The Best Way to Stop Mindless Spending

I’m attempting to lose a few pounds right now using a proven weight loss plan. The plan I’m on is aimed at helping me eliminate mindless eating (my main problem) by requiring me to do three things: keep track of what I’m eating, meet a daily eating goal, and check in once a week on my progress.

Success with Conscious Eating

mindless eating and mindless spendingI’m just starting the plan, but I can tell already that the tracking will get to the heart of my issues (mindless eating) and it will be doable because it’s easy. The check-in meetings are easy too. No stress. Just excitement and encouragement to keep me motivated. I feel like these meetings will help to keep me in the program longer. The daily goals are great too. They let me know where I should be every day. There is no opportunity to question if I’m under or over where I should be. I have a goal, and I aim for it.

Mindless Eating and Spending

When I conducted the blog survey a few months ago, one of the biggest issues readers said they were facing was “mindless spending”. Spending mindlessly is fine if you have enough income to cover the damage (like a long-distance runner who can eat whatever he or she wants). But what it usually does to the average earner is keep them from reaching their financial goals. Mindless spending could even do some serious damage over the course of a year. This is often how people end up in high-interest credit card debt.

Today I was thinking of ways to tackle that mindless spending and I couldn’t help but compare it to my own issues with mindless eating. The connections between money and health are endless, aren’t they?

The Best Way to Stop Mindless Spending

I think the methods from the proven weight loss program I described above can be applied to our finances. The best way to stop spending mindlessly is to start tracking your spending. I’m talking about making some sort of physical record of the transaction.

There are various ways to do this obviously. You can make it complicated, sophisticated, or simple. Simple to me would be carrying around a little notepad and pen and jotting down each transaction you make. Simple to me would also be recording your spending on your smart phone using an app like pennies.

This works because jotting down your spending makes you hyper-aware of it. If there is an extra step involved with spending, then it’s much easier to become aware of the situation. You are forcing your body to do something it’s not used to. Therefore, you can’t go on autopilot and glaze over what you are doing. You have to be aware. Tracking also works because it helps to eliminate the not-so-obvious spending habits that do damage over the long haul.

Does this stop mindless spending completely and forever? Well, initially I’d say that it can. But over time, you should become used to the tracking process and even that could become mindless. That’s why you need goals (to bring the needed intention to your spending) and financial accountability to help you stick with it. Just like in my weight loss example, you need to have a number to shoot for, and you need to check-in periodically to see how you are doing overall. But I believe the first step is to start tracking.

What about you? Have you ever tried tracking your expenses? What helps you get control of your mindless spending?

(photo by » Zitona «)

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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 this website 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. 20 and Engaged says

    It’s not getting started with it but keeping it up. I need a constant reminder or pop up saying “did you track your expenses today?” When I remember I’m tracking them, it makes me really think “do I need this?”

  2. Jacob @ My Personal Finance Journey says

    Tracking my spending is the number one thing that helps me to control mindless spending. I have gotten to the point where it almost makes me cringe to buy something that I know deep down that I don’t need (such as a beer at a bar when I know that I have a fridge full of them at home that I could have).

    Another good motivator for me to save is to track my net worth once per month. Seeing my total worth move is very inspirational to me.

  3. We jotted down each expense for a month before making our first written budget. It certainly makes you aware. When you see how it impacts larger goals that really helps you reign in expenses. Now we keep a budget book. Each category has it’s own page. Both of us jot down what we physically pay for in each category. The book is open to both and we discuss potential problems.

  4. I need to start tracking my spending better. Loved the idea of using an app. I’ve never thought of doing that! Definitely makes sense to me since I’m always on my smart phone. Thanks for the suggestion.