Take action today. Quick, little improvements can have a big impact over time. Improve your spending with these ten tips on how to spend money wisely:
Think High-Level: Make Lists
1. Make a list of what you value. The best way to spend more wisely is to align your spending with your values. Are you aware of your personal values? Take a moment to write down the things that are most important to you in life. Is it security for your family? Is it success in business? Is it helping others? You likely have a combination of values. Write these values down and then ask yourself this question: “am I spending my money on things I value?” Then ask, “am I spending my money on things that aren’t in my value system?” Doing this little exercise will give you some clarity and help to guide you into thinking consciously about your spending.
2. Make a list of things you really enjoy. Along the same lines as #1, you should be using your money to bring joy to your life. You define what “joy” is. Go ahead and write that down. What brings you happiness? Identify those things and then ask yourself if you are spending your money in those areas. More importantly, ask yourself why you are spending on things that aren’t on that list. Bottom line: avoid spending too much money on things that aren’t at the top of your “joy” list.
3. Make a list of places, things, or people that cause you to make poor spending choices. Can you identify the triggers to poor spending in your life? Think about your spending over the past couple of weeks. When did you make the worst decisions (i.e. spending money you didn’t have, spending on things you don’t value, etc.)? What was the cause of your poor choice? If you can identify these weak points then you can begin to live your life in a way that helps to avoid some of these spending hot spots.
Quick Reviews of Your Actual Spending
4. Review your regular spending for things to eliminate. When was the last time you wrote down your list of monthly bills? Take a moment to do a thorough spending review now. List out all of your required spending for the month: this includes rent or mortgage, insurance, debt payments, utilities, services, etc. Is there anything on that list that you don’t need or want? It sounds absurd to ask such a question. However, I’ll be the first to admit that in the past there were things on my list of monthly expenses that I didn’t need or want anymore. Odds are you have one or two yourself. If you find something to eliminate, do it.
5. Review your regular spending for things to reduce. Next, take a second look at that list of monthly bills and see if there is a way to reduce the cost of any of them. Could you call the provider and ask for a better rate? Could you call a competing provider to see if you can reduce your rates by switching? If it’s a debt, could you do a balance transfer or consolidation that would help you reduce your rates and eliminate debt quicker?
Decide to Implement Spending Controls
6. Create a budget. On a basic level, a budget is simply a plan for your money. If you know your expected income next month, right that number down. Then start applying that money to different things. Start with taxes (if it isn’t already taken out), giving, and savings. Then move to basic necessities: housing, food, insurance, utilities, transportation. Finally, apply the rest of your income to other things you need or want. Open up an account with an online budgeting tool to streamline this process.
7. Start writing down each purchase you make. Tracking brings awareness to any situation. Use your iPhone or other device to take spending notes throughout the day. There are Apps for that I’m sure. Or simply carry around an old school pad and pen to jot down your spending. Do this for a week and see if your spending improves.
8. Switch to only cash. If you have a severe problem with credit spending, this is the way to go. Some folks swear by this method even if they don’t necessarily have trouble with credit cards. Like tracking your spending, going to a cash only system, if only for a week, will bring a heightened consciousness level to your spending.
9. Implement a “sleep on it” rule. Decide today that for any purchase over X amount you will “sleep on it.” It could be one night, a week, thirty days, whatever. Just allow some breathing room in between your desire and your decision to buy. Obviously this gives you time to evaluate the purchase against your values and your budget.
10. Put future spending on a calendar. Pull out a calendar and look at your upcoming events and life changes. Will spending be necessary? Is so, then make a note of that and start building a list of future spending requirements. This is somewhat different from a monthly budget because it looks a bit further out. This does two things: (1) allows you to prepare by saving for the spending requirement, and (2) it allows you time to shop around for the best price and lock in the lowest rates.
Have more tips? Add them to the comments below.