If you ask yourself, “why can’t I save money?” and say phrases such as, “I really shouldn’t have bought that” regularly, you may have bad spending habits.
Americans spent around $12.5 trillion last year on durable and nondurable goods and services.
Maybe you’re someone who has to have the latest phone or gadget.
Maybe you can’t resist special offers even though you don’t need the particular item on offer.
Whatever your spending habits are, it’s important to learn how to deal with them properly.
Why can’t I save money? 5 tips to break the spending cycle
People overspend for a number of reasons including out of habit and to try and deal with a problem or emotions.
If you can’t save money, follow this advice to change your spending habits for good.
1. Decide which spending habits to break first
The consequences of not saving money are debt and financial insecurity.
The key to stopping spending cycles is to break them down into manageable areas.
Go through your bank statements and write a list of all your bad spending habits. These could include:
- Overspending on your cell phone usage.
- Impulse shopping.
- Social media ads.
- Sale shopping.
- Buying to feel better.
- Eating out.
- Shopping trips with friends.
- Spending without keeping track.
Pick the two biggest areas you can’t stop spending on and focus on them first.
Once you’ve mastered them continue working through your list of bad spending habits in priority order.
If you find yourself spending more money every time certain friends are around, learn to say no or find alternative ways to hang out with them that don’t involve the shopping mall.
Also, try to avoid social media if you can’t save money.
From seeing the latest purchases that friends and family have made to the irresistible ads on your news feed, being online will make temptation hard to ignore.
2. Set a strict budget and long-term goals
Spending cycles can stop you from meeting your savings goals. If you don’t have a budget you will continue to spend money until either your card is declined or you use a credit card instead.
Not saving money could also result in debt if you don’t have enough money to use in an emergency.
Start by creating a list of your sources of income, then add up all of your fixed outgoings such as a mortgage, rent and debt repayments.
Next, it’s time to look at your variable spending such as groceries and socialising. Carefully allocate funds to each category based on how much you’ve spent in previous months, reducing the budget where possible.
It’s important to make sure you’re not spending more than you earn.
Deciding how you will use your paycheck before you receive it will ensure you include everything you need in your budget.
Don’t forget to account for unexpected expenses to avoid relying on a credit card.
Focusing on your goals will make you want to save rather than spend.
Whether it’s a deposit for a house, a car, a holiday or some home improvements, it’s important that you keep in mind what you’re aiming for.
These are just some of the benefits of saving money, but it could be for any reason. Print a picture of the goal and stick it somewhere you see it regularly.
Rewarding yourself for breaking bad spending habits is hugely motivational.
Here are our top tips for setting financial goals:
- Write them down: goals are more likely to be achieved if you make a commitment.
- Check that they are specific: vague goals will not motivate you to meet them.
- Break them into bite-sized chunks: If you need to save $5000 in a year, set micro-goals of $416 a month.
- Set a deadline: Setting an end date will keep you motivated to achieve your goal.
3. Avoid spending temptations: how to save money
It’s surprising just how much those trips to Walmart and Taco Bell add up. So what can we do to avoid spending temptations?
Work out what it costs in work time to buy an item.
If you know that an item will cost you two days wages, you might think again before making the purchase.
Leave your debit card at home. It sounds absurd but it will guarantee that you stick to your carefully thought out budget at the grocery store.
For example, if you take $80 in cash to the grocery store because that’s all you want to spend, what happens if you get to the cashier and discover your bill is $100? You will have to put the extra items back. However, if you had your debit card you would use that and overspend on your grocery shop budget.
If online shopping is your biggest weakness, find a new hobby such as reading or craft to keep your mind busy.
If you’re busy you won’t be tempted to browse shopping sites and get your wallet out. If you can’t resist buying new clothes, avoid shopping malls.
Temptation is the biggest reason why you can’t save money. Remove it from your daily life so you can achieve your savings goals.
4. Make lifestyle changes: how to save your money and not spend it
In most situations, the reason people can’t save money is that they spend too much. If you regularly ask yourself “why can’t I save money?”, it’s time to do something about it.
Making the following lifestyle changes will help you keep money in your bank account.
- Swap nights out for nights in.
- Try a different type of vacation such as camping.
- Read for free with a library membership.
- Volunteer at a local event.
- Attend a matinee instead of the evening performance.
- Choose a digital magazine subscription.
Food and drink
- It can be surprising how quickly restaurant bills can add up. Swap your weekly takeaway for easy crockpot meals that only cost around $2 per person.
- Cook in bulk and freeze meals to avoid waste.
- Do your grocery shop on a full stomach.
- Buy for at least two weeks at a time. The less time you spend in grocery stores, the less you will spend.
- Stop your daily trip to the coffee shop.
- Grow your own veg and brew your own beer.
Health and beauty
- Quit smoking
- Visit your local beauty college for great deals on treatments and haircuts.
- Swap make-up wipes for reusable cloths.
- Use a shampoo bar instead of bottled shampoo.
- Buy a safety razor instead of disposable razors.
- Swap dryer sheets for dryer balls.
- Ditch the cleaning products and make your own.
- Take reusable bags to the grocery store.
- Make your own natural air fresheners.
5. Go cash only: how to stop asking yourself, “why can’t I save money?”
The best way to put your spending into perspective is by only using cash.
The feeling of parting with your hard-earned cash is much more difficult to ignore than using a card where you can’t see the damage on your balance until your statement arrives.
Debit and credit cards make it extremely easy to blow your budget.
If you don’t have them in your wallet, you can’t use them.
The envelope system is a budgeting technique that helps people keep their spending under control.
You simply have an envelope for each area of spending (bills, groceries, tax and socialising). Next, you use the budget you created in step one to withdraw the right amount of cash for each section.
The envelope system is effective because it allows you to see how much money you have left for each area, which means you won’t accidentally spend your rent money at McDonald’s.
When you need to pay for something, make sure you take the exact amount out from the right envelope.
There are also online versions of this method that will automatically divide up your spending once you get paid.
Try a spending freeze
If you can’t save money and want to beat bad spending habits quickly, a spending freeze is worth a shot.
If you haven’t done a spending freeze before, start small with one week at a time.
The basic rule of a spending freeze is not to spend any money including on grocery shops.
Bills and utilities are not included but you can try and save by turning lights off and having quicker showers.
A successful spending freeze needs careful planning.
Cook your meals the week before and freeze them so you don’t need to make any trips to the store.
After your spending freeze go back to your weekly budget as normal.
You could use the money you saved to pay off debt, save or use for upcoming holidays.
Changing spending habits is hard, but it is possible
You won’t break spending patterns instantly, it will take time and determination to stop spending money.
There will be moments of weakness and temptation but knowing how to break the spending cycle is the biggest step.
Take control of your financial situation and break those unhealthy habits for good. You’ll soon stop saying “why can’t I save money?” and start saying “why didn’t I save money sooner”.