Personal finance columnist Liz Pulliam Weston shares her five top tips for keeping your spending in check, in a special feature for The Budget Fashionista.
Five tips for Controlling Your Spending
1. Relax. When we’re pressured or rushed, we tend to make bad decisions. But retailers work hard to create a sense of urgency, so we’ll feel that we’re missing out on the greatest deal ever if we pass up an opportunity to buy. Whenever you hear that hysterical voice in your head telling you that you must buy now or it will be gone forever, just remember: There will always be another sale. If not on this particular It, then on something like it that’s just as good, if not better. And even if, against all odds, this is a one-of-a-kind, never-to-be-seen-again-stupendous deal, life will go on if you miss out. Somehow.
2. Create a pause button between the impulse and the purchase. Create a “stuff to buy”? list that you always carry with you. It can be a notebook, a sheet of folded paper in your wallet or a memo in your smart phone. When you spot something you think you want to buy, write it down. That way you capture the idea without committing the money.
3. Have a cooling off period. In some high-pressure situations, like door-to-door sales, you have the right to change your mind within three business days and cancel the deal. Consider creating your own 3-day cooling off period before you make a purchase. Write it down; if you still want it after three days, you can go back and buy it. (If three days isn’t long enough for you to chill, consider extending it to a week or even three weeks.)
4. Always, always, always shop with a list. The list is the savvy shopper’s secret weapon. It reminds you to get the stuff you really need while acting as a shield against stupid impulse purchases. It’s as easy as easy money can be: If it’s on the list, you buy it; if it’s not, you don’t.
5. Check your balance before you buy. Banks no longer block debit, credit or check transactions that would drain your bank account. Instead, those transactions are approved and you get slapped with bounce fees. Program your bank’s toll-free number into your phone or use its mobile banking feature to check your account balance before any purchase. If you’re using a credit card, use the toll-free number on the back of the card to do the same.
Liz Pulliam Weston’s twice-weekly column appears on MSN Money (http://money.msn.com). Get her latest book, “Easy Money: How to Simplify Your Finances and Get What You Want Out of Life.