Every now and then, I find myself slipping back into my old spending ways. While I don’t necessarily go on big shopping sprees, I find myself randomly spending $50 at Target, or going out to lunch every day for a whole week. These small expenses may not seem like a whole lot, but they really add up when you look at it from a larger perspective. For example, going out to lunch every day at work can easily add up to $200 a month! This is money that I can, and should be, adding to my debt repayment.
The problem is the mindset that leads me to those impulse purchases. It’s the dreaded, “I Deserve It” thinking. “I put up with so much at work, I deserve to go out to lunch.” “I never spend money on myself, I deserve to buy these random makeup goodies and cute office supplies at Target.” You recognize that voice in your head?
The problem with this mindset is that we make it very easy to talk ourselves into buying something completely unnecessary, thus pulling money away from our goals and dreams. If I listen to that voice in my head and allow myself to blow through enough money, I am adding months, or even years, to my ultimate goal of being free from debt. What’s worse, is that voice in my head is a liar. The truth of the matter is, I don’t really deserve to treat myself to a nice lunch out. I don’t deserve to indulge in random shopping splurges, when I really went into the store to get bread and toothpaste.
What I do deserve is to be debt free. To decide what bucket list item I want to achieve with my money, instead of sending it to the credit card companies along with their crazy high interest charges. I deserve to feel the pride of finally sending in my last debt payment, instead of the guilt of swiping my card at the checkout when I know that the ‘stuff’ I just bought will not give me any long-term satisfaction.
So how do you stay motivated when the urge to spend hits hard?
Usually the first thing I do when paying off debt gets hard is visit the Dave Ramsey Facebook page. The page is always posting quotes and blog posts about financial topics, usually on getting out of debt. When I see these posts, it reminds me that I am not the only one struggling through this right now, and that delayed gratification is worth it. Dave also has a Facebook group for his followers to connect and discuss budgeting questions.
If Dave isn’t really your style, pick your favorite motivational speaker and follow them on your social media channels. I follow people such as Zig Ziglar and the SUCCESS magazine page. I’m also signed up to various email newsletters, so I am always getting some sort of inspiration during my day.
Revisit Your Goal
My top goal right now is paying off my debt, so I make it as visual as possible. I have a note constantly on my computer that lists my debts in order of payoff, and one of my favorite things to do every month is update my list to see how far they have gone down. I also have one of those thermometer goal charts drawn up on my dry erase board. While my computer file details to the penny how much debt I have remaining, the thermometer chart gives me a bigger and broader view of my debt payment. I am a very detail-oriented person, but I also think big visuals are important when your goals are big.
One thing I’ve been wanting to do is create a dream board. My printer is loaded with fresh ink, so now all I need to do is get started! This is for those people who are very visually-oriented, the creative types. Simply find pretty images of things you dream of doing once your goal is completed. Mine would look something like this–pictures of beaches and palm trees to represent that tropical vacation I want to take, the castle at Disney World, an airplane to represent all the places I want to travel. I’d also add pictures of home decor, and a picture to represent a growing family. (Note, while I don’t plan to wait to have kids until my debt is completely paid off, I do feel more comfortable waiting until my finances are in a more stable condition, simply for my peace of mind.)
Compromise with Yourself
While I don’t believe you should give in to every last desire that comes to your mind, I do think that it will help your sanity to indulge yourself just a little bit. Unless you are on a strict no-spend month (or day or week), I don’t see anything wrong with adding something for yourself while you’re out shopping. Now don’t go crazy with this. If you are on a Target run, grab a latte from Starbucks to sip while you walk around (and window-shop for the rest of the non-essentials.) If you’re buying toothpaste at Walmart and the cosmetics aisle is calling your name, add a new shade of nail polish to your collection. The key to this is deciding to stop there. If the makeup temptation is too strong for you (I’m surely not the only one?) then avoid that aisle like the plague. But if one small impulse purchase will make your day better, then I’m all for it. Note: limit yourself to one small purchase a week, at the most. If you are running to the store multiple times a week, this could really eat up your budget.
When the urge to throw your money goals out the window and buy everything in sight hits you, back away slowly and remember these three steps. Getting inspired, focusing on your goal, and giving yourself a compromise will stop temptation in its tracks. While saving money and paying off debt aren’t always easy, they are completely worth it in the long run. Give yourself the gift of financial freedom for the future, instead of the gift of things you really don’t need today.
What do you do when you’re tempted to blow your money goals? Share your advice in the comments below!