Worried about money in the run up to Christmas? Andy Webb offers some tips and mind tricks to help to curb your over-spending
You don’t need me to tell you that the run up to Christmas is going to be expensive. And the huge Black-Friday themed sales throughout November don’t help either. We spend more in shops and online during this period than any other time of the year.
That’s all well and good if you have the cash to spend. But if you’d rather put that money to use elsewhere or just want to cut back on how much stuff you buy then it’s easier said than done to just “stop shopping”.
To help, I’ve got a few tricks you can use that’ll make it harder for you to spend money you don’t have or buy things you don’t need.
Know what you need
It’s so easy to spot something, especially in the sales, that you had no intention of buying. Yet you do. But if you’re trying to cut back on how much shopping you do, these are exactly the types of purchases you want to stop. So, first up, work out what you need and make a list. Then stick to this list. If you later think about buying something you haven’t written down then there’s a good chance you’re duplicating what you already have—or simply won’t even use it.
"We shop on impulse, so if you don't feel the same the next day, don't get it"
Once you’ve got this list it’s worth running a quick a stocktake of what you already have in the house. From clothes you’ve only worn a few times through to kitchen gadgets you forgot you even had, there’s every chance doing this will mean you won’t need to buy something new.
Work out what your triggers are
The list alone won’t stop impulse purchases so next up you need to help remove the temptation.
If you tend to pop in, unplanned, to certain shops as you’re passing them, try taking a different route or avoid the town centre completely. If your spending tends to happen when you’re with specific people or in a certain mood, try to look for alternative things you can do that won’t involve being near some shops on those occasions.
Doing supermarket and other shopping online is one solution—especially if you’re armed with your list. But of course, these online shops have their own tactics to get you to spend.
Unsubscribe from newsletters and get off social media for those brands you are likely to be swayed by. If you can’t see their messaging about special offers or latest styles you’re less likely to visit their website.
Pause a purchase
Whether online or in person, one tactic is to see if you can wait 24 hours before actually buying something. We tend to shop on impulse, so if you don’t feel the same a day later then simply don’t buy it.
The Icebox tool (finder.com/uk/icebox) take this concept to another level online. Add the tool to the Chrome internet browser and with hundreds of shops you’ll have the option to put an item “on ice” rather than in the shopping basket. You can set your own cooling off period, whether that’s one day or 30 days, and in that time the website won’t let you buy it.
Add some barriers
The harder it is to pay for something, the harder it is to spend your money—simple! So add some friction to the payment process.
Ditching your credit cards is an easy precaution to take. This might just mean leaving them at home when you go out.
"Only take the physical cash with you that you have planned"
An extreme version is to literally freeze your cards. Put them in water and then place them in the freezer. You’ll then need to let it defrost before you can take them out or use them online.
While you’re at it, remove stored credit card details from the online shops you tend to spend at. Especially those retailers with one-click options such as Amazon. You should also delete those shopping apps from your phone, and even from your bookmarks.
Track your spending Knowing exactly how much you’ve been spending recently can act as a prompt to reconsider a pricey purchase. If more has gone out of your account than you realised, and it often has, you might think twice about spending more.
A simple way to do this is to review your spending every month. It doesn’t take long to go through your paper or online bank and card statements, but the key is to quickly add all the small purchases up. You’ll be surprised just how much they will total.
There are also apps for your phone which help you monitor your spending such as Yolt and Emma. They categorise your spending so you can quickly see, for example, the total you’ve spent on travel or eating out.
New banks such as Monzo and Starling also do this, but they also have the added feature of instant notifications each time you use your card. These act as useful reminders of just how much each transaction is.
Manage your cash
Another way to reduce your spending involves assessing how you manage the money you have. You should move your savings into a separate account. Doing this prevents you from “accidentally” dipping into those funds. Instead you’ll have a real bank balance you can track as it approaches zero.
Then when you do go out shopping, only take the physical cash with you that you have planned to spend. Apart from meaning you can’t spend what you don’t have, there’s also an extra psychological barrier in place when you have to hand over notes and coins rather than just tap your contactless card.
Get the best price possible
Of course, unless you are taking this process to the extreme, you will at some point decide to buy something whether you need it or simply want it. And that’s OK. But you can still use some tools which will help you find the lowest price.
The three websites I use to compare prices and look at price history are Idealo for general shopping, Camel Camel Camel for Amazon products and MySupermarket for food and drink. With each you’ll spot whether now is a good time to buy or whether you can get the same thing for less somewhere else.
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