Do you need to cut back your spending? If so, knowledge is power!
Your first stop is to figure out exactly how much you spend each month on what, so you’ve got a benchmark to work to. How? All you need is an Excel spreadsheet (or if you’re a technophobe, pen and paper) and your old bank account statements.
Gather together as many statements as you can so you get an accurate, clear picture of your long-term expenditure – a year’s worth is perfect.
Then note down your expenses for:
- rent or mortgage
- car (including fuel, insurance, road tax and servicing/MOT/repairs) and public transport
- food and drink
- clothes and shoes
- cosmetics and toiletries
Tot up the totals and you’ll know exactly where you stand. It’s a fascinating exercise and there’s no escaping the results. It’ll show you exactly where your money goes and it’ll highlight areas you maybe didn’t realise were getting out of control, or didn’t want to admit to yourself.
Your next step? Be honest with yourself. What can you do without? There’s a big difference between wanting something and actually needing it! Bear the distinction between wanting and needing in mind next time you hit the shops. Do you need three new tops or do you just want them?
Hooked on the thrills of retail therapy? Remember how short-lived the feeling is. You feel happy, excited and positive when you buy, but as soon as you get home you feel slightly sick because you’ve over-spent for no good reason other than a short term thrill.
If that’s you, try tactical window shopping instead. Every time you see something you desire madly, walk away. When you’ve had enough and it’s time to head home, try to remember all the things you saw that, at the time, seemed utterly irresistible. I bet you won’t be able to recall most of them. You might even have forgotten the lot. Which proves you don’t really want or need them after all, it’s just the potent rush you get from shopping.
Ebay is dangerous for impulse buyers. That’s my danger zone. I’ve learned over the years to bung things in my ‘watch list’ instead of buying straight away. When I go back to my watch list after the end of a satisfying Ebay session, I almost always realise I’m very glad I didn’t buy. And weirdly, I get just as much pleasure from almost buying stuff than I do from actually doing the dirty deed.
I’m no angel. It’s impossible to count the number of times I’ve splurged online only to regret it. But it happens less frequently these days. I’ve tamed my worst impulses and can usually manage avoid my vulnerable spots now I’ve identified them. Most of the time, unless I find something truly spectacular, I can make myself step away from the paintings, rugs and art pottery!