How to Control Your Spending


It’s often the case that I find people asking me how to control spending. The answer is simple of course – just don’t make purchases. That’s not really enough help for those who spend above their budgets and want to fix things but cannot seem to do so. The best way to control your spending habits is to be open and honest with yourself, your spouse, and even your kids. Being realistic takes practice. The following steps will help you.

Take That Hard Look

- A good way to put a stop to overspending is to take a long, hard look at what you are spending. Here are some tips to follow:

- Pull out your credit card statements, bank statements, and receipts. Create a list of the main categories of spending, such as groceries, eating out, utilities, etc.

- Allocate each item you’ve purchased to a category. You will quickly see how much you are spending in which categories.

- Make a list of all of your income sources.

- Add up how much you are spending per month in all expenses.

- You will be able to see, in print, the differences in what you are spending, where you are spending it and what you are bringing in.

This is a hard step to take – it’s simply not easy to realize where you are spending money until you see it in print.

Determine Why You Are Spending

Ask yourself why you are overspending. If you are spending too much on eating out, it may be because you haven’t taken the time to plan a menu, buy groceries or to plan a schedule that allows you to make dinner at home.

On the other hand, some individuals need to consider their specific emotional attachment to the act of shopping. Are you addicted to this? Does it provide some type of emotional benefit to you when you shop?

Are you:

- Do you shop because it provides an emotional boost to you. Do you feel good when you shop?

- Does it provide an outlet, a way to break away from everyday life?

- Do you have self-regulation problems or trouble controlling bad habits?

- Do you see it as a way to socialize because you lack any real attention or interaction with others?

If so, you may need to investigate why this is and, most importantly, what you can do about it. In some cases, shopping addiction requires professional treatment.

Cut Up the Cards and Use Cash

Perhaps the most difficult decision to make is to live a cash lifestyle. This means you cannot pay bills, go out to dinner, or make any purchase unless you have the cash on hand to do so. This is challenge for many Americans because society is so credit-driven. However, if you do cut up the credit cards, you could help to curb your spending habits. Here is why.

Cash is simply harder to spend. If you go to the store and see something you want, you may pull out a credit card and purchase it knowing you do not have to worry about paying for it for a while. On the other hand, you may second-guess that purchase if you only have cash in your hand. This cash lifestyle can make it far easier for you to control spending.

This is not easy. In fact, in most situations, it is downright hard to do especially at first. However, if you try it even for a few days, you will see the significant improvement it can make in your financial life.

Can You Do A Budget?

Budgeting is hard work, too. However, to control your spending, it is essential to consider the budget as a tool, not as that dreaded thing you do on the weekend. Here are some tips to making it work.

1. Do it together. You and your partner should sit down and discuss the process together. That way, everyone is committed to it.

2. Be realistic. Be sure to give yourself an allowance every month for entertainment, gifts, and other purchases you usually make.

3. Work on it as a family. Be sure the kids know that you are sticking to a budget. That means no purchases of extra items they do not need.

Why do it? A budget seems like a lot of work, but it will show you exactly where you need to cut your spending and how you can save money. It will tell you how much you have to spend each month on the various categories. By putting this in place, you put a virtual brake on your spending habits.

Realize What You Could Have

Finally, take a long hard look at what you want or wish you could have. Do you want a long retirement touring the world and living somewhere warm? Do you want to be able to pay for your child’s college education? Do you just want the creditors to stop calling? Sit down and write out some specific goals for yourself. What are your biggest dreams financially?

Now, look at how your spending is hurting those dreams and ambitious.

- You are spending 20 percent or more on your credit card purchases than you would need to have. That means, for every $100 you spend on your credit cards each year, you could be paying $20 towards your goals instead if you used cash.

- If a family of four eats out four times per week then that could mean spending $200 or more per week on dinners out. If you cut that in half (just in half!) you could be putting $100 a week more into your savings accounts and earning interest on it.

- If you took the extra money you save from eating out, not buying that high end coffee or skipping those extra purchases and put it towards your retirement (perhaps right out of your paycheck) it could earn you thousands of dollars over 10, 20 or more years.

Can you really afford not to control your spending? It’s hard. It’s much easier to live in the now. But, doing this brings you so many more rewards.

How You Can Start Saving Money Today

Saving money is not as easy as it sounds. Like it or not even the most cautious person finds it occasionally hard to match his or her saving goals. This is because the scales always tip dangerously close to rising expenses while the income remains constant. But living paycheck to paycheck is not a solution either. That would be simply existing on the edge when you could do a lot better. Change your outlook. Don’t look at saving money as a boring ‘grandma’ concept. Look at it as your salvation when you want to take off and step away from the grind for a few weeks. Money is not just your means to survive the day but your cushion for a cozy future.

Take a look at some of the best ways to start saving money now.

1. Clear Your Debts

The happiest person is one who doesn’t have debts hanging like an axe over his head. The first step to saving money is to make a list of all your debts and start clearing them off one by one. It may pinch for a month or two and you may have to make do with a limited budget for some time, but once you are done you are looking at a very rosy picture. Chunks of your money are no longer going out of your savings every month. What you earn will all be yours, to invest as well as spend.

2. Set Savings Goals

Saving will be easier when you set down some goals for yourself. What do you want to save for? For most of us simply the thought of saving doesn’t create excitement. But if we are looking forward to something – say a cruise, a new car, or even for a party, is reason enough. In the long run you will get into the habit of saving which will serve you well throughout your life.

3. Don’t Make Impulse Buys

We are our worst offenders when we walk through the stores every time and give in to impulse shopping. Most of the time we end up buying stuff which we either don’t like or hardly use at all. If you are anything like me then you would do well to do what I do when I go shopping. Leave the credit card at home and use either cash or a debit card. That way you only spend what you have.

4. Make a Grocery List

Every week we tend to over spend on the groceries and then shake our heads when we look at the bill. As you stroll through the store you pick out items which seems useful, but do you actually use all of them during the week? Make a list and stick to it. That way you will only buy what you need for the week. Extra items or exotic stuff can be bought when you plan a special meal or a party. And you will also end up wasting less stuff. You will be surprised to see the difference in your bill.

5. Plan Your Spending Before You Get Paid

Make sure your paycheck goes directly into your savings account. Then take a percentage of that money for your weekly or monthly use. Be sure to pre plan your spending before hand. For example take out $100 for groceries, $100 for guilt free spending, $50 for gas, ETC…

Doing this will insure you know exactly where your money is going. If you spend all the grocery money by mid week than you will know you might to revaluate your spending. Whenever you go to the ATM don’t give into your urges and take more money out. In fact do the opposite and take as little cash out as possible. At the end of the month you will be rewarded with a healthy balance statement.

6. Automate Your Bills

Set up all your bills to be paid electronically. Make a list and keep this amount in mind. Add your saving goal amount to it. Once you have this figure you will automatically ensure that this balance is always maintained so that all your bills are paid on time. No one wants to do without the utilities or pay penalties, so this could be a very strong motivation to save.

7. Eat At Home

Do you know how much money we spend every week just eating out? Most of us don’t give it much thought because eating out is easier and more fun. We end up not just spending a fortune on restaurants but also endanger our health by sending so much of fast food and processed food into our system. Who says home cooking means elaborate meals? Just stir in some veggies with your pasta, toss a salad and you are done.

8. Make Your Own Lunch

Continuing the home food thread I would like to point out that we spend more on our weekday lunches than we do elsewhere. You may think you are just spending $10 just when you do the math and reach the cumulative figure for the whole year you will see where I am going with this. Most of the time you opt for a sandwich or a burger anyways, right? Why not pack one from home?

9. Invite People Over Instead of Going Out

We look forward to our weekend plans and the parties that we throw for our friends and family. But come Sunday we also look back and see a huge dent in our savings made with all the party expenses. Next time you can control that dent.

Look up simple but exciting recipes which you can do at home and your food is taken care of. All you have to do is buy the drinks and you are all set. You can even try some cocktails at home, all at half the price that you would have otherwise spent.

10. Save Then Spend

All of the above would be difficult if you didn’t have a master plan. Most of us tend to set aside money that we need to spend and then save the rest. The right way to go about saving is actually the other way around. First set aside a figure that you want to save. If needs be transfer it to a different savings account and let the interests pile up. Now focus on the rest of your pay and plan your expenses around it. In a short time you will find yourself saving even from this expense account that you have created for yourself.

How To Get Out Of Debt

Getting out of debt is a bit like dieting. There are essentially two ways you can address the problem.

1. Increase your income (take more exercise)

and/or

2. Decrease your spending (cut your calories)

Either approach on its own can work, but generally a combination of both is the best strategy.

It is also absolutely crucial to understand and address the reasons why you got into debt in the first place. An unexpected windfall may solve your current debt issue but unless you ensure that you’re in control of your spending habits, you may find that you’re back where you started sooner than you think.

Likewise, extreme budget control may be feasible, even necessary, in the short-term but longer-term unless you allow yourself space for some treats, your run the risk of destroying all your good work through a boredom-induced spending spree. Look on getting out of debt as a chance to examine the priorities in your life and an opportunity to clean out clutter, both mental and physical.

The first step in getting out of debt is acknowledging that you’re in it in the first place. The next step is working out why. Sometimes debt really is caused by events over which an individual has little, if any, control, such as an unexpected illness or bereavement.

Many times however, debt is caused simply caused by people living beyond their means. When interest rates are low and credit is easy to obtain, it can be extremely tempting to use credit to finance wants without thinking about the long-term cost or the consequences of a change in circumstances, such as unemployment. A trip through old bank and credit card statements can clear this up, if there’s any doubt.

What did you really spend that money on?

 

When you’ve accepted there’s a problem and worked out why it happened, it’s time to make a plan to fix it.

To do this you need to work out what your essential outgoing are and how much (if any) money you have left over after paying them. Essential outgoings are what you need to spend to keep body and soul together. These would include costs such as: rent/mortgage, utilities, food and groceries, telephone, travel and childcare.

Now make a list of all your debts and whether they are secured or unsecured and how much interest they charge. If your debts include credit cards then you need to check if you are carrying a cash balance and if so how much it is and what the interest charge is. Make a note of the minimum monthly payment. Hopefully once you have done all this you’ll find that you should have money left over each month, which is your starting point for dealing with your debt.

If you still find yourself short then you need to see if there’s any possible way to raise your income to make up the shortfall or if you can make any lifestyle changes to reduce your outgoings. If neither of these is feasible, then it’s time to itemize your assets – all of them, including your house and car if you own them, because no matter how painful it may be to have to sell them, the reality is that unless you deal with your debt, sooner or later you’re going to lose them anyway.

If you are still unable to free up enough funds to have a realistic possibility of paying back your debt then you should urgently seek individual financial advice from a debt-management organization.

Depending on how big the gap is you may be able to resolve the issue by creating a payment plan with your creditors as part of which they agree to freeze the interest on your debts or in worst case you may need to apply to have your debts cancelled by legal means such as bankruptcy. This is a very serious situation however if you are unable to address your debts by other means, then it may be your only option and it is perfectly possible to rebuild your life afterwards.

Most people, however, find that it is possible to deal with debt issues without having to resort to formal arrangements and many people find that although it can be challenging in the short term, in the long term it can be a valuable learning experience. You’ll very probably find that you had more resourcefulness and creativity than you ever imagined.

 

The key to getting out of debt is to spend as little as possible and to use as much of your income as you can to reduce your debts, starting with the highest interest debt as this is the one which will cost most if left unpaid.

As you pay off your debts, the amount you pay in interest will also come down, freeing up more money to pay off more debt. This creates a virtuous circle which will (eventually) end in you being debt free and probably having a whole new appreciation of the value of money and the importance of everything money can’t buy, in particular the love and support of those close to you, whether they be family or friends.

Many people find that it helps to keep a spending diary, at least for the first few months. Write down, literally, every penny you spend so that there are no excuses for not knowing where your money’s going.

 

Initially your priority is not to increase the payments on your debts, although this is, of course, important; it’s to make sure you have an emergency fund in place for when life happens so that you don’t have to take out more credit to deal with it. How much this needs to be will depend on your circumstances, however a good rule of thumb is a month’s living expenses (and over the longer term, it’s wise to raise this to at least 6 months). Once you have this in place, then you start the debt repayment process beginning with your highest-interest debt.

As getting out of debt requires lifestyle changes, at some point you are likely to want to explain the situation to your loved ones. Often the best way to do this is along the lines of “I’m cutting back on my spending so that I can be debt free in about X month’s/year’s time”. This reassures people that you do have a plan in place to resolve your situation and explains why you are making changes to your life. People who are worth caring about will support you in every way they can as you make your journey towards freedom from debt.

How I Earned over $600 in Gift Cards with Swagbucks

I just wanted to share with you guys my experience with the Swagbucks rewards program. I’ll give you a quick overview of their program and share with you how much I’ve made. I’ll also give you some pointers on how you can also start earning with Swagbucks.

What is Swagbucks?

You’re probably asking yourself right now “What the hell is Swagbucks?” Swagbucks is a reward site that allows you to earn “Swag bucks” for your everyday online activities. You can then trade these “Swag bucks” in for gift cards to popular stores. I buy everything on Amazon, so my personal preference is to get Amazon gift cards.

They have a bunch of different ways to earn, but I earned mostly using their search bar and watching videos on Swagbucks TV. What’s great about using their search bar is that it is powered by Google. They make money from Google when people use their search bar and they kick back some of their earnings to you. You’ll get the same exact results when you Google something, but now you get to earn. Getting paid for something you were already going to do sounds good to me!

Is Swagbucks Legit?

Below is a snapshot of the rewards I’ve earned using Swagbucks. As you can tell I love Amazon, but they do have other gift card options. Off the top of my head I remember seeing Target, Wal-Mart, and Starbucks gift cards also available.

I’ve earned about $660 in the past 8 months. So the answer is YES, Swagbucks is legit. Below is a screen shot of some of my most current rewards I’ve earned:


How to Start Earning With Swagbucks Today

Step 1: The first step is create an account. Which can be done here: Sign Up For Swagbucks

Step 2: Confirm your account by clicking on the email confirmation

Step 3: Log into your account and look for the menu at the top of the page. Click on “Earn”


Step 4:  A drop down menu will appear. Click on “Search” in the menu and you’ll see the following page:


Click on the link at the bottom of the page that says “Make this my homepage”


Step 4: Now is the easy part. Start using the Swagbucks search bar like you normally use a search engine like Google, Yahoo, or Bing. All that changes is you are getting paid!

Step 5: Earn Rewards!

Conclusion

Swagbucks is a great site to earn free gift cards which can cut the cost on the things you buy. I joined 8 months ago and already have bought myself some nice stuff with the $600 I’ve earned. So I give Swagbucks two thumbs up and recommend you join right now. You can join over here: Sign-up for Swagbucks