How to control spending habits

By Izzy M
Modified on April 26, 2023
how to control spending habits

Spending money on unnecessary expenses is only sometimes a cause for concern. But it does drain your income. And if it gets to the point that you cannot afford your bills, then it’s time to stop impulse spending. Learn how to control spending habits and start saving money.   

How Much Do Americans Spend on Nonessentials?

How much does the average American spend on nonessentials? Are you spending more than most? According to research conducted by OnePoll, the average American spends about $1,497 a month on nonessential items! 

Take a look at how much an American spends on various items each month:

  • Restaurant Meals – $209.38
  • Drinks – $188.68
  • Takeout or Delivery – $177.88
  • Impulse Purchases – $108.97
  • Gym Classes/Memberships – $72.53
  • Online Shopping – $84.11

Spending money on items you don’t need is not an issue as long as you can comfortably manage your monthly bills. But frivolously spending money can prevent you from saving for various important life goals, such as vacations, retirement, or home ownership. Take time to calculate how much you are spending monthly on nonessential items. Knowing how much you end up losing each month may motivate you to break bad spending habits.  

Signs That You Have a Spending Problem

Life is about spending money, but how do you know if you have lost control of your finances and developed a spending problem? There are various warning signs that you may have accidentally adopted bad spending habits. Learn how to spot signs that it’s time to make adjustments below.  

You Make Impulse Purchases

Impulse purchases can significantly reduce the amount of money you have each month. Constantly buying items you don’t need can add up to hundreds or thousands of dollars each year. That money would be better spent on car payments, student loans, retirement, etc. Small purchases are easy to justify, but numerous small transactions can quickly drain your bank account.   

Your Available Balance on Cards Is Low

If you are using a majority of your credit card limits, then it’s time to stop bad spending habits. Carrying high credit card balances can make your monthly payments unaffordable. Many people struggle to pay off credit card debt because interest rates are typically high. Is your available balance low? It may be time to stop using your credit cards and focus on debt payments before credit card debt becomes unmanageable. Your credit score will go up if you pay off your credit card in full

Your Credit Score Has Decreased

If your credit score goes up and down, it may be time to reevaluate your spending habits. When you experience trouble managing your money, your credit scores reflect that. Unfortunately, a low credit score can make it challenging to qualify for loans, housing, low rates, and more.   

Credit scores typically decrease due to the following reasons: 

  • Your monthly payments are late
  • Your credit utilization ratio is too high
  • You apply for too many loans or credit cards
  • Your credit mix changes
  • You close an account 

If any of these situations apply to you, know that you can reverse the damage to your credit rating! Once you stop overspending and start the budgeting process, you will begin to see your credit score increase. 

It’s Hard To Afford Monthly Bills

You will benefit from a budget plan if you struggle to pay your monthly bills. Paying your debts on time is crucial for your finances and credit health. Late or missed payments will result in a late fee, decreased score, and negative Credit entry report. Do you worry about being able to afford monthly payments? Then it’s time to develop better habits to improve your financial standing!    

You Don’t Save Your Money

Saving money is a necessity in order to afford unexpected expenses and avoid borrowing cash during an emergency. Suppose your car needs repairs, but you have no money. In that case, you may have to apply for instant payday loans online. Loans can be an additional financial burden, especially if you already have existing debt. If you do not have enough money left over after paying monthly expenses, then you cannot save. But you can start to build an emergency fund in no time by organizing your finances.

How Can I Stop Spending Money?

Spending money is a hard habit to break, but don’t worry! There are tools available to help you take back control of your personal finances. You can start a budget plan, cut costs, or adjust your lifestyle. It is possible to save money no matter what income you have.

Stick to a Budget Plan

A budget plan can help you keep more money in your pocket and grow your savings. There are several ways to budget money on a low income. In order to start the budgeting process, you need to know your total monthly income (post-tax) and your total monthly expenses. Once you know how much money you earn and spend every month, you can choose a budget method to focus on specific financial goals.

These are some popular budget plans:

  • 50/30/20 Budget Rule – This budget method separates monthly expenses into three categories: needs, wants, and savings. This rule requires consumers to spend 50% on necessary expenses, 30% on unnecessary costs, and 20% on savings accounts. 
  • 70/20/10 Budget Rule – This budget plan is similar to the 50/30/20 rule, but it prioritizes necessary expenses. This budget rule is ideal for consumers who want to focus on debt payments and other recurring costs because 70% is for needs, 20% for wants, and 10% is for savings or investments.  
  • Envelope System – The envelope system is a cash budget plan that forces you to separate your monthly income into categorized envelopes. You are only allowed to spend as much cash as you have in each envelope. Suppose you want to spend $100 on new clothes this month. Suppose you are out of money from the discretionary expense envelope. In that case, you must wait until next month to spend money on new wardrobe pieces.  
  • Zero-Based Budget – The zero-based budgeting method is similar to the envelope method. However, you don’t have to use envelopes or cash. You must make a list of spending categories so you can allocate every dollar you earn. The purpose of this budget plan is to keep a detailed track of your expenses and make the most of your money. 

Understand Your Spending Triggers

Knowing the emotional and psychological triggers that compel you to impulse buy can help you stop! Spending triggers can be a situation, place, person, or emotion that tempts you to buy unnecessary things. Knowing your triggers can help you avoid them and practice self-discipline. Suppose you often fall prey to emotional spending. When you feel down, try turning to friends and family for support instead of retail therapy. It’s challenging to stop bad habits, so start by limiting yourself to a minimal budget or window shopping. Practicing impulse control will reduce the urge to spend overtime!     

Make a List

Making a shopping list before you go to the stores can help you save money. A spending plan enables you to focus on necessities so you can keep extra money in your wallet for better things. Once you grab all the items on your list, make a beeline to the register to checkout. 

Track Your Spending

Tracking all of your monthly expenses can make it easier to limit daily purchases and save money. There are several apps available to track your spending, and the best one depends on your preferences. 

Mint is one of the best free expense tracker apps. Mint allows users to track spending, set bill payment reminders, and monitor their credit scores. If you prefer a hands-on approach like the envelope budgeting method, use the Goodbudget app. Consumers with partners can benefit from Honeydue, which helps couples manage money together.    

Stop Eating at Restaurants

Eating out at restaurants is fun and convenient, but it can take a massive toll on your finances. Cooking and meal prepping can save you hundreds of dollars every year! Cooking requires commitment, but it does not have to be an arduous process. If you are new to cooking, consider starting with simple or minimal-ingredient recipes. 

Use Coupons

Coupons can help you save a lot of money on groceries and other items! Most retail stores offer an app that lets customers digitally clip coupons and see what’s on sale. You can also look for coupons online or sign up for free coupons in the mail. Planning your weekly meals around coupons can help you save money. You may even be able to try new recipes with items you don’t typically buy.   

Reduce Utility Costs

Utilities do not have to cost hundreds of dollars each month. You can reduce the amount of your monthly utility bills by simply making some lifestyle adjustments. Follow these helpful tips, and you will be amazed by how much money you can keep in your checking account. 

  • Take shorter showers
  • Use cold water when washing clothes
  • Replace the air filter on your HVAC
  • Use weatherstrips on your doors and windows 
  • Switch from standard to smart power strips
  • Set your thermostat back 7° to 10°F for eight hours each day

The Bottom Line: Controlling Spending Habits

Controlling your spending habits may seem impossible right now. But with persistence and some helpful financial tools, you can start being financially responsible! Budgeting is one of the best ways to take back control of your finances. Once you choose a budget method to follow, you can start cutting back on costs, saving money, and paying off debt. Get started on the road to financial independence today!  

Average American spends almost $18,000 a year on nonessentials│USA Today

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