Everyone has a weakness. My weakness is Ruffles potato chips. Seriously. I can eat a family size bag in 2 sittings. But I don’t allow myself to do that. Not only is that unhealthy for my waistline, it is unhealthy for my wallet.
So I avoid Ruffles. I only eat them two or three times a year, and usually only at parties. Otherwise, I know I would buy them at the grocery store every week and probably weigh 20 pounds more than I do now.
I admit I have an addiction to those crispy, salty potato chips. But thankfully, I haven’t developed any serious spending addictions. That’s right, spending can be an addiction. And it can be a tough addiction to break because you can live without potato chips, but you can’t live without spending money.
Here is how you can break your spending addiction:
Know why you spend. Are you bored? Do you spend money for excitement? Do you equate things with wealth or security? Spending money is like any other addiction. It can calm you and make you feel more peaceful. But shopping is not a hobby. It is important to understand your spending habits and why you have them. Otherwise, you will continue on your path without being able to change your habits.
Acknowledge your habits and make an effort to change them. Now that you know why you spend money, you will only be able to change those habits if you are willing to do so.
Know your weakness and avoid them. I know I can’t buy a family size bag of Ruffles every time I go to the grocery store. I would eat the entire bag in a day or two and that just isn’t healthy. So I don’t buy them. It is important to recognize your spending weaknesses as well. Do you go to the mall after work to fight boredom – and come home with a new outfit you will never wear? Do you visit Best Buy once a week to check out the new HD TVs and walk out with a couple CDs or DVDs? How about that daily trip to the gas station? I know people who stop by the gas station on the way to work every morning and leave with a tall coffee and large muffin.
Change your habits. Go shopping with a plan. The mall is a great place to find things you plan on buying, but it’s a horrible place to spend recreational time. The same thing goes for Best Buy. Gas stations are for buying gas. Try stopping only for gas – and paying at the pump. My bet is that you will see instant results in your cash flow.
Hold yourself accountable, but reward yourself as well. Once you identify your areas for financial improvement, hold yourself accountable. Your efforts for change will fall flat unless there is something keeping you in line. You can hold yourself accountable by giving yourself small rewards along the way. The point of curbing your addictions isn’t to turn yourself into a monk, but to allow you to control your spending instead of having your spending controlling you.
It is OK to spend money, and it is OK eat potato chips. But do so with a plan. Know your limits and stick to them. Your wallet, and your waistline, will thank you.
Patrick is the author of Cash Money Life, a blog about personal finance, career management, and self-improvement. He served in the United States Air Force, has traveled to over 35 countries, and is a fantasy baseball champion. He is an active lender at Prosper.