Despite setting a budget, do you find yourself overspending? Think: last minute getaways, daily acai bowls, that $250 pair of shoes that you really don’t need but…
While we’ve all made an impulse purchase or overspent, some of us are more willing to admit it than others. Once you realize where you struggle, though, you can learn from your bad money habits. Then you can tighten the money belt and get back on the road to saving.
We know, we know. Easier said than done.
To demonstrate this isn’t impossible, we asked the winners of The Ally Big Save to do just that. For several days, they kept a confessional log of their daily money habits and actions — both good and bad — as well as their emotional reactions. Chances are, some of their bad money habits are similar to— or even the same as —your own.
Ally Tip: For at least three days, keep a log of all your daily money actions (both the good and the bad), as well as your emotional reactions. Then come up with an accountability plan to change those behaviors that you’re not so proud of.
Here’s what The Ally Big Save Winners learned about themselves plus money tips to help you curb these common setbacks and course-correct.
Click and Buy Now
I used to think that the easiest way to save money was by staying home. But over the years, as we began to buy virtually everything online, this became less and less of a reality. I find that there are times when I don’t even think about opening an app and buying something, but on other days, I spend a hundred bucks on a website without giving it a second thought.
— Martina Dunlap, Virginia
Ally Tip: Discourage online shopping by removing some of its convenience. Delete all autofill information — credit card numbers, passwords — from ecommerce sites. When you can’t just click and buy, you’ll be less likely to fill your digital shopping cart.
Not Enough Time, Not Enough Energy
Eating healthy, cooking, and having too little time on weekends for meal prep are not friends of your wallet. I feel terrible throwing away food, but I buy too many vegetables all at once. When I overestimate the time and energy I have for cooking, things are wasted, which happens more often than I care to admit.
— Antonella Converso, Pennsylvania
Ally Tip: It’s good to be disciplined about money, but it’s understandable that sometimes you need a break. If you know that you’re just too tired to cook from time to time, plan an inexpensive dinner out. You can account for the expense in your budget — and you won’t waste food that you spent good money on.
I live in a small town of 6,000 people. When I drive 45 minutes into the nearby city, I tend to go crazy spending money. Along with my family, we’ll eat at an expensive restaurant, go shopping at the mall, get snacks for the car ride home — and of course, that doesn’t include the money spent on gas getting there and back. I enjoy eating out when we go into town, but the cost adds up so fast. I justify it with the fact that we don’t have any restaurants where we live, but I always have buyer’s remorse after spending money.
— Krista Storey, Indiana
Ally Tip: Everyone deserves a treat, but too many at one time can bust your budget. So you don’t feel totally deprived, pick one area to splurge — shopping, eating out, a fun family activity — and determine exactly how much money you’re going to allocate for it. Happen to spend less than you’re expecting? Put the excess in a savings account and at the end of the year, use the money for a bonus night out on the town.
I have good self-control and discipline, but sometimes, I think about the future too much and I don’t spend enough in the present. Hopefully my kids will benefit from all my savings someday, especially when they go to college.
— AJ Jain, Kansas
Ally Tip: Open a savings account dedicated to short term family activities (like a trip to your local theme park or movie night out) and set up regular automatic deposits. You’ll have a bit of money to spend on something fun now, but still have plenty saved for the future.
I have a difficult time giving myself permission to buy things that provide one-time enjoyment, like dessert, coffee, or that crazy unicorn balloon in a gift shop. I like spending on those closest to me and surprising them with things they point out, but have a problem spending money on myself.
— Melissa Fleagle, Alabama
Ally Tip: Find a way to treat both yourself and others. Take a friend or loved one out to dinner at a beloved restaurant or go see your favorite band in concert.
Things You Can’t Live Without
I love the smell of real books. I like holding them in my hands. I like wondering who read the library books I check out, but the ease of just hitting “download” to get a book immediately has been hard to give up. I used to go to the Houston library every two weeks, but now my Amazon habit is well, embarrassing. The financial impact of my need for instant gratification has been at least $40 a week. That’s $40 I could be earning interest on, or investing, or doing anything more productive with.
— Melinda McMahan, Texas
Ally Tip: A popular Chinese proverb states, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Going cold turkey is rarely successful. Instead of cutting something you love out of your life completely, find the minimal amount you can spend on it to still be happy.
Your “Money Confessional” discussion:
- What money confessions do you uncover while tracking your spending habits?
- What is your biggest money struggle?
- How would you describe your spending and saving habits?
Let us know your answers in the comment section below.