Four Reasons You Might Overspend – and What You Can Do to Change
Do you find it impossible to stick to a budget? Does it seem like you’re always broke or that you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck? Are your credit cards almost maxed out? Do you find yourself buying things you don’t need or making purchases that you know you can’t afford?
If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, you might have a spending problem. In this article, we’ll take a look at four types of overspending – and what you can do to try and curb the behavior.
1. Overspending on food
You go to the grocery store for bread and eggs. You leave with three bags of unplanned purchases. You can’t seem to get out of the store for under $50. The worst part? You still have no idea what’s for dinner. Or, you skip the store altogether and opt for pricey takeout almost every night of the week.
What to do about it: In most cases, the cause of overspending on food is either poor meal planning or a hectic schedule that leaves little time for meal prep (or both!). If it’s a planning issue, set aside time to write out a meal plan that includes seven dinners (bonus points if you can use a single ingredient for multiple meals or repurpose leftovers for lunch or even breakfast). Make a grocery list, shop for the meals on your list, and stick to it. If your problem is time, try making several meals in advance (weekends are great for this as they tend to be less crazy-busy). Freeze or refrigerate, then reheat during the week for convenient, budget-friendly alternatives to takeout.
2. Overspending on impulse purchases
You don’t mean to overspend, it just kind of … happens. All it takes is a nudge (think: a promo code in your email inbox, a clearance sale at your favorite big-box store, an eye-catching display for an item you just “have to” have), and before you know it, your credit card is out – and your debt just climbed a little higher.
What to do about it: The key here is learning to curb those impulses. The next time you feel the urge to spend, take a step back and ask yourself a few questions:
- Do I really need this?
- Can I afford this? Will this purchase add to my credit card debt?
- Is there a better way to spend $XXX?
- Why am I buying this?
If you can’t come up with satisfying answers for these questions, don’t buy it! Even better: To remove some of the temptation for future impulse buys, try un-subscribing to sales emails and un-following your favorite stores and brands on social media.
3. Social overspending
Most of us like to think of “peer pressure” as something we left behind in middle school – along with our many regrettable fashion choices. But even adults can be guilty of spending money to keep up with friends or co-workers – or even to impress others with material “proof” of their success. And now, thanks to the “influencer” culture of social media platforms like Instagram, we can even find ourselves overspending to keep up with people we don’t even know (and who are, more than likely, earning a hefty commission by getting you to swipe, click, and spend).
What to do about it: In the words of every parent, everywhere: If every influencer or logo-obsessed coworker jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too? Of course not. Need we say more?
4. Overspending on “retail therapy”
You use shopping as a cure-all for whatever ails you – emotionally speaking, that is. When you’re bored, you shop. When you’re stressed, you shop. When you’re angry, you shop. When you’re worried or sad, you guessed it… you shop. You may feel better in the moment, but when the credit card bill arrives, you end up feeling stressed out again. You can probably see how this quickly becomes a vicious cycle.
What to do about it: Find another way to cope that doesn’t involve spending money: Walk your dog. Work in the yard. Read a book. Listen to a podcast or find a new TV series to binge. Hit the gym (yes, a gym membership costs money, but it’s probably a better use of money than buying random stuff at the mall). Call a friend and vent about what’s bothering you.
When you’re able to recognize how – and why – you overspend, you are putting yourself on the road to a stronger financial future. Are you looking for support as you pay down high-interest debt and get your finances back on track? You don’t have to go it alone. We’re here to help! Contact the friendly folks at American Credit Foundation today.