Frugal Living 

4 Ways To Make It Harder To Spend Money

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I haven’t written much about frugality lately because I’ve been busy and frugality takes a little bit of creative thinking. But now that it’s 2008 and things have calmed down (not counting a wedding!), I’m going to try to write a few more on this topic and today I’m going to talk about a really easy principle that could save you some money. The idea is that you should make it relatively difficult to spend money. The harder you make it to spend money, the less likely you are to do it. I don’t mean that you should hook your wallet or purse up to electro-shock and have it zap you every time you open it up, I mean that you should put practices in places that make it difficult for your splurge.

Method #1: Keeping Track Of Everything

If you have a budget and you have to keep track of every last penny you spend, that’s an incentive not to spend – especially if you don’t like keeping track. You might say that this is an odd strategy because this demands a bit of unbalance discipline. You have to have the discipline to keep track of spending and the lack of discipline to need this trick to stop you from spending in the first place… but hear me out. This will help those who find themselves stopped at the vending machine randomly throughout the week. It’s not that they lack the discipline to stop spending, it’s that they don’t think of it as spending. “If I use change, it’s not real money!” Have you heard that one before? So, keeping track of everything in a budget will curb your spending.

Method #2: Hide Your Credit Cards

Credit cards are like casino chips, they abstract away money so that you don’t even feel like your spending it. It’s much harder to fork over a hundred dollar bill than it is to swipe a credit card for a thousand dollar purchase. Perhaps it’s the smirk of Poor Richard, but hard currency is much harder to part with than a proxy. So, hide your credit cards. Make it much harder for you to use your credit cards and you’ll have to put more thought into it. This is why the idea of freezing your credit cards in a solid block of ice is so popular (and entertaining). You have to wait until it melts before you can spend!

Method #3: Tell Someone You’re Spending

Accountability is fundamental to almost everything you do, especially if you want to stick on budget and remain frugal. Whether it’s writing it on a blog that only a handful of people read or tracking your debt progress on a patriotically themed debt community site like No Credit Needed Network, sharing your spending with someone else will more definitely keep you in check. In fact, I would recommend sharing at least your big ticket purchases because you never know when your friends know of better deals!

Method #4: Make It A Game

Sure you can buy a camera for $200, but what about doing a little more searching and getting it for $180 after a $20 coupon? How about getting some digital memory to go with it for free? Saving money is actually a lot of fun and it’s a great feeling to find an awesome deal for yourself because you have to show some creativity and guile. In the time that it takes to do all the research, you might decide that you don’t even want a camera in the first place!

There you go, these are the four methods that will probably save you money and curb some of your spending. They all focus on one trick, making it harder for you to part with your money, and in doing so will help you reduce how quickly you spend your money. If you have a track that makes it harder for you to spend money, please do share!

{ 16 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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16 Responses to “4 Ways To Make It Harder To Spend Money”

  1. We make it a competition. I am going to spend less for the same item as my friends. Then I get to tell them the deal I got. Now all my friends read my blog to try and keep up with me.

  2. Frugal Dad says:

    The block of ice idea has always been amusing to me. I always envision someone standing there with a hair dryer trying to “thaw” their card to pay for an emergency. I do agree you should make it hard to spend using credit cards. I generally don’t carry mine on me unless I am traveling (for emergencies).

  3. kitty says:

    You forgot the simplest one of all – avoid the stores unless you really need something. Go hiking instead. Even if you have a zillion credit cards, squarrels in the woods don’t take them.

    This is often the case with clothing stores. If you need something – sure go and look for it, but don’t just spend time looking around. If you do, you are bound to see something you like or that looks good on you even if it is no better than many other similar items you already have.

    Research all major purchases and think about how much the item is worth to you. If you plan to buy a new vacuum cleaner or a new TV or anything else, research which models are best, which provide best value for the money, read reviews on amazon – maybe some of the reviews are so bad that it shows that some technology is just not ready and breaks; compare prices. In addition to saving money, this will give you an opportunity to figure out if you want it at all.

    If tempted by a luxury item – a very fancy dress or a jewelry think if you really have places to wear it too. I didn’t buy a number of things I loved (and I could afford them, by the way) simply because I couldn’t find an answer to a simple question “where would I wear it too?”. Also think if you are invited to the type of places where people can really tell the different between an overpriced designer item/real gemstone and cheap knock-offs.

  4. #5 Set up automatic withdrawal into broker/fund accounts leaving you with very little that is not budgeted. Combine this with #2. And do set up an emergency fund somewhere but make it so that it takes a few days to do the transfer e.g. have the account in a different bank.

  5. ChristianPF says:

    I agree with Early retirement extreme – the best way I have found to not spend is put it somewhere where I can’t or where it is very difficult to spend. It is similar to #2, but having auto w/d is such a help.

  6. Great tips. I especially like the one about making it a game. I use Walmart as my benchmark, I make sure I am getting a better deal than what I could get it at the big W. Not always possible, but with ebay and coupons you can often do it.

  7. alicia says:

    This is a great list. But using a credit card that you pay off every month can actually help with Method #1.

    Instead of hiding my credit card, I’ve put it front and center. All my transactions are right in my face every single day. Since I’ve started the habit of looking at my credit card activity every day, my monthly bill is at least $1,000 less. (I use Quicken, but Mint/Yodlee/Wesabe would work about as well.)

    When I use cash, I seem to lose track of at least 80% of whatever I get from the ATM (even though I should be entering those purchases into Quicken as well). But my credit card statement forces me to take note of every single lunch out, cab home, or other frivolous purchase. That’s something cash can’t do for me without tedious record-keeping on my part.

    Also, I simply do not have qualms about handing over a $100 bill. Doesn’t phase me a bit, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. My credit card statement gives me the reminder I need to counter that apathy and prevent amnesia.

    I know this isn’t news, but wanted to point out that there’s an equal and opposite approach.

    (p.s. I think this is my first comment on your blog, but I’ve been reading for months and it’s one of my faves.)

  8. RacerX says:

    Like all of the tips, but I really suggest (broken record time) that you cut up the plastic once your emergency fund is established.

    If a real life/death issue came up you can get a card back to you in 24-48 hours.

  9. Stngy1 says:

    Great Strategies; My biggest enemy is online shopping with the ease of point and click. I’ve slowed down the spending with Amazon’s “Save it for later” and using a third party offering delayed bidding on eBay auctions. Both give me a chance to stop and think. It’s still a major problem, though, as you only need account numbers, not the actual plastic, and those I keep handy for accounting purposes. Ugh.
    Great blog! Read you everyday for inspiration!

  10. Marie says:

    #1 is the only thing that worked for me. I have always viewed cash as “not money” and using a credit card always made me revisit the purchase and deal with any buyers remorse/regret I had. But to really get control I had to start writing everything down. Its been 11 months and though I always feel poor I am “wealthier” than I have ever been as I have an emergency fund. Funnily enough my spouse is a lot happier. He will now get stuff for himself because he can see how what he wants effects everything else and that some things we truly can afford.

    My Mom’s idea is to keep yourself busy and out of stores. Rather than try to save money on a purchase try not to buy anything period. Its really good for cleaning out your food cupboards periodically. My husband has more control in stores than I do because he goes in, grabs whats on the list, and exits. So if we need a few items like milk I let him run in when he comes back from work. Right now the hardest part is keeping myself out of stores and busy with other activities as money is ALWAYS on my mind.

  11. Tim says:

    One that you forgot is to constantly ask yourself if the item is something you want or something you need.

    the problem with hiding credit cards is that you know where you hid them. It is the same thing as people who set their watches 5-10 minutes fast, thinking they are giving themselves extra time, but in fact knowing that they have an extra 5-10 minutes. It simply doesn’t work.

    If you are going to freeze the card, then why bother having it? if you want to use it you can always use quick methods of melting the card.

    I think if you make buying a challenge or make it difficult, then you are more apt to spend more as a reward for challenge. That is the difficulty with challenges, because people are programmed to gain an award for their efforts.

  12. donna jean says:

    I’m a big fan of tip one, tracking every penny makes making frivolous purchases a second thought. But, I’ve found myself working around this lately — we have a joint account and personal accounts. My personal account still gets monthly child support payments but I don’t add them into our budget like I should (mostly from years of conditioning myself to NEVER count on that money). So, if it’s something that I would be embarrassed to write into our monthly spending spreadsheet, I’ll buy it on my personal account.

    I’ve been thinking that I need to start tracking my personal account just like our joint accounts because that would solve my cheating behavior. Perhaps it is time to do just that.

  13. Gaary pit says:

    Bad credit is something which bothers you every time, as you think that you being a bad credit holder will be discriminated while going for loans. To bail you out from the situation when you need some extra cash, bad credit loans have came into existence. These loans are available to people with CCJ’s, arrears, any due bills or default payments. In the loan market due to increasing competition, lenders have initiated to find the new source of income and these loans came into existence. While disbursing bad credit loans, lender sees their present level of income rather than past poor credit record; so if you have got a good paid job and have a nice bank balance you can easily find a lender offering you such loans.

  14. Ryan S. says:

    I’ve used three of the four, but never used the one about telling another person. I’m not sure how well writing it down works anymore considering I’ve been in the habit for years, but the one that worked really well for me was making it a game, trying to make that $20 last one more day, then one more.

    Wishing you all success with managing your spending!


  15. pay it now says:

    I have several credit cards that never have a balance for more than a week or so. This improves my FICO score because of having a lot of unused credit.

    I use Quicken, which will connect to each card website and update the transactions in a few seconds. I find out what the balance is and go to the Credit Union’s online billpay and set up a payment, then enter it into my checking account — poof — money gone. This way, the credit card is acting more like a debit account.

    I am always aware of exactly what I have spent and it comes out of my checking account immediately. Otherwise, I fall into that gap where I don’t have a good handle on how much I have spent and there can be an unpleasant surprise when the bill comes.

  16. Blessing A. says:

    As we all know money at times act as gas, that’s why i don’t use the ATM card and any other card. Becouse this may lead to bankrupcy so i guid my spendings, by creating a check list on my daily expenses without going to the bank for more withdrawal. My mother taught me Prudent SPENDING(she said don’t spend on what is highly important and very needful). Therefore i make sure any pound spent is on what is needed at that time.

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