How to stop spending money on stuff you don’t need
Many people struggle to save money for their future. Instead, they spend money on things they don’t really need just to get some immediate gratification.
In this post, you’ll learn how to stop spending money on unnecessary things in 5 steps:
- Identify your current habits that are keeping you from saving money
- Focus on one small action at a time
- Make savings a priority by paying yourself first
- Have a plan for unexpected income
- Stick to a debt payoff plan
Get your free Spend Less Plan worksheet to create a personal 5-step strategy to spend less and save more:
Why it’s important to spend less & save more
History has shown that women typically live longer than men (like 6 to 8 years longer!). This was true for my mom, who’s still alive and kicking 12 years after my dad passed away.
Thankfully, my dad received a pension when he retired from the airlines. But after he died, that check was cut in half. My mom had to learn how to live off half of what she was used to.
If my husband died before me, I’m sure I would make it. But my standard of living would change drastically.
That’s why it’s important that I learn how to stop spending money on stuff I don’t need now. I don’t know what the future holds, so building good money habits today is crucial to ensuring I can support myself later.
If you’re a woman, I encourage you to consider how you can prepare yourself financially if you end up living longer than your spouse. You can’t just rely on Social Security because that is only meant to be a supplement, so you may need to have the skills to get a good job.
You might also want to consider building passive income streams for additional support.
And, it’s important that you are somewhat financially literate so you can make wise decisions and manage your money well.
But one thing that is critical and will make all the difference is knowing how to control your spending.
If you can learn how to stop spending money on unnecessary things, and develop habits such as being frugal or building the discipline of delayed gratification, you will be able to live comfortably on less than you’re used to.
Learning how to stop spending money takes time and intention. If you’re not purposeful about changing your habits, you’ll have difficulty living below your means and saving money.
Here are five things you can do to stop spending money on stuff you don’t need and create more security for your future.
#1 Identify your current habits
First, acknowledge that you are totally capable of being a better saver, even if you think you spend too much right now.
Also, take heart in knowing that you don’t have to completely deny yourself the comforts you’re accustomed to.
The goal is progress, not perfection.
Developing a new habit takes time, especially if you’re trying to replace an old one. Get yourself in a positive mindset, and give yourself some grace.
Once you’re in a productive head space, it’s time to figure out your current spending patterns so you know what you need to work on.
So, pull out the last few months of bank statements and start categorizing your spending. Notice habits and trends that may give you a starting point. Identify those businesses where you see multiple transactions.
If you’ve kept your receipts (which is a good idea), pull them out and review what you’ve purchased over the last month.
Are you using what you bought? Have those items added a real benefit to your life? Or were they obviously an unnecessary expense because they’re still sitting in the bag on the floor of your closet?
At this point, just focus on raising your self-awareness. You’re taking a closer look at where you spend money and how much you spend.
This can be hard because you may discover that your spending habit is more significant than you believed, and that knowledge makes it difficult to stay in denial.
#2 Choose your one thing
If you’re shocked by how much your unnecessary spending has an impact on your finances, you may start to panic a little.
You might feel overwhelmed thinking about all the sacrifices you’re going to have to make, and the tough changes you’ll need to endure in order to not spend money on extra stuff.
If it all just seems like too much to think about, you may even just shut the whole operation down and go to Target for a shopping spree.
Don’t do that.
Instead, take a deep breath, and ask yourself one question:
What is the ONE thing I can do right now that will have
the greatest impact on controlling my spending?
That’s it. Just one thing. Not everything.
In fact, narrow your focus to the *smallest* one thing that will help you the most.
Maybe it’s cancelling a subscription to a magazine you never read.
Or limiting Starbucks to 3 times a week instead of 5.
Or streaming at home instead of going to the movie theater.
If you don’t really struggle with discretionary spending, take a look at your monthly bills. Maybe you could find a cheaper cell phone plan, get rid of cable, or finder a lower insurance rate.
Make it small enough that it’s easier to just do it than to not do it. But make sure it will also be an impactful change that gets you closer to your ultimate goal.
And once you’ve accomplished this one thing, move on to the next.
Keep taking those small steps forward, building on each new change.
Remember: you only need to focus on one thing at a time.
#3 Pay yourself first
And by first, I mean before anything else.
Don’t pay all your bills and then do the grocery shopping and fill up the tank and go to Starbucks and buy that pair of shoes on sale, and then put whatever is left in savings.
Because I’ve got news for you: there won’t be any left.
By putting aside a set amount for savings *first*, you’re making your future the top priority.
This is a shift in mindset, because we’re so used to focusing on what needs to be done today, right now (and getting that new pair of shoes on sale).
The thing is, you have control over how you respond to your circumstances today, but you’ll never have control over the circumstances you’ll have in the future.
So many people spend their money like they’re never going to run out. Like they’re never going to get sick or lose their job or lose their spouse. They don’t consider how sacrifices made now will reward them in the future when challenges arise.
That’s why it’s crucial to take action today to prepare yourself for whatever happens tomorrow.
By paying yourself first, you’re putting your future first. Ahead of eating out 3 times a week, ahead of buying a new outfit when you already have enough clothes, ahead of buying a new car when your old one will last you 5 more years.
When you put savings over spending, you become less inclined to spend frivolously.
You start looking for leaks in your budget and trying to figure out how to lower expenses. And you become your greatest supporter of your future financial freedom.
You can pay yourself first by setting up a separate direct deposit into an interest-bearing savings account. This way, it’s automatic and you’re never tempted to spend it. (For more ideas, read my post on 11 ways to automate savings.)
Don’t wait – set up an automated savings system as soon as possible so you can start saving more and spending less.
#4 Have a plan for windfalls
If you struggle with spending money on unnecessary things, then those occasional money windfalls are like the smell of whiskey to the recovering alcoholic. The temptation can be too much to resist.
How do you keep from spending money that just fell from the sky right into your lap? Especially when you’ve been dreaming about going on that Mexican Riviera cruise for months?? It’s meant to be!
Maybe it is meant to be, just maybe not right now.
If you can’t afford the cruise without putting some of your windfall into savings, *you can’t afford the cruise*.
Remember: put your future first – even ahead of a 5-day cruise.
This can be tough, I know. But if you plan ahead of time how you will handle financial windfalls, then there will never be any hard choices to make.
There won’t be any what ifs, or maybe I coulds, because the decision has already been made.
Now, it’s up to you how to handle any unexpected income.
You might decide to save a certain percentage or a flat amount. You might add it to your emergency fund or stash it in your retirement account. You’ll need to come up with your own plan for how to manage money that wasn’t originally in your budget.
The point is, have a plan to put a portion in savings.
Don’t think of extra income as just “fun money” to spend. Instead, look at it as one more opportunity to get closer to financial independence.
#5 Pay off debt
When you fund your present with debt, you’re stealing from your future.
And if someday in the future you find yourself as your sole financial support – especially in retirement – debt is the last thing you want to be carrying around.
You’ve got to pay off your debt so the money you make in the future goes toward living your dream, not paying for your past.
Get face to face with every debt balance you have, and create a plan to get it paid off by a certain deadline.
First see if you can lower your interest rates. Look for a 0% promotional rate to transfer as much of your credit card debt as possible.
Then, arrange your debts in the order you want to get them paid off. Focus on making the minimum payments to each debt, except the one you want to pay off first. For that one, make the biggest monthly payment you can.
Once that first debt is paid off, apply the payment you were making to it to the next balance you want to pay off. Continue to pay down your debt using this strategy until the last balance is paid off.
If you want to turbo charge your progress, consider getting a second job and apply its entire income to your debt. Then you’ll be cooking with gas!
To keep your motivation high, use some kind of tracker – like a calendar, a phone app, or a spreadsheet – where you can score your progress every month. Put it somewhere visible so you see it daily and keep your goal in front of you all the time.
When you commit to paying off your debt, you exercise the self-discipline required to limit spending money on unnecessary items.
You’re taking back control of your finances, creating better habits, and changing your money mindset.
And you’re building the belief that you are fully capable of achieving financial security for yourself.
Don’t forget to download this free 2-page Spend Less Plan worksheet!
It’s up to you
Nobody else is going to care as much about your financial goals as you are. In order to be successful in achieving financial independence, you must take full responsibility for yourself and your actions.
This means taking the initiative to identify the habits you need to replace, putting your financial future first, getting out of debt, and addressing all the other issues that are holding your back from your money goals.
You’re not a victim of your circumstances.
You are a champion of your choices. You can choose to respond differently to the temptation of spending money. You can change your habits so they serve you instead of enslave you.
Take control of your future today. Retirement is so much closer than you realize – and the time to prepare for it is getting shorter by the minute.
Be intentional with your thoughts and actions. Spend some time thinking about your future and the goals you’ve always wanted to achieve. Then start building your life from your future, instead of your past. In fact, start building a relationship with your future self as a way to guide your decisions in the present.
Having this mindset will support you in the changes you need to make today, because they will ultimately benefit your future.
Learning how to stop spending money on unnecessary things is so much more than just making sacrifices. It’s about investing in your dreams, your goals, and yourself.
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