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4 Ways to Combat the Urge to Spend

4 Ways to Combat the Urge to Spend

Guest post by Jessi of The Budget Mama

Once upon a time, there was a girl, who thought she needed designer jeans, Ray Ban sunglasses, Coach purses, sports cars, and a California King size bed.

In order for her to acquire these items, she had to max out her resources. She swiped those eight different super shiny, color-coordinated credit cards like they were going out of style. She was a pro at signing her name, and at the “bill me later” game.

Oh but how the mighty have fallen. That same girl no longer drives a GT Mustang, owns a single pair of Ray Bans or a Coach purse, and no longer has room for that California King bed.

That girl had to give up all those super nice things because she was dead broke. She may have looked like a million bucks and been able to play the part well; but the truth was, she had no money.

She had accumulated over $11,000 in credit card debt alone. That was over half of her salary as an Administrative Assistant. She had to learn the hard way that there is a fine line between appearing to have money and actually having money.

That was a tough lesson, but it was a lesson learned nonetheless.

Does she regret her choice to sell off all of those fancy items to help pay back the debt? No. Did selling those hard earned items pay back all of her debt? No, she still had to work hard and throw every extra penny and tax return check at her debt to pay it all back.

I am the girl in this story, and I was dead broke at 21 with a mountain of credit card debt. I was raised in an extremely frugal household, where I got the crazy idea that I had to have designer items and huge inventory of stuff, I have no idea.

Wherever that idea came from, it has been hard to keep it out of my head.

We all want things. Maybe it is because of our society that we want so much, or maybe it is something else entirely. What matters is that you learn to control that voice that wants you to spend money you do not have.

These are the four ways I combat the urge to spend money:

  1. I carry cash with me whenever shopping and leave my debit card at home.
  2. I always make a shopping list. Even if I am going clothes shopping for my boys, I make a list of the items needed and I stick to it. In fact, I carry the list around in my hand as I am walking through the store. This keeps my mind on my list and helps keep my eyes from wondering.
  3. I remind myself that most people do not know the difference between designer and no-name brands. Would you honestly know the difference between a pair of shoes bought at Ross and a pair bought at Macy’s? Probably not.
  4. I focus on the fulfillment and freedom I receive from paying cash. Paying cash for something that you once could only afford with a credit card is a life-changing experience. I had racked up $3,000 on a credit card for furniture. Fast forward five years later; I paid $5,000 cash for new furniture. That was a very liberating experience, which I remind myself of whenever the urge to spend creeps up.

If you are fighting the debt monster, keep going. It is a long, bumpy road but it is very worth it in the end. I hope my story will encourage you on the road to becoming debt free.

Jessi is the author of the frugal lifestyle blog, The Budget Mama. She is an avid budget fanatic and dedicated to helping others reach their full financial potential. Jessi shares her real life on a budget along with DIY projects, recipes, organization, and more.

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  1. says

    I love your idea of keeping the list out for clothes shopping. I’m very disciplined when shopping for me, but lead me into the kid section of Kohl’s and I’m soooo gone. Using the list as an anchor is a great idea.

    Over at our house we’ve found it helpful to keep a wishlist. When we do our monthly budget meeting we’ll use it to help us focus on what we really want. When we’re discussing whether it’s time to get an extra item this month we’ll look at our wish list.

    If we want things on the wishlist more than the extra item, than we say no. I’ve found this not only helps for budgeting but helps me keep our goals fresh in my mind when shopping. Which clamps down on the buy, buy, buy monster. I just struggle through the kid’s clothing department. Maybe it’s all the cute jumping out at me. :)

  2. Susan says

    Great ideas, and don’t forget learning to get your thrills getting bargains on clearance racks and at Goodwill and thrift stores! I scored a brand new pair of Dansko sandals for $6 last week, and I will wear these for years (I am a teacher and on my feet a lot!).

    • says

      Wow, $6 for a pair of Dansko’s? that’s the deal of the century! I have two pair of Dansko clogs (for which I paid full price) and I treasure both pairs. They’re so cute and comfortable. In fact, I was walking to a coffee date with a friend this week and I was wearing my black patent Dansko’s and they’re in such good shape even though I wear them a lot she thought they were new. They’re actually four years old now!

      • brandi says

        Knowing where to thrift is a great way to ensure you get more high quality clothing, too. I will drive 15 minutes to the “wealthy” part of town, because their cast-off donations are typically name brand and higher quality :)

  3. says

    Wow good for you! Thats a very inspiring story, its nice to hear you were able to turn yourself around!

    I try to stick to a budget, but my foe is internet shopping. Right now, I am conducting an experiment. I am trying to use subscriptions to curb my impulsive buys. Citrus Lane and Birchbox are two examples. This way, someone else chooses my ‘stuff’ but I feel like a got a present! So far, I think its working! I post spreadsheets in the end of each month.

    • says

      Internet shopping has been a stumbling block for me too. I started writing a list down of the items I needed to buy/look for online on a post note (the larger size ones) and stick it to the side of my computer’s screen. That way it is a constant reminder.

      I think subscription boxes are a great way to help you! I used to have a Julep subscription and I loved it. I love getting new nail colors in every month. Felt like Christmas morning! :)

  4. WilliamB says

    I’d like to add another item to that list:
    5. Wait.

    If you see something you like, make and note of it but don’t buy it. Walk away to give yourself time to think. If you really want it a week or a month later, then maybe get it. But imposing a waiting period really helps avoid impulse buys.

  5. Allie says

    Awesome job changing your approach to spending! I’m such a cheapskate that I can’t fathom spending $8k on furniture, though!

  6. Amber says

    What a great writer; its nice to follow a story told so well. Thank you for sharing this! My husband and I somehow still buy things that I we cannot afford… I need to figure this out.

  7. says

    Love your “transition” story! It resembles my own struggles to get rid of debt after a divorce. It took me a while to readjust and go from two incomes down to one. My biggest dumb purchase was a $4000 leather sectional that I really had no business buying in the first place. Eventually, I realized I had to face the fact I needed my money more than I needed my STUFF! Great post and great tips!

  8. says

    Hi Jessi, great post and I just loved the way you told your story. Very creative. :) And way to go on getting rid of the stuff. I was like that too, when I was in college and also just out of college. I have no idea where I got the money to always go to movies, buy clothes willy-nilly, etc, but I was always doing that, and the habit of getting whatever I wanted led me to make some purchases that I couldn’t afford. I also got in credit card debt but I thank God that He helped me come to my senses too, before it got too horrible! Now we carry no CC debt and I’m SO much relieved. The credit cards used to make me so anxious and now there’s none of that. Whoohoo! Yay for debt-free!

  9. says

    I appreciate your vulnerability.
    Not many people are honest about their financial struggles and growth!
    I know in my early twenties I carried a few thousand in credit card debt and was not financially savvy!

    Today our family focus is living debt free. It can be hard but remembering how I feel light and free from not carrying a credit balance is a strong motivator!

    Carrying cash and a list is the a great way to stay focused and on track…
    Also for me it is a sense of what my values are and if I am spending in accordance to those values!

    Great post!

  10. Ann says

    Another strategy: don’t be aware of what is “in style”. If you don’t window shop, don’t watch TV and don’t subscribe to magazines, you won’t be as aware of the “must have” items.

    • Anne says

      I do that too – or I don’t do that too 😉 ! Plus, without window shopping, not only do we not know what is in style, but we don’t even look at things we could buy! My best personal saving way is don’t shop! Either in person or online.

  11. Vanoku says

    For me, as soon as I get paid, my money is ‘spent’. I have spreadsheets which have a breakdown of where everything is supposed to go. Any excess money, I put into locked savings account. That way, I cannot take it out and have to go to the bank to withdraw the funds. Even then it takes 3 business days and I always end up saying I don’t need this item. I do allow myself $20 per pay (every 2 weeks) so that I’m not completely without money. Also this stops me from spending it all at once because I think twice if I need something. I do have one credit card now and the limit is my 2 weeks salary. :).

  12. says

    That’s a tough spot to be in at such a young age, but I am impressed that you learned a better way equally as young so you can get back on the right track and have a lifetime of good spending habits. We are only now putting good financial habits into place, at age 40! It’s definitely a harder road now. I linked an article that I wrote with five more strategies to avoid unnecessary spending. Keep up the good work!

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