How to Fight the Urge to Spend When You’re Trying to Save

Saving money is a lot like weight loss, I guess. If it was easy, we’d all be rich. Or at least create high inflation. But I digress. My point is that it’s tough to save because we all have a bit of a desire to spend our money on stuff.

Obviously there’s nothing wrong with spending in general. You work hard. You earn money. You spend it as you please. Hopefully you’re spending it on the stuff that brings you happiness.

But what if you’re trying to save? What if you want to ease up on the spending for a while so you can save up for a vacation, or build up some college savings for your child? How do you quit spending enough to save some money?

Some find it easier than others to avoid spending a lot. What’s their secret? Do they have a stronger will? Do they use some special technique?

Today I’m going to share some common methods for fighting bad spending habits. But I don’t have all the answers. Be sure to leave your suggestions in the comment section below.

At the Register

Create a Reminder – Write your savings goal(s) on a post-it note. Wrap the note around your credit card, debit card, or money clip. Each time your pull out the clip you’ll be reminded of what you are saving for.

Only Carry Limited Cash – Consider leaving your credit and debit cards at home. Only bring a small amount of cash with you when you go out. You’ll be forced to come back home to get your cards to make a big purchase. This may be enough to deter you from spending money you don’t want to spend.

Instill a One Night Rule – Make a firm commitment to “sleep on it” with every purchase outside of your normal spending. This will give you time to evaluate the purchase and to weigh it against your other goals.

Change Things Up

Avoid the Temptation – If the mall is your weakness, don’t go to or drive by the mall. Take another route to work if your favorite store is along the way in your normal commute. If shopping online is your thing, consider installing BlockSite, the Firefox Add-on, that will allow you to block certain websites or types of websites from being shown in your browser.

Take Up a Hobby – Focusing intensely on something else will take away that idle time you normally have to spend on random stuff. Of course, this could backfire on you if your hobby is an expensive one.

Find a Cheaper Alternative – If you’re dead set on splurging on something. Then at least take the time to find the best deal you can on the thing. Is there a cheaper alternative? Now you can take the money you didn’t spend and put it in savings.

What are some other ways to fight the urge?

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About Philip Taylor, CPA

Philip Taylor, aka "PT", is a CPA, blogger, podcaster, husband, and father of three. PT is also the founder and CEO of the personal finance industry conference and trade show, FinCon. He created Part-Time Money® back in 2007 to share his advice on money, hold himself accountable (while paying off over $75k in debt), and to meet others passionate about moving toward financial independence. He uses Personal Capital to track his wealth. All the content on this blog is original and created or edited by PT.


  1. Well, one thing I often try is asking myself  “Is there a better thing I can spend this on?” sometimes it works, but sometimes my will just feels weak, like waterlogged paper.

  2. I agree w/ Mr. Dollars Not Debt. Research shows people buying groceries spend twice as much when using credit card as opposed to cash. “Swiping” is just too easy!

  3. i just simply leave my debit card home at home

  4. I must agree with the bring the limited cash home rule! I leave my debit card at home and I plan for what im doing for the day so that I will only bring a few extra dollars in emergency cases.

  5. Aury (Thunderdrake) says

    I think it ultimately comes down to will. If you don’t have the will, you’ll fall back into bad habits. It’s very simple.

    I’m particularly strong willed in this regard. Number one is the desire to further one’s self financially. The reason why I don’t get myself into any bad financial scenarios is because I’ve seen how indenturing it is to people. I’ve learned a couple knocks the hard way, but they are incredibly small. So shocking, that I’ve devoted myself almost zealously to becoming financially independent. Above all these, the best way to fight the urge is by discipline. Something too few people have.

  6. Crystal in Ft Worth says

    I actually bent my credit cards so that they cannot just be ‘swiped’ at the machine-the checker has to physically enter the #. It is embarassing holding up a line, and its a hassle. Works for me!

    • Crystal….that’s hilarious…I had never heard of that one. Can I repeat that story some time? Or is there a copyright? 🙂

  7. Dollars Not Debt says

    Only use cash. You either will run out or you will get sick every time you pull it out. Cash helps you avoid spending compared to the old credit card.

    Dollars Not Debt

  8. I fight the urge to spend by always sleeping on a big spending decision like you mention, giving it a few days in most cases. A lot of the time that’s enough time to cool me down and I don’t even want the item anymore.

  9. @2million – Yeah, I’ve found that the older I get the less likely I am to come back for something. Call me lazy, or just contented, but it works.

  10. I find the “sleep on it rule” to be the most helpful for me. It works really well and I find that I don’t really need most of what Im eyeing.