Posted: 11 Aug 2011 08:09 AM PDT
How often do you resolve to spend less?
And how often do you actually manage that?
We’re constantly faced with opportunities to buy something – as we walk down the street, as we drive past stores, even at work with the vending machine or canteen nearby. And with online shopping, we can buy at any time of the day or night, with just a few mouse-clicks.
If you’re spending more than you want to, though, these are a few simple ways to cut your spending – without having to do any complicated budgeting, and without having to rely on willpower.
- Write a Grocery List
Simple, yep, but this one trick can make a big difference. If you often find yourself buying groceries that end up being thrown away, or if you get lured in by the cookies or ice-cream, then having a list will help. It also prevents repeated trips to the store to pick up that one thing you forget...
A list lets you buy exactly what you need: no more, no less. It takes just five – ten minutes to write a grocery list, and you’ll easily save that much time in the store.
- Leave Your Credit Card at Home
If you often find yourself spending more than you should when you’re out shopping, then leave your credit card at home. Take cash, or a debit card: that way, you can only spend what you actually have.
- Record What You Spend
Just as keeping a food diary helps you lose weight, keeping a spending diary helps you save money. If you have to write down that bottle of cola and candy bar, you’re more likely to resist buying them.
A spending diary will also highlight patterns: any areas where you’re spending more than you realise, and where you might be able to cut down.
- Try the Store Brands
If you normally buy branded products, try the store’s brand instead, or even a value range. You might be pleasantly surprised – sometimes, there’s little or no difference in quality (the products may even be produced in the same factory, by the same methods, and simply packaged differently).
- Take a Packed Lunch to Work
It only takes five minutes to make sandwiches in the morning – probably much less time than you spend heading out from work to buy your lunch. A packed lunch will cost you far less than getting food from a store or restaurant – and it’s often better for your health, too.
You can find more tips on packed lunches here.
- Add Items to a Wishlist
When you’re browsing an online store, add any items that you like to a wishlist – don’t buy them straight away.
As Trent Hamm explains here on The Simple Dollar, adding items to a wish list “takes the edge off of the immediate desire. I can also return to those ‘wish lists’ at a later time and determine if it was a ‘whim of the moment’ desire or something I actually have a use for.”
- Block Online Shopping Sites
If you’re really struggling to control your online spending, then try blocking any problem sites for your browser. When you really need to make a purchase, you can unblock them – but the extra step involved will help prevent you from going onto those sites “just to browse”.
- Use Coupon Codes
Any time you’re making an online purchase, search online for “coupon code” plus the name of the product or store. You might not find anything – but you might save 20% or more, with just a few seconds’ work.
Many sites offer regular roundups and emails of coupon codes – try Retail Me Not for starters.
- Ask “Do I Need This?”
Any time you’re thinking of making a purchase, ask “Do I need this?”
Of course, there’ll be times when you want to buy something that you don’t strictly need – but asking the question can help you to become more self-aware about your purchasing habits. If you’re considering putting money down for something which you don’t need but which you think you want, then give yourself a day or two to mull it over. Often, that initial impulse to buy will just vanish overnight.