Changing Your Spending Mindset

June 11, 2017

If you haven’t already figured it out, I’m a born spender.  The hardest part of my debt journey has been switching from a spending mindset to a saving mindset.  I go through phases of extreme frugality and occasionally end up splurging and spending $500 in a day on something I don’t need.  I struggle with this every day and know its going to take time to fix.  So what can we as spenders do to change our mindset?

Think of Saving Like Weight loss

While I’m not great at weight loss either … It’s helpful for me to make this comparison.  Eating salad for a week isn’t going to allow you to immediately drop 10lbs and look like Gisele.  The real win in weight loss is when you apply healthy eating and exercise consistently over the long term.  My problem is that it’s hard for me to be frugal consistently and over the long term.  I’ll clean out my fridge and eat in for two weeks and relish in all the money I saved.  The next week I’ll eat out every night and destroy my progress.  Money habits are built over the course of years, not days or even weeks.  Its a marathon not a sprint.  Consistently applying “saver” principles and tactics consistently over the long run is whats going to get you to those big wins in your financial journey.

Discover your spending style

There are different types of spenders I’ve encountered over the years.  Some are more inclined to spend on big ticket items like cars, houses, etc., and others, like myself, are incremental spenders.  As an incremental spender I’m terrible at buying a lot of little things that add up quickly.  I’ll check my account and realize I spent $300 more than I calculated in my head.  Even if you’re buying the cheapest meal available, picking a coffee over a latte, and buying the sale shirt instead of the full priced, you are still spending money.  

Incremental spenders in my mind have a harder time correcting behavior because they think they are saving money.  Take for instance yesterday when I was running errands.  I’m hosting my book club on Tuesday and would like to throw an outdoor BBQ style party.  I went to the dollar store to see what outdoor plates and decor I could snag for a great price.  I ended up spending about $20 and got some really great stuff.  Even though I saved a lot more than if I were to go to Target or Marshall’s, I still spent money I probably didn’t have to.

Would my book club really care if I had cute plastic serving trays with little pineapples on them?  I’m sure the chips and dip would taste exactly the same in the glass bowl I usually serve them in.  Herein lies the problem with the incremental spender.  Small purchases add up and most are completely unnecessary. Once you can identify your spending triggers and habit you can begin to stop yourself when you see it happening.

Don’t be too hard on yourself

Changing your spending mindset is a difficult and time consuming process.  It takes years to really make large scale changes.  It’s easy to beat yourself up when you slip up and spend more than you should have, but as long as you’re conscious of your decisions you’re making progress. This month I traveled a lot and bust my budget wide open in multiple areas.  I ended up using all of the money I had planned to use to to make some headway on my student loans.

I started to beat myself up about it and then said to myself – you know what?  This month I’m still making my monthly payment with no problems, and I’m happy that I’ve set up my budget in such a way that if I spend a little more than planned I have a cushion.  I didn’t have to pull from savings and I didn’t have to run up a credit card.  I had a built in cushion I could use and everything worked out well.  Sometimes you don’t get a big win and every month isn’t going to be a slam dunk, but it’s the progress you’ve made during the journey that shows in months like these.  Knowing your spending habits and being able to catch yourself before you revert to your old ways is the real big win.

I’m very interested to hear how you are trying to correct your spending habits and what you’ve learned about yourself during your journey.


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