Avoid Overspending to Get Your Budget Back on Track and Finances in Order

List: Posted: 12/10/10

Spending is fine, but it’s overspending that crosses that line – and it’s easy to cross that line if you have a wallet full of plastic. It's easy to tell if you're overspending when you feel that tell-tale sensation of panic creeping in as you view your monthly statement. The hard part is deciding to do something about it.

Once you’ve recognized that you’re overspending, it’s time to take action. You need to determine by how much your spending is exceeding your income. You may have to – gulp – swallow your pride and cut back in places that you don’t want to, especially if your budget is tight. Overspending is often about keeping up with the Jones’. In reality, true wealth comes from having a grip on spending, and stashing money away for a rainy day rather than flouting everything you've got all at once. Most people have very few actual needs – but they have a whole litany of wants.

For example, can you curb overspending by not buying so many gifts for others? Can you think of a way to cut back on presents this year, whilst still taking the time to make your friends and relatives feel special this year? Even holiday and birthday cards add up, especially on big occasions like Christmas. Try sending e-cards, even if it’s not the way you’re used to doing things, or enlisting your youngest child to make the 'family Christmas card' this year - get a couple dozen copies made using your home computer or the copier at your local Post Office, and you'll be surprised how much you just saved... while making your child proud to have contributed. You may even start a family tradition!

The very best way to stop overspending dead in its tracks is to carry cash - and no cards. Work out your weekly budget, and only carry that much cash on you. When you're about to fork out for that matching luggage set at Sears (which might come in handy one day although you don't need it now... and ooh look, it's on sale...) just a glance in your wallet will tell you that if you buy this luggage set, you won't have enough to buy the family groceries. It takes a bit of getting used to - but you'll soon enjoy that feeling of relief knowing that you'll know the exact amount left in your spending account the next time you check it.

You can stop overspending if you’re open to changing your habits. Some people have found that overspending is an impulsive habit that generates a short-term feeling of reward - you feel you deserve a new pair of shoes as you've had a tough week at work. Always stop and ask yourself - do I NEED this item, or just want it? Unless you have holes in every pair of shoes you own, the answer is very likely to be no. Bad behaviors can be unlearned – it just takes the willpower to change. If overspending at online stores is an issue for you, you need to take a new perspective. Consider a cheaper alternative to a certain product, or wait until your budget will allow for the purchase. Overspending isn’t worth the stress it creates. It’s just not. Overspending brings anxiety, while under-spending brings peace and happiness. Try it and you’ll become addicted to the tranquil feeling. When you’re financially healthy and fiscally sound, there are rewards that extend beyond your checkbook.

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