If you’re like me, you have one major weakness when it comes to spending money. I cut coupons and buy generic brands of food at the grocery store, but when it comes to my weakness, I easily make excuses to justify the purchase to myself. My weakness is electronics.
If it plugs into a wall, has big screen, is all shiny, or you can play games on it, I want one. It really doesn’t matter how many I buy or if I already have something that can do pretty much all of the same things already, I end up finding a way to upgrade. How do I not go deep into debt or throw my financial plans off track when I’ve spent thousands in the past few years on electronics? I’ll show you.
The main problem with a recurring spending weakness is that it can really add up if you aren’t careful. Even if your weakness is the famed “latte factor” that personal finance writers like to harp on, they’ve got a good point. Do the math on how much that habit is costing you. It is a big impact.
When the weakness is for bigger ticket items though, if you don’t plan for them you can be in a world of hurt. Here’s a simple way for you to curb your biggest spending weakness in just 15 minutes.
Be Honest With Yourself
I’m not going to tell you to quit spending money on what you like to buy. If someone told me I couldn’t spend money on electronics anymore I’d laugh at them and head to the nearest Best Buy. Come to realize that you are going to spend too much money on your favorite thing no matter how hard you try.
Take five minutes to write out a list of everything you can possibly think of wanting to buy in your weakness category. If its shoes, write down every color, style, brand and heel height you can think of ever wanting. If its food, write down all of the restaurants you have been dying to try out and expensive meals you have ever wanted to make. Once it’s all down on paper, you won’t be surprised by new urges to spend money needlessly because you’ve got a wish list.
Prioritize the List
For the next five minutes, rank every single thing you listed with a number. Go through the list and figure out what items you want or need the most. By doing this you will be able to keep yourself from buying anything other than what is number one.
I may really want a video camera or more lenses for my DSLR, but I know what I really want is an Apple iMac. Every time I am tempted to even pick up and play with my #2 through #20 items on “the list” at the store, I remember that they are not the things I want most. I just focus on the top item I desire and the urges to buy anything else are subdued.
Save for Number One
For the last five minutes, determine a savings plan for buying the top item in the spending weakness category. Whether your weakness is eating out with friends, video games, or traveling, you can use these steps to set up a plan for saving to afford them.
- Figure out exactly how much total money you need to save.
- Determine how much you can set aside each paycheck or month.
- Develop a timeline for how long it will take.
- Make the savings automatic by setting up direct deposits or scheduled transfers at your bank.
- Visibly track the progress towards your goal.
- Count down to the day you have enough.
Follow the plan and don’t buy the item until you have enough to pay for it. Don’t just throw it on your credit card and tell yourself you’ll pay it off later. Don’t succumb to your wants and buy items that aren’t your number one.
Make a plan, stick to it, and reward yourself at the end with the item.
What are some of your spending weaknesses? What do you do to keep yourself from caving in and spending too much on them?