Back before my financial armageddon, I used to splurge on unnecessary stuff almost every evening after work. I’d enjoy things by the armload that I simply didn’t need. Once I realized that I really needed to do something to get my spending in check, I sat down and took a serious look at my daily habits and found several things I could do to curb my splurges.
Avoid tempting places during the commute. I used to drive by a wonderful little coffee and bagel shop on my way into work that would find me in the parking lot four times a week dropping $5 a stop on a beverage and a bagel. Poof – there went $20 a week. Now I drive a different way into work each day to avoid that pit stop, and my wallet has been thanking me.
Completely avoid any places teeming with temptation. I love ice cream, books, and electronics. There is a place not too far from where I live where you can find a Borders, a Best Buy, and a Cold Stone Creamery all next door to one another. I used to visit this place regularly, intending to buy only a book, and I’d leave with a book and a DVD and a container of ice cream – and a much lighter wallet. Now I find other places to get such things.
Find replacements for your biggest temptations. My weakness has always been books – I’m an incredibly avid reader and I used to read as many as two books a day. I often would buy these books at a bookstore or even on amazon.com, but as time went by I found my bookshelf overflowing and my wallet shrinking. It didn’t take me long after my meltdown to discover how truly amazing my local library is, and since then I not only use it for checking out books, but for many other things as well.
Make your own “fast food.” For me, the convenience of fast food was the allure of it. I always enjoyed home-cooked food much more than fast food, but it was hard to get those delicious meals in such a convenient fashion. Luckily, I figured it out: just prepare such items at home and microwave them on your way out the door. Now, instead of eating a burrito from a drive-thru, I eat a burrito I made at home that’s much tastier, much healthier, and was less expensive to prepare.
Go home for small things; don’t go out. I used to stop about once a week and have a drink after work with some friends. However, this often turned into twenty or thirty dollars gone by the time I had a couple of drinks, some appetizers, and played a game or two. I was scared to stop doing this because of social concerns, but when people started moving onto other jobs, I took the plunge and gave it up. I still enjoy a gin and tonic once in a while after work, but now I do it at home.
Learn how to cook. My wife and I used to get takeout for supper almost every night. Why? It was easy and cooking seemed so hard. Since those days, we’ve both learned how to cook – and we’re saving a ton of money in the process. Even more amazing? It doesn’t take nearly as much time as we had convinced ourselves that it would. I actually think advertising is somewhat to blame for this – they want you to think that cooking is hard but takeout is easy.
These changes on “splurge” items such as books, ice cream, takeout, drinks, coffee, and so forth have saved us literally hundreds of dollars each month, cash that was saved by just a few little behavioral changes. We still splurge, but nothing like we used to.