How to Stop Overspending

how to stop overspending

I have a confession to make.

We have not been the most frugal lately. In fact, we’ve probably been overspending on non-essentials, and our bank account is showing the undeniable evidence.

Looking over our spending from the last few months, I can see where we legitimately needed to put out cash for certain things (birthdays, holidays, car costs). But, truth be told, there has been some frivolous spending going on. This isn’t the worst thing in the world, and I’m not going to sit around feeling guilty about it. After all, you need to enjoy life, and sometimes that means spending money.

That being said, since we’re planning to go down the shore this summer, as well as take a trip back to Bulgaria to visit my husband’s family, we need to be more mindful in May. Going forward, I’ll be keeping these tips in mind for how to stop overspending:

Do I really need that?

Be honest about needs vs. wants. I am sometimes guilty of declaring that one of us “needs” such and such an item, when the truth is, I (or we) just want something new. I’ve gotten so much better with this over the years, but once you get into the habit of wanting new stuff, it can be hard to break. You start to think about how nice it would be to have something shiny and new to replace an old item.

Living frugally means making do with what you have, especially while working towards bigger financial goals. Next time you find yourself saying, “I need this!”, stop and think. Be honest with yourself, and you’ll probably realize that the need is actually a want.

 Shop with a plan

I’m a big list maker, and I try not to go to the store without one. I’ll keep a running list every week for food and personal care items, and anything else we might truly need. I’ll check the circulars for relevant coupons, although I don’t spend a lot of time on this. Then, I go to the store and get the items on my list, nothing more.

If I do stick other items in my cart, I’ll stop before I head to the check out and decide if it’s truly worthwhile. I’ve gotten my sister into the habit of doing this, too. Now we keep each other in check when we’re shopping- we’ll ask the other, “Do you really need that, is it on your list?“, and when the answer is no, it goes back on the shelf. When you go shopping with a plan, stick to it! Your budget will thank you.

Adjust your “I deserve it” attitude

I think we’re all guilty of having the “I deserve it” attitude from time to time. You worked a lot of overtime this week, so you deserve to upgrade your phone. You just scored a new client, so you deserve to treat yourself to dinner and drinks out.

Sure, sometimes you should treat yourself and your loved ones. But don’t try to justify constant overspending by thinking that you deserve to blow money on crap. Allow yourself the occasional indulgence, just don’t make it a habit.

If you work hard, give yourself a pat on the back, and then think about your long-term goals. Keep those goals as your focus, and adjust your “I deserve it” attitude. You deserve to hit your goals and make yourself and your family proud, and that probably doesn’t involve blowing money on a bunch of junk.

Are you guilty of overspending?  Have any tips for avoiding it?

About Lauren

Lauren May is a freelance writer and travel lover living on a budget.

24 thoughts on “How to Stop Overspending

  1. This may sound crazy, but I think I’m guilty of too much under spending. I’m always trying to get a good deal that we often go without. Not to the extent of not eating, but I’ll opt for the cheapest fruit over what we actually want – apples instead of watermelon, that kind of thing. I have to actively force myself to buy some more expensive items every once in awhile. We both work full time, I’ve got 3 monetised blogs, I also do mystery shopping, selling on eBay, etc, so I need to learn to say “it’s okay, we CAN afford X”.

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  3. My wife plans out our shopping trips in great detail and this really helps us avoid buying things we don’t need. We also are big couponers so planning ahead is key to getting the best deal. With that being said, I do splurge in other areas like cable, netflix, spotify, etc. Entertainment can really add up.

    1. I don’t do a lot of couponing, but it’s always exciting to get a great deal. We splurge on netflix too, and it’s definitely been worth the $8 a month for us.

  4. I used to be very guilty of overspending. Then, I did the math. It took a while to get under control. I had to teach myself to do meal planning, avoid impulse buys, and more. Great tips John!

  5. I think you hit the nail on the head with your suggestion to set goals. I think for many it’s a lot easier to control spending if everyone understands and buys into the family’s short and long-term goals. Then resisting buying something feels less like denial and more like one more step toward the goal!

  6. Great tips, Lauren! I consistently struggle with overspending on food. Sometimes I think I “deserve” a night at a restaurant because I’ve had a stressful day at work. This past month was the worst one I’ve had in a while, but as John points out, facing the numbers is a motivator to get back on track for the next month.

  7. Great tips! I always overspend on my food budget because I tell myself I deserve to eat what I want when I go to do the groceries. It’s tough, I have a sweet tooth and the bakery always gets me.

  8. I’ve noticed my habits changing a lot later. I used to buy things because of that exact because I deserve it mentality. But now I can go into the store and fill up my basket and before I decided I’m done shopping I have a little self analysis and ask the “Do I NEED this”….Need and want are so hard to differentiate sometimes! Great post and good luck with saving for your trip!

    1. Thanks Bre! It’s great that you do a self analysis- if more people did, I’m sure they’d save a lot. It’s so easy to trick ourselves into thinking we need stuff, when really we just want it and are looking for a way to justify it.

  9. It can be easy to fall into this and believe we all do at times. The list one is a big thing for us, especially when out at the store. Other than that, I like viewing it as what impact the overspending has had our other goals – like less money for our retirement, vacation saving, etc. I find the tangible numbers really help motivate me to get back into gear.

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