Ways to keep your spending from controlling you

Controlling Overspending

by Chantal King

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"Please, please, please, Mom? I'll never ask for anything ever again. Please?"

"Why can't we go through the drive-thru and get some lunch?"

"Better buy it; it's the last one at this incredibly low price."

Between your kids, spouse, media marketing, and persuasive sales clerks, it seems almost impossible to say no to spending money. Short of barricading yourself in the nearest room, how can you combat the constant drain of your hard-earned cash?

First, determine exactly how much money is going out the door. A few bucks here and a twenty there can add up in a hurry. Figure out how much you need for monthly living expenses. Include a category for savings and some for entertainment. No matter how tight your budget, setting aside some fun money will make sticking to a budget easy.

Not sure where to start with making a budget? The affordable Home Budget Spreadsheet from SimplePlanning.com makes budgeting simple.

Next, formulate a plan to say "no" to unreasonable demands like impulse buys, unnecessary treats, or constantly eating out. The problem arises when they encroach on your budget, force you to spend more than you earn, or prevent a savings plan.

Finding out what drives your desire to spend money is the key to controlling overspending. Discover your money triggers. Do you reach for something just because it is on sale? Are you constantly buying the latest gadgets for your kids, because you don't want them to be the only ones on the block without?

Related: 10 Ways to Prevent Non-Essential Spending

People buy things because of a perceived need. Advertising caters to emotion. "Buy this lotion and you'll look ten years younger." "The latest game system will bring your whole family together." "Use your credit card…Priceless." Or the old standby, "I deserve it."

Of course you deserve it. But don't you also deserve the peace of mind an emergency fund brings? Don't you deserve to be worry-free when the bills are due? Don't you deserve the financial freedom of being in control of your money?

Whenever you are tempted to spend money you know you shouldn't, ask these questions:

  1. Do I need it?
  2. Can I get it cheaper elsewhere?
  3. Can I wait until I have the money or it goes on sale?
  4. Can I use something I already have, or make it cheaper myself?

Make yourself wait. Even going out to the car to think about it can cool the heat of the moment. Ask yourself why you need the item so badly. Is it just because it matches the drapes in the living room? Or you think your incredibly picky teen would like it? Or is it just the orange sticker with the magic word "clearance" pushing your buttons?

Social guilt is another reason behind overspending. "Everyone has one. I'll just die if I don't get one, even though I have a perfectly good older one that I really don't play much." Your teen will probably not say the whole sentence, but it boils down to keeping up with the Joneses. Peer pressure, advertising, and the perception that you are the only one that doesn't have something can be a huge emotion to overcome.

Related: The Financial Folly of Following the Crowd

Being happy with what you have is a huge component in contentment. After all, there will always be new and improved items. Even if you buy them, there will always be more on the way. Buying used items like furniture, clothing, electronics, movies, music, books or other items can save a bundle and get you off the treadmill of over-consumption. Get in the habit of looking for used items first.

Are you one of the many people heading for debt trouble without knowing it? This simple checklist can help you find out and tell you how to avoid it.

So how do you say "no" to spending money? Sit down with your family and go over the finances. Be honest with your budget so that everyone is on the same page. When something comes up that isn't in the budget, calmly say "No." Practice in front of a mirror if you need to. Get your spouse to back you up.

Prevent the situations that cause the urge to overspend. If you know the kids will ask for treats when you go to the store, go alone or pack some treats from home. Or set a limit like $1 or 50 cents. Plan ahead for impulse buys by training yourself to stick to your list. It is possible to happily follow a budget. By recognizing your money triggers, rethinking your needs, and coming up with a financial plan with your family, you can begin controlling overspending.

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