Following on from part 1 of my ten top tips for getting control of your money, this post has the final five things that I have found help me to stay on track and keep on top of my budget.
I’ve learned this one the hard way! Everyone always says ‘don’t food shop when you’re hungry’ – true! I’d agree with that but I’d also add ‘don’t go clothes shopping when you’re sad/in a rush/it is payday’. Basically, be aware and conscious of your emotions when shopping. Do you shop to cheer yourself up? Do you feel better once you’ve got a clutch of carrier bags or a full fridge? Do you throw the receipts out straight away? Hmmm…if you answer yes to any of those then you’re probably an emotional shopper. Simply being aware of which emotions can cause you to overspend can help you to consciously prepare to resist. Having a strict list, checked against what is already in your cupboards, is the perfect way to keep your food shopping on track. A similar method can work with high street shopping, if you need new jeans and a pair of pumps. Shop solely for new jeans and a pair of pumps. Use Martin Lewis’ ‘Do you need it? Can you afford it? Will you use it? Is it worth it?’ money mantra. Identify other things that you can do that result in the same positive emotions that you associate with shopping; a walk along the beach, a long bubble bath, hot chocolate with all the trimmings; and pick one of those to fill the gap of a shopping spree.
If you find yourself putting things into your basket, take a moment to double check through the items before you head to the check out. On more than one occasion this has weedled one or two things out of my selections that were impulse purchases or *horror* I had forgotten I had picked up. If you can add the prices up briefly, double check you can afford your purchases and give yourself the opportunity to leave things behind if you want to. Just that brief pause gives you control back and enables you to minimise some of the rash decisions that you may have already made! If you’re shopping online, don’t check out immediately. If you can, leave your basket saved overnight or at least for a few hours and then return to it. If you’re still happy with your decisions (and how much it will cost!) then go ahead, press check out!
Setting down a monthly budget can not only feel hard to start with but also a little scary. When deciding on a budget, don’t forget to allow for treats and be realistic about how much you will spend in each category. If you want to save more, work out how much you are overspending in certain areas (could be entertainment or food shopping for example) and cut down a little each month until you are at your target amount. It’s hard to readjust habits and spending so don’t try to do it all at once! Put a little in the budget for date night or for a clothing budget. Don’t try to go cold turkey! Almost like trying a really restrictive diet, it will be fine for a few days, maybe even weeks but then you’ll find yourself stockpiling £6.99 pumps from H&M like they’re going out of fashion (‘scuse the pun!) without a care in the world for your carefully crafted budget. By giving yourself permission to spend a certain amount, you retain control and prevent the emotional response which can sometimes happen when you feel like you’re depriving yourself.
Think about the bigger picture
No one budgets unless they have to! Usually, the desire to put a deposit down on a house, pay of debts, go travelling or invest in training is usually the reason you find yourself surrounded by receipts and a calculator. Keeping one eye on what it is you are saving for or looking to achieve can really help you to focus when faced with the Autumn sales or a spur of the moment night out. Keep a record of how far you’ve come, how much you’ve managed to save or pay off so you feel engaged and inspired to keep your spending under control. Don’t forget to keep checking your actual spending against your budget. My tips on how to do this are in part 1 of this post.
Talk about it
Money is one of those subjects that we feel remarkably embarrassed about discussing, even with those who we usually divulge everything to. It is so important to have someone you can chat through financial decisions with. If you are in a relationship where your finances are shared or your financial health is dependent on one another (if you live with a partner or are married) then I don’t think chats about finances are negotiable. Don’t be afraid, everyone has made rash decisions in their lives – be honest about your personal situation and the impact that shared finances might have. Even if you don’t live with someone or have shared finances, then having someone you can ask for help and guidance from in regards to money is really important. There are some great open source hubs of financial information and help – check out Money Saving Expert (<3), the Money Advice Service and Guardian Money for starters.
If you’re really feeling like you don’t know where to start or perhaps you have scary debts or really feel like your spending is out of your control then I can highly recommend the CAP money management course. It’s phenomenal and they are really there to help you get back on track with neutral advice.
I’d love to know what your favourite tips are, let me know by leaving a comment!