Do you ever have months where you struggle to keep your money under control? Where it seems like no matter what you do, you overspend, and then the savings you set aside the month before have been spent to compensate?
In fact, as recently as last month.
Everyone has bad days/months/years when it comes to money, and even if you think you’re “good” with money and never get into debt, you probably have issues elsewhere (hoarding money and too scared to spend perhaps?).
So no matter who you are, whether you’re supposed to “know” this money stuff or not, you have the potential for bad money moments.
In fact, it’s so common, I’m on a mission to normalise it in my free Facebook group by encouraging everyone to share their “whoopsie” moments every week. This is ALWAYS in the spirit of “No Shame, No Blame”, because we can ALL learn and we can ALL relate.
So what happened last month?
Several things. I have A LOT of stress going on in my life at the moment – work/exams/family – it’s all coming at me. I’m not moaning about it, I’m just getting on with it knowing that life will get better soon.
But when life gets stressful, I spend more.
I overspend on prepping for my exams through a long-standing issue of “not good enough” (that I’m working on), but it prompts me to spend money on “bettering” myself through courses and books.
When I’m stressed I “spend” to heal the “not good enough” wound, when really I should just find something healthy to do like go out running, meditate or beat myself with
Spending to heal a wound is like applying a plaster to a missing limb – it ain’t gonna work.
Spending also makes us feel good in the moment – I’m currently feeling stressed and not my usual happy-go-lucky self, but my god is my holiday wardrobe currently looking fabulous! I also seem to have developed an unhealthy obsession with Popsy dresses for work….
In reality, I didn’t *really* need to buy what I did. I could have purchased a smaller selection and used previous years clothing to top up my holiday wardrobe, and I already have a nice selection of work dresses, so I could have just been content to use those for a while.
Yet still, I bought the clothes, even though it isn’t in my budget at the moment.
Why did I do that? Because there was an underlying need NOT being met (stress, overwhelm, exam-anxiety), and I was trying to spend my way out of it.
When we spend to meet an underlying need
Spending on clothes, courses, shoes, food etc is our “reflex” action to help us in a crisis. When we feel guilty, tired, grouchy, “less than”, spending for some of us is the way in which we dampen down these feelings because they are unpleasant.
I mean, who wants to feel grouchy or guilty all the time?
And why do we turn to the quick fix? Well, because it’s easy and reliable. We KNOW that buying shoes or a handbag or whatever the hell it is we’re into that makes us feel good, so we do it again and again and again (even though we promise that NEXT TIME it will be different).
Robert Kiosaki calls them “doodads”, Vicki Robin calls then “gazingus pins”. These are the items that are guaranteed to make us feel better in the moment, but which ultimately lead to a big problem with our money and hold us back from proper wealth.
So I buy a few things, what’s the big deal?
The problem with small things, is that collectively, they add up to a big problem. I came across The Money Saving Expert’s “demotivator” calculator the other day. It allows you to add up the cost of your “gazingus pin” habit over time, and it is indeed eye-opening!
Try it for yourself and see!
The “big deal” is that the money that is being spent on the “doodad” is money that *could* have been invested for your future or put into your emergency fund.
We don’t see it like that, because in the moment, the instant gratification that comes with spending money overshadows (temporarily) the bigger long-term goals you have (because they aren’t immediately tangible).
So what’s the solution?
It would be ridiculous of me to say “stop spending money”, because I’m sure this is a strategy you’ve already applied more than once! After a splurge, we have the urge to go the other way saying that “next time will be different”, and we “batten down the hatches” in an attempt to control the spending that goes on.
Then when we feel better about our situation, the motivation to be “good” with our money goes away and we spend again, or we crack under the pressure, stress, uncomfortable feeling and undo all our good work!
The solution is to protect your money from yourself, and put in place some simple strategies to stop the overspending cycle. We won’t always be perfect, but that’s ok.
Here are some ways that might help you:
Identify your gazingus pins
What do you regularly spend money on? What can’t you resist? For me it’s currently books, courses and popsy dresses, but work out what it is for you. Once you have worked this out, you can notice when you are going to reach for it and find something else to do instead. Work out how much this habit is literally costing you every year.
The interesting thing is that our personality has a large influence on what our “gazingus pin” is going to be. You can find out what your driving personality type is by filling out this quick quiz. I’d be interested to know what yours is!
There isn’t anything wrong with having something you like spending money on, just be aware of what it is costing you and what it potentially might be holding you back from (and see the section below on the fun fund). There does have to be an element of self-discipline in this though. So figure out how you’re going to cut down in these areas – for example, avoid the shop you would normally go in.
Employ a waiting list
Having a 30-day “I’ll think about it” list enables you to consider your purchases before you buy them. From now on, I’m going to use this action. I’ll put the item I think I need onto my calendar for 30 days in the future. If I still want to buy the item, I’ll do it then. Often though, when the emotions have passed, I’ve noticed that I stop wanting to buy the thing and don’t end up buying it.
Identify your triggers
For me, spending clearly revolves around “not good enough” – it affects everything; my clothes, my education, my online business….. it permeates through all aspects of my life, so this is my constant challenge. When is “good enough”, good-enough? I journal, I meditate (sometimes) and I have great friends and supporters to talk this though. Next time I’m tempted to go out and buy a course or a dress, I’ll add it to my 30-day list then check in with myself to find out how I’m currently feeling. If it’s stress, I’m not authorised to make decisions like spending money, so I have to wait until it’s over before I can (if I still want to then).
Delete email temptations
Like avoiding walking into the shops that I love spending money in, I regularly unsubscribe from tempting emails trying to sell me stuff, or at the very least, stick it into a folder that “hides” the emails from me until I want to spend on them later (with the money to do so).
Open a fun fund
A fun fund keeps me sane. While I’m paying off debt, adding to my investments and feeling stressed, I need to have money to do fun things in life. I learnt a long time ago that if I didn’t keep up with my social life during exam prep time, I’d become a very unhappy lady, so a way of fulfilling my unmet needs is to go out and do things – massages, prosecco with the girls or date night with future hubby, it all helps. A fun fund is ESSENTIAL spending in my opinion.
Disruptive challenger banks like Monzo make doing this so easy! (FYI – use my link* and we both get a a fiver just for signing up for a free account!)
Keep an eye on your spending
Tracking spending feels like a chore, but it’s actually a brilliant “early-warning” sign. If you usually spend less than you earn, then one month you spend more than you earn, it allows you to explore why. I do this, and last month noticed a sizeable shift in my spending. It prompted me to “check in” with myself and look at what is going on so I can stop doing it!
Meet your needs consistently
When I’m feeling tired, or angry, or guilty, or upset, there is generally a reason (the time of the month is a perfectly valid reason!). During these times, it helps me to remember that I need to look at whether I am fulfilling my needs. Am I exercising, drinking water and getting enough sleep? Am I getting regular time on my own, with friends and with my other-half? If I’m not, I need to do the “thing” I’m not doing, rather than try and make myself feel better through spending. What are your things that keep you going and make you feel better? All work and no play is a bad idea, so don’t be tempted to power on through to get stuff done; it’ll only blow up in your face (and wallet).
Your Goals Aren’t Big Enough
Your money goals need to be HUGE so that they keep your attention and motivation to continue to work towards them. Every “gazingus pin” you buy takes you away from the goals you have. So make your goals HUGE and then find ways of reminding yourself EVERYWHERE. Vision boards, sticker-charts, jars filled with loose change. Then, whenever you stop yourself from spending on something you know you don’t really need, reward yourself by putting money into the goal you have. Whatever you want in life, make it real in your mind. IMAGINE what it will be like when you have reached it – debt freedom, your own home, retirement…. whatever it is, really see it in your mind and your actions will follow.
So there you have it, 8 suggested ways to stop the overspending stress from taking over your life. I’m still learning all the time, but I am making a conscious effort to do better. At the very least, tracking my spending allows me to keep an eye on what’s going on with my money, and doing this consistently allows me to spot the signs early. It’s not enough to salvage the money I’ve already spent, but it helps me to see where I’m neglecting my feelings/emotions etc, and where I need to do something to rectify it.
So which of these has got you interested? What could you put in place to help you with the overspending monster?
Until next time,
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