Have you noticed how all your "little" spending adds up? Here's the thought process that helps me curb my spending when I'm working toward a financial goal. These three questions help me prevent all those little purchases that add up to break my budget and thwart my goals!

Originally published August 15, 2016

If you’re working toward a big financial goal, you’re probably not going to accidentally blow a huge chunk of change all at once.  When you’re really serious about a goal, it’s easy to say no to the big things that might halt your progress.

The price tag often helps.  A hefty price tag, makes it easier to distinguish between wants and needs.  However, when the price tag is smaller, it’s easier to let those purchases slide.

And it’s those “little” expenses here and there that can really get you.

How much difference can a little extra spending here and there make to your financial goals?

Frankly, a lot!

Five dollars here and ten dollars there really adds up over a month.  If you are trying to reduce your expenses to get out of debt or save money, you could be redirecting those fund toward your goal instead!

Did you know that you can blow $10,000 in a year just by spending about $27 a day?

It’s time to take control of your spending!

Here’s a little look inside my head when I’m attempting to curb spending on a daily basis.  There are three basic questions I ask myself to decide if an “extra” purchase is worth it when I’m focused on a goal.

Before I buy, I ask myself..

1- Do I really need this?

2- Can I make do, or do without?

3- Is this more important than my goal?

Just this last week I went through these questions several times as I was really tempted to make some purchases.  Here’s how my mental conversations played out in these simple, everyday situations.

Beach Towels

At kindergarten orientation, my son’s teacher said the kids should bring in a towel for their nap time and she mentioned that there were some end-of-season sales on beach towels.  We always just bring bath towels when we go to the pool, but I’ve been wanting to get beach towels for our family.  In my mind I planned to get them.

As I was telling my husband about my back-to-school shopping plans I mentioned the beach towels.  As I heard myself talking about buying clearanced beach towels for our family, I heard the irony.  Earlier that day I was impatiently looking at houses that we are trying to save for and suddenly beach towels were trying to sneak into my priorities.

Are they a need?

Nope, not a need, just a nice-to-have.

Can I make do, or do without?

Yep, we’ve been doing fine without them all this time.  So far everyone has dried off just fine.

Are they more important than our big goal?

No way!  As soon as I gave voice to my sudden “need” for six family beach towels, it almost made me laugh at how ridiculous my “need” sounded.  Sometimes it helps to imagine telling your spouse or accountability partner.  Would they see this purchase as wise?

Cloth Diapers

I got notice that a cloth diaper boutique that I follow was closing and had their diapers clearanced.  I browsed through their selection, saw the great prices, and even loaded up my virtual shopping cart.  Thankfully, I decided to let my cart sit there long enough to adequately think things through, which of course included these questions.

Is this something I need?

Well, no.  I suppose we’re doing fine with what we’ve got.  They sure are cute though.

Note: I could have argued that diapers are something we need.  I could also tell myself how much we would save over disposables.  While those are both true, they are arguments for cloth diapers in general and not for this specific purchase.  We already have enough diapers right now.

Can I make do, or do without?

Of course!  I can keep using the same diapers I was using before I knew about the sale.  While it’s easy to get caught up in all the cute, stylish patterns, I have plenty of cloth diapers right now.  Besides, since I potty train early-ish, my little one will only be in diapers for another eight months or so anyway.

Is this more important than our goals?

Ummm no!  Diapers are cute, but I would much rather have a house!!

New food containers

As school lunch season is upon us, I’ve been contemplating all the ways I can simplify and save money in the process.  Some of my best lunch hacks involve my favorite food containers.  I love that I can put anything in them (yogurt, fruit salad, soup, etc) because they don’t leak!  I would love to pre-fill lots of them at the beginning of the week, but we don’t have enough containers for that.  I make four sack lunches everyday!

I figured I would just buy another set so I would have more of the lunch-size containers (this size is perfect for my elementary school kids).  Then I would be able to prep more lunches at once instead of having to wash and refill the containers daily.

Are they a need?

No, even though I could have made a good argument claiming they were.

Can I make do, or do without?

For a few extra minutes each day, I can wash and refill the containers we already have.  It wouldn’t be as fast or glamorous as new containers, but it’s totally functional and doable.  I had a box (in our storage in the kids’ room) that had some old containers that work fine for salad and non-leaky food.

Are the containers worth slowing down our goal progress?

Nope.  It will be nice to have more of them in the future, but for now I’m happy to stay focused on our goal!

The Results

There were actually a few more things I said no to this week after running through my mental questions, but you get the idea.  When I paused long enough to ask myself these questions and answer honestly, I decided that our goal was more important and we could do without the extra stuff.

Even just with these three “no”s that I detailed for you, I easily saved $100 last week.  While I could have justified each purchase, even in the name of saving money, I resisted.  And that’s a savings of 100%.

Instead of buying some nice-to-have stuff, that $100+ is staying in my account to go toward our goals!  Hooray!

As I’ve made an extra effort to say no when I’m tempted by a little “I want” purchase, I’ve noticed that it gets easier.  Each time I say no to an unnecessary purchase I’m stronger and more willing to say no to the next one.  The money that I saved, from the last time I said no, almost becomes more valuable because it represents my first sacrifice, which makes me that much more protective of blowing it when another want comes along.

If you worry that I’m depriving myself, don’t.  Think of it as building self-discipline.  If there is something that I need or decide is worth getting, I just have to account for it in the budget.  When the money is available in one of our budget categories, I can spend it without feeling guilty.  We put the money in that budget category for a reason and there is no problem spending it for that reason.

Curb Spending by Asking Yourself

If you are dedicated to reaching a financial goal, I encourage you to ask yourself these questions before making a purchase:

  • Is this a need?
  • Can I make do, or do without?
  • Is this more important than my goal?

Even if the purchase amount seems small and insignificant, I assure you that those small amounts add up quickly, for spending and for saving.  Not only will you save money with the purchases you turn down, you will start to build habits of careful shopping, self-discipline, and dedication to your goals.

You can do this!

How about you?

  • How do you resist those little budget breakers that add up?
  • What questions do you ask yourself before making a purchase?

The post 3 Questions to Curb Spending and Reach Your Financial Goals appeared first on Six Figures Under.


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