With the holiday season upon us, the opportunities to spend money become endless. It’s easy to not think about how much you’re spending with one-click shopping and convenient mobile payments. Black Friday is one unofficial event that people eagerly anticipate for incredible deals and early holiday shopping. However, if you’re not careful, the sales can add up quickly to hundreds if not thousands coming straight out of your pocket.
So how do you spend what you need to without breaking the bank?
Mindful spending is a practice anyone can benefit from no matter what your financial journey looks like. Spending mindfully simply means being aware of where your money goes and creating a budget for yourself to stay on top of your finances. Here are some tips to help you practice mindful spending in time for the gift-giving season.
Design a budget and track your spending. There are various ways you can create a weekly or monthly budget that works for you, and there are several apps that can help you track your finances. Check your accounts often to see where your money is going every month. Small purchases on drinks or delivery fees can add up quickly if you’re not careful. However, just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t spend a little on “fun” things. You can set aside money for those purchases after paying off your bills and other necessities. The key is to stick to the amount you budget for those purchases.
Make a weekly purchase list. Similar to creating a budget, write out a list for yourself of things you need to purchase for the week and stick to it. It can include groceries, bills, childcare, and other errands. By writing down exactly what you need and visualizing it throughout the week, you can help yourself curb those tendencies to casually shop for unnecessary things.
Set financial goals. If you have a long list of people to buy gifts for this holiday season, set a gift budget and decide how much money you want to spend on each person or on gifts in total. You can start saving and setting aside money to meet those financial goals now, and then feel better about spending within your budget when Black Friday and the holiday season comes along.
Delete any apps that lead you to spend frivolously. Store apps make shopping much more convenient than ever before, but it can lead to mindless scrolling and purchases in the blink of an eye during your free time. Deleting those apps can help limit yourself and force you to make a little more of an effort to shop online. When it’s not immediately at your fingertips, you can help yourself become more mindful of what you are buying and when.
Use cash. Cash is no longer as prevalent in a society that is dominated with digital payments. A U.S. Bank Cash Behavior Study discovered that 50% of participants carry cash less than half the time, and 47% prefer to use digital payment platforms. With the rise of COVID-19, cash payments have even become less accepted at some stores. However, if you are serious about spending mindfully, using cash is a good way to become more self-aware of how much you have to expend. You’ll be much less likely to overspend when you can only use what you have on hand. Leaving your debit and credit cards at home can make that limitation even easier to keep.
Think before you purchase. Right before you decide to buy something, take a few hours to think about it before clicking that button. Evaluate what is important to you, and if you will continue to use it in the long run. Questions you can ask yourself can include:
- Can I afford it?
- If it’s a gift, who am I buying this for?
- Do I really need this item, or do I just want it because it’s on sale?
- How else can I use that money?
Taking some time to think about the consequences first may persuade you to either go through with the purchase or decide you don’t need it after all. Especially during the holiday season, think about who you are buying the gift for and consider cheaper alternatives that might be better suited for both them and your budget. In any case, stopping yourself from impulse shopping is a great way to make more mindful purchases.
Ask someone to keep you accountable. It should be someone you trust to talk about your financial journey with, and who can keep you on top of your goals. No matter who it is, ask them to keep you on track with practicing mindful spending and to help you come up with ways to stop yourself before making purchases. They can also be someone you can call to discuss any seemingly unnecessary buys.
Emily currently lives in Orange County, California after spending four years in Illinois and half a year teaching in Florence, Italy. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from Knox College and an M.A. in Counseling from the University of San Diego and has taught English to native speakers and ESL students for over three years. When she’s not working as a School Counselor or writing, she enjoys traveling the world, playing instruments, and blogging about Millennial experiences at Long Live the Twenties.