How to solve ‘I spent more money’ syndrome

Have you ever gone into Debenhams or Asda thinking you will buy a few items, get great prices and go home feeling satisfied with your purchases, only to have the reverse happen? Read on and see if you relate to this scenario – You drop the kids off at preschool and have a few precious hours to get some shopping done with no distractions. You know you really only need nappies (£10.95), wipes (£3.95) and some fruit (£2.00), but are open to looking around the store since you are by yourself. You pull into Debenhams and treat yourself to a Costa coffee and muffin since it is right there at the entrance (£5.95) and you didn’t eat breakfast. You get a shopping trolly and in the back of your mind, you only need a few items, but you begin to wander up and down the aisles until items start to seem like you need them. Snacks (£2.99), beverages (£4.95), placemats (£5.00), a kitchen rug (£7.99), toys (£12.95), kids clothes (£15.00), a new blouse (£16.00), greeting cards (£3.95), sunglasses (£9.95), hair accessories (£3.95), new make-up (£6.95) and a kitchen gadget (£9.95) all wind up in the cart along with the nappies (£10.95) and wipes (£3.95) and bananas (£2.00)you proceed to checkout. Total bill = £101.72 before taxes.

You ended up buying 12 more items than you intended, it was all there at your fingertips and most everything you think you really need and when you checkout, you discover you owe 6 times what you originally planned to spend. You pay it and try to justify the necessity and cost of everything. You know eventually you will share with your husband the events of the day and you wonder if you should mention this.

Has this happened to you? You are not alone, this is a classic example of impulse purchasing at its best. Impulse purchasing is not bad every now and then, but if this is the way you shop, and you are experiencing remorse over your final bill at checkout, then you might want to rethink your spending strategy.

To effectively save money and stay on budget, you must learn to effectively spend money as well. Spending is a skill, not a pastime! A spending strategy is a plan that enables you to spend less and save more money through making smart spending decisions.

You can develop an effective spending strategy for you and your family by utilizing these five basic principles:

1. Make saving money a family priority

Whether you’re buying a car or a gallon of milk, getting the best deal to save you money needs to be a priority for you and your family. If you strive to get good prices across all products and services you purchase—large and small—then you are making saving money a priority and you will reap financial benefit from it. For some items it makes sense to spend a little more to ensure you are receiving a quality and reputable product or service, particularly if it is a large long-term purchase. In these cases it very much pays to ensure the price you are paying, whether it is the lowest or not, is reasonable and fair. But overall, if you start thinking about how to find a better price, whether it’s for groceries, clothes, entertainment, or anything you buy, than you are making saving money a priority.

2. Set boundaries for spending

Simply put, when you know how much money you have to spend each week or month for necessities, you are probably more diligent in how you spend that money than if you didn’t know your limit. Just giving yourself a boundary for spending will make you much more motivated to make those dollars go as far as they can. A great way to set your spending boundaries is to utilize online budget calculators. These tools enable you to play around with the numbers until you find what works for you.

3. Organize your spending around products and services you buy normally

Be careful to evaluate if a sale product or service is something you need or regularly use. Coupons are a great value and these days can be doubles to represent significant savings. Keep in mind that they also can tempt you to make purchases you may not normally make, so watch those carefully so you are not spending money unnecessarily. A sale or special offer can be a great time to stock up, try something you’ve been curious about or may need only one time. Just keep in mind doing this regularly can cause you to actually spend more even though it may look like you are saving money. Remember to think before you buy!

4. Success is in the planning and be consistent

Impulse purchasing whether it is at the grocery store or the Mall can kill any attempts to build up savings. Impulse shopping is not a well thought out spending plan. When you take time to create, carry out and reap the rewards of a plan, you are more motivated to continue doing it and get better results as time goes by. Continually shopping for the best prices and using coupons consistently will help you be successful at saving money, so invest in tools that will help you plan and organize your spending. When you do this, you can become more disciplined in your approach to spending, more consistent with saving and regain a sense of control.

Shopping to keep the household stocked with food and supplies is an ongoing challenge that has to be done. It is an added challenge to stay on budget and this is a continual process that requires a commitment to skilled spending. However, occasional indulgences are healthy when you plan for them!