credit cards. While this may have a short-term impact on your credit score, it may be a good long-term strategy.
Ask for the support of family and friends. Talking about money with family and friends can be difficult, but if you want help from people, ask for their support. If that means cutting out costly trips to your favorite stores and night clubs, let them know you simply can’t afford to spend money at these places and meet your financial goals. Instead, get friends and family involved in the process by organizing inexpensive activities, such as potluck dinners and game nights, as opposed to dinner and drinks out on the town.
Schedule monthly and quarterly check-ups. Review your spending habits and goals at the end of each month and every quarter. Determine if you met your goal and if not, adjust your spending and savings plan. If you’ve fallen short, see if there are new areas where you can reduce spending and also make certain that your spending goals are realistic.
If you can’t make any more cuts, think about more serious changes, including selling your car (especially if public transit is an option), taking on a roommate, or getting a second job.
Mechel Glass is the Director of Education for CredAbility. In this position, she is responsible for developing the curriculum and educational materials for online classes including webinars, podcasts, videos and listen-on-demand classes. She is responsible for managing the agency’s community outreach programs and staff, including financial education specialists in a 14-county area throughout metro Atlanta and north Georgia. She also manages the development and reporting of education partnerships online for the agency.
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