Before you can cut back on your non essential spending, the first thing you need to do is to work out why you buy items that you don't need. Once you can do that, you'll find it much easier to cut your spending and repay your debts.
Look through your shopping receipts for the past month. That is if you still have them! But while we’re on this subject, it is always a good idea to keep the receipts for everything that you’ve bought over the last month.
This makes it easier to return any items that are faulty or damaged. In most cases, it will also allow you to return items that you don’t want. You know, items bought on a whim that you lose interest in almost as soon as you return home. Items that you thought looked great on television or in the shop, but aren’t! So instead of leaving them lying in your spare room and chalking it up to experience, you’ll be able to get your money back.
Second, and this is the vital point, the receipts will act as a visible reminder of the amount that you’ve spent. Seeing your spending habits in black and white will make it much harder for you to hide from your financial situation.
Now I want you to find the last ten non-essential things that you’ve bought. Write them down below, including the price and the reason why you bought each item.
Now to assist you with this, I will say the following.
Non-essential = Things that you didn’t need to buy to ensure your continued survival
Essential means the things that you need to keep body and soul together. This covers basic clothing, basic housing and food. It also includes expenses that allow you to get to work and do your job, insurance to protect what you’ve got, bills to make sure you stay as healthy as possible and payments to keep the authorities off your back. And that’s it!
If you really, really want to clear your debts, these things are all that you need. Anything else is unnecessary, therefore non-essential.
ITEM PRICE REASON
A fascinating exercise!
Now what were your reasons for spending money on these items? Where are your weaknesses? It’s only when you know the situations where you spend money on non-essential items, that you’ll be able to resist these impulses.
If you’re having problems deciding why you bought certain non-essential items, then look no further. The reasons below are likely to cover just about every situation you could possibly imagine.
a) Emotional Spending
Boyfriend left you? Had a row with your wife? Then why not cheer yourself up! Go on you deserve it. Then, not only will you be depressed, you’ll also have your debts to keep you company.
People spend when they’re unhappy in an attempt to cheer themselves up. Why? Because the retail industry would have us believe that it will make you feel better and cure all your problems. Well it won’t! All it will do is to distract you from your misery….temporarily.
b) Reward Spending
I want to give you three statements.
- I deserved a reward, that’s what money is for
- You only live once, and if you can’t treat yourself then life is not worth living
- I’ve been working so hard recently I needed a treat to cheer myself up
When was the last time that you used one of these excuses to justify spending money on a luxury item? And when I say luxury, I mean an item that is not necessary for your continued survival.
You need to go to work, but you can’t face it, so you promise yourself a new mobile phone if you make it to the end of the week. You need to do some household chores, but you can’t face it, so you tell yourself that if you do them you’ll buy that nice top that you saw in the window of that rather exclusive little boutique the other day. You need to do some grocery shopping but you can’t face it, so you….oh, you get the idea!
Wouldn’t it be better to alter your life until you’re happy with it, instead of trying to spend yourself happy?
If you don’t, you’ll end up bankrupt….and you’ll still be unhappy!
Cancelling out your debts will require many sacrifices to your lifestyle. If you must reward yourself for every little thing that you do, then pick a treat that doesn’t cost much. Or better still, something that costs nothing!
Try taking a walk in the park, having a lie in when you don’t need to go to work, or reading a new book. All of these things can give you great enjoyment if you approach them with the right attitude. Make a list of all the inexpensive things that you enjoy doing and then use them as treats.
c) Image Spending
This is one of the central messages used in marketing. It ruthlessly exploits people’s desire to be seen as interesting and attractive. Adverts use this type of manipulation all the time.
For products aimed at men, you’ll find subtle messages such as, drive this car and you’ll get the best looking girl. Drink this brand of beer and all your friends will love you. Use this razor and you’ll be an all round superman.
For products aimed at women, the messages again pander to their need to look cool and to be liked by everyone. Ideas such as, use these cosmetics and you’ll suddenly become beautiful. Buy this mobile phone and you’ll never be short of friends to socialise with. Wear this perfume and you’ll find your prince charming, etc, etc, etc.
And it works! (the marketing that is, not the product)
When was the last time that you bought something because you thought that it would make you look more attractive or sophisticated?
Go on, be honest!
d) Peer Spending
This is very similar to the last reason. Peer spending means buying things that your peers (i.e. your friends or other people in roughly the same age group) already own. There are two reasons why people feel the need to do this.
The need for approval. The need to be accepted and feel part of the ‘in’ crowd is of vital importance to just about everyone. This bad habit is learnt at school and carried into adulthood. And what better way to gain other people’s approval than buying the same sort of things that they have?
All your friends have the newest cell phone with all the latest technology and design features. How could you honestly hold your head up in company when you consider how ‘prehistoric’ your phone is? It’s six months old after all!
And the list goes on and on. If it’s not mobile phones, it’s your car, your hair style, your clothes. So you go with the crowd to gain their approval.
It satisfies their need not to be left out. Buying what other people have is a classic sign of the ‘I want what they’ve got’ mentality. Keeping up with the Joneses, ‘I can’t let them show me up with what they’ve got’ call it whatever you want! That type of attitude has inspired many an overdraft!
e) Bravado Spending
Some people spend purely to show off and impress others. To let other people know how much they’ve got and how much they can spend. And what better way to do it, than be flexing your ‘spending muscle’, otherwise known as your credit card.
But it’s just a front. Nothing more than a thin veneer! With the help of their ‘flexible friend’ anyone can spend as if they were a millionaire….temporarily.
Bravado spending is not just misguided it’s also a waste of money. And if you can’t accept that, then your desire to become debt free is obviously not strong enough.
f) Impulse Spending
You get a sudden urge to buy something. It pops into your head and you just can’t settle until you’ve bought it. This is one of the hardest types of spending to avoid (often because you’ve bought the item(s) in question before you come to your senses).
All that I can suggest is to stall your enthusiasm for all non-essential purchases as long as possible. Give yourself time to think why you want to buy it. Then remind yourself about the size of your debts and the vow that you made to yourself to get rid of them.
The urge to spend money will soon pass. Within a few days or weeks you’ll look back with amazement that you considered buying that item, and relief that you didn’t.
Once you’ve seen through the reasons for buying unnecessary things, it will become much easier to resist them.
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Stuart runs a website dedicated to helping people get out of debt. So if you want to improve your financial position, visit http://www.icanhelpyougetoutofdebt.com for free, impartial information on how to reduce debt.