I recently took a look at my checking account and had a bit of a freakout. I know, I know. I should always stay on top of my spendings and budget. That’s just part of being an adult! But for some reason, I’ve been absolutely terrible about keeping track of it.

For one, I don’t normally spend that much (at least I don’t think I do, but I should probably analyze past months, as well). And secondly, I don’t feel like my husband and I are in any sort of financial crisis that would require me to be super worried about keeping track of every single purchase. But honestly, I think that mindset is what got me into the pickle I found myself in.

The Wake-Up Call

This past month I noticed myself being a little more impulsive with money than I usually am. After buying something on Amazon, I had the itch to buy something else… and the cycle kept repeating. A few days ago, I knew I needed to check in and see exactly how much I’ve spent during the past month and lemme tell you it was a TERRIFYING wake-up call.

I’m not one to really care about money (I’d be fine renting a nice apartment for the rest of my life and traveling the world instead of owning a home- um both of which actually do require money… *facepalm). BUT I do know the importance of having at least a little money saved up in case of emergencies.

Spending Impacts Mental Health

Even more importantly, spending habits play a big part in my mental health. When I buy whatever I want, exactly when I want it, it leads to me wanting more and more and never being happy with what I have. It’s a recipe for disaster because I end up chasing happiness from “things” and there are always going to be more “things” to buy. 

How to Spend Less or Stick to Any Other Goal You Have

1. Do a serious assessment. Get that “reality check.”

Sometimes the truth hurts, but that’s what pushes us to do and be better. I used this printout that I created to assess to my finances and was able to see exactly how much I’d spent on Amazon, groceries, clothes, subscriptions, etc. While looking over the results, I realized how much I was spending wasn’t okay. Among other things, I realized it wasn’t normal for a household with only two people in it to be spending more on groceries than some larger families spend. The truth was shocking, but it gave me that extra push I needed in order to change.

For example, if you’re wanting to lose weight, it might be good to calculate your BMI or go to a doctor to get a health assessment. Seeing/hearing that you’re at a “serious health risk” could be the thing you need to get your act together and start sticking to your goal of losing weight. The truth might hurt, but it can set us free (if we chose to take it as a push to get our act together.)

2. Set realistic goals. What needs to change?

When I saw how much I’d spent the past month, I knew something needed to change or we’d end up in debt in a few months and my mental health would be in jeopardy. So I asked myself, “What needs to change so that those negative consequences don’t happen?” I needed to spend far less on personal expenses, as well as on groceries. I did some research on what a “frugal couple” would spend on groceries and personal expenses per month, then upped that number a bit (in order to be realistic) and made specific goals with the information I had.

Photo by Bea & Bloom

These goals should be specific, measurable, have a clear start and end date, and be realistic. 

My goals for spending less in September:

  • Spend no more than $50/week on groceries
  • Spend no more than $50 on personal expenses (clothes, beauty products, self-care products, fast food, etc.) 

3. Have a solid “why” and purpose for your goals.

In order to stick to a goal, you need to figure out exactly why you’ll benefit from sticking to it. There needs to be a solid “why” and purpose behind your goal or else, “I want this thing right now,” is going to override your goal of spending less. In fact, the more reasons impacting different parts of your life that you have, the easier it’ll be to say, “No,” to the things you want in the moment.

For example, if your main reason for wanting to lose 100 pounds is so you can look better, you’ll likely eat 5 of the donuts in the box your boss brought to the office meeting because your long-term-goal seems so far in the future that the short-term-satisfaction ends up winning. But if your reasons for losing 100 pounds are to look better, feel more confident, be healthier and less at risk for serious health problems, to have more energy day-to-day, and to be able to live long enough to see your grandchildren grow up and get married, you’ll be more motivated to not eat 5 of those donuts.

My reasons for spending less, for example, are: 

  • to learn how to be happier with what I have instead of always wanting more
  • to stop relying on “things” to bring me happiness and instead focus more on my spouse, family, self, healthy habits, experiences, etc.
  • to be able to save more so that we can travel more, continue living in homes that are nicer (because the atmosphere of homes really impacts my happiness), stay out of debt, and continue to feel financially stable
  • to learn more patient- to save up for the things I want instead of buying them right away
  • to learn how to be less impulsive and more responsible about my decisions

4. Be aware of the sacrifices you’ll have to make.

I think a lot of us (myself included) make goals without realizing how many sacrifices we’ll have to make. So, once we do have to make a sacrifice, we give up. The sacrifice was unexpected and unwanted and we don’t want to deal with it. But if we know ahead of time what reaching our goal is going to take, we’ll be more likely to reach them even when there are unpleasant things we have to deal with and suffer through.

The sacrifices I’ll have to make to spend less in September:

  • I won’t be able to have everything I want, right when I want it. 
  • I won’t be able to eat out as often as I normally do, which will require more cooking at home. 
  • I won’t be able to decorate our new apartment right away like I was hoping I’d be able to do. I’ll have to make do with the decorations we have now and do some extensive research on which decor we can save up to buy in the future. 

5. Avoid situations where you’ll feel tempted to quit or “cheat” on your goals.

I, for one, absolutely love browsing the web for new things to buy. I could spend hours looking at pretty prints to buy on Society 6 or browsing the “New and Interesting Finds” section on Amazon. But I know that in order to stick to my goals for the month, browsing the web is the last thing I should be doing! If my goal was to lose 20 pounds, spending a full day shopping might not be the best idea for me since that’s normally when I end up becoming so hungry that buy fast food at the food court.

If I was trying to drink less soda for the month, getting the meal at a fast food joint that includes a soda probably isn’t the best idea (Cause are you really gonna fill that soda cup with water? I don’t think so!). These seem like “common sense” choices, but not making them is actually a big part of the reason why we end up giving up on our goals. It can be hard to remember how sticking to your goals is going to help you in the future when something enticing is in your present.

What situations I’m going to avoid in order to spend less:

  • I’ll avoid online shopping sites. If that takes downloading an extension that blocks all online shops, I’ll do that. 
  • I won’t go to the mall or anywhere else where I may see something cute. 
  • I won’t go to Target for groceries. Walmart, I can handle. Target… not so much 😅

Are you Ready to Reach Your Goals?

I’m so excited to spend less in September and start working towards some of the other goals I’ve been wanting to reach! I hope you’ll join me in crushing your goals. If you keep these things in mind, I know you’ll be able to do it! What’s a goal you want to work towards? I wanna hear about it!