Are you financially prepared to handle an emergency?
Even a modest cushion can help protect you from the fallout of an unexpected bill, but 40% of Americans wouldn’t be able to cover a $400 emergency expense with cash, savings or a quickly paid credit card charge according to a Federal Reserve report.
It’s certainly easier to spend than it is to save. Try these practical steps to stop unnecessary spending and keep your finances growing, so your money is there when you need it.
Set a Realistic Budget
Without a clear picture of your finances, it can be difficult to know how much you have available to spend. Start by making a spreadsheet of current monthly expenses including housing, utilities, food, transportation and other essentials that apply to your lifestyle. Next, factor in your income from salary, business ventures and other sources. From here you can see just how much is available to spend on entertainment and occasional expenses such as gifts and vacations while still making a contribution to your savings.
Evaluate Email Offers Carefully
Every morning you are likely bombarded with email offers ranging from percentage discounts to free shipping from your favorite retailers. While you might not have been planning to buy new beachwear, it’s harder to resist when given a time-sensitive 30% offer code. Most of these offers continue to flow regularly, so you’re not really missing out on deep savings if you ignore them. Consider deleting these emails right away or setting up an inbox “offers” folder. If you happen to need an item, you can sort by retailer to see if a special discount is still in effect.
Avoid Signing Up for Promotional Lists
When you enter contests such as giveaways or accept offers for free magazines, you often are signing up for promotional lists. This results in emails from companies you’ve never heard of plus an endless stream of catalogs, all tempting you to buy something you don’t need. Read the fine print before giving away your contact information and unsubscribe as necessary to reduce temptation.
Resist Social Pressure
The stylized images on Instagram suggest that everyone lives in the perfect home and keeps up with the latest design trends, but social media is a highlight reel. When you’re scrolling through these images all day, you might be tempted to splurge as well. Take social media with a grain of salt. Behind the scenes, the owners of that gorgeous new lighting fixture may be spending beyond their means. If you find that you still are tempted by your feeds, check in less frequently and curate the accounts you follow.
Organize Your Closet
When you shift the focus toward organization, you realize just how much you own. Instead of shopping for new clothes, take stock of what is already in your closet. Mix and match in new ways, challenging yourself to create new outfits for work and weekend adventures. Donate whatever you won’t wear again. Check the donation guidelines of local nonprofits and organizations such as a Dress for Success, which provides women with the clothing needed for job interviews, among other tools to achieve economic independence.
Avoid Boredom Shopping
When you’re browsing to fill time, shopping carts can fill quickly, particularly online. If you shop to while away the hours, think of other activities you could be doing instead like checking out a new Netflix series or reading that book your friend recommended.
Wait Out the Impulse
When faced with the strong impulse to buy a particular item, sometimes the only thing you can do is wait it out. Based on your budget, set a limit of $100, $50 or even $25 for larger purchases and stick to a waiting period of anywhere from three days to a week before buying. This allows you to make a conscious spending decision that considers your budget and financial goals.
Reign in Small Expenditures
If you tend to make lots of smaller purchases like snacks at the convenience store counter or adding on last-minute suggestions to your online order, you may need to resist a bit more. Reducing these small spontaneous buys can add up over time.
Make Restaurant Meals a Treat Rather Than a Habit
Consider reducing how many times per week you buy lunch or get meal delivery. This doesn’t mean you can’t splurge on a celebratory meal occasionally or enjoy your favorite takeout, but make sure you are doing so mindfully rather than simply out of habit.
Treat Yourself Well at Home
While cutting back on restaurant-made meals and online shopping might seem like a sacrifice, there are plenty of lower cost ways to indulge at home. Consider this an opportunity to learn how to cook your favorite dishes while picking up new culinary skills. Turn an underused space in your home into a meditation or yoga spot that helps you unwind after a long work week. At the end of the day, you can find ways to enjoy the activities you love with the added peace of mind that comes from greater financial security.
If you want to shift your spending habits in lasting ways, try small, attainable changes that you can apply today. Keep your money safe in a high-interest savings account.