When you find yourself in debt, becoming debt-free can seem like a huge mountain to climb. One of the biggest hurdles is changing the way you spend money and understanding what triggers you to buy. Spending triggers can be hard to avoid due to their psychological attractiveness. Still, with these tips, you can make small, impactful changes that can improve your financial situation faster than you think.
1. Prioritize becoming debt-free
The easiest way to prevent triggers from causing you to spend is by prioritizing something else, like getting out of debt. The more important you make becoming debt-free, the less power impulse buying will have over you. But first, you’ll need to know just how much debt you have. Get together all your credit card and loan documents to find your total outstanding debt. Then use a loan payoff calculator to create an actionable plan that makes getting out of debt less overwhelming.
Imagine what your life will look like once you’re no longer beholden to those monthly payments. Consider writing this all down on a Post-It and put it on your desk or wherever you tend to do your impulse shopping. This way, it’s always at the forefront of your mind that being debt-free is more important than that new toy.
2. Acknowledge what your triggers are
The danger of spending triggers is that they become automatic the more you use them, so be mindful of when and how you spend money. If you’re someone who scrolls through Amazon before going to bed, remove the app from your phone since having access to it results in impulse buys. If you like to window shop on the weekends and know more often than not that window shopping results in actual purchases, find other things to do on the weekend that keep you away from your favorite stores.
If your triggers are related to social media, it’s time to unfollow accounts that trigger you to buy or delete the apps entirely. Peer pressure can also be a trigger, so try avoiding things like happy hours or hanging out with friends with different income levels than yours. If you don’t want to cut these things out completely, use prepaid debit cards for your nights out so that you never go over the amount you’ve budgeted.
3. Make impulse shopping more difficult to do
Online shopping sites spend millions of dollars every year implementing new ways to make impulse purchases easier. Don’t fall into these traps by taking your own steps to make it more difficult to buy. Delete your saved payments, unsubscribe from promotional emails, and log out of accounts regularly. The more effort you put into making a purchase, the more time you’ll have to consider if it’s something you need.
4. Don’t let shame overrule your good judgment
For many people, money can be a taboo subject that brings about negative feelings like guilt and shame. Negative emotions can make you hide your financial situation or avoid looking at it altogether, making a bad situation worse. Instead of shying away from your past mistakes, confront them for what they are: mistakes you’ve made and are working to fix. Money is only a taboo topic if you make it that way; don’t let yourself feel ashamed of your income, lifestyle, or debt. We’re all a financial work in progress and shouldn’t let money be a hidden shame that makes us feel bad.
5. Find someone to talk to
If things like depression or anxiety cause your spending triggers, it might be time to seek professional help. You’ve probably heard the term “retail therapy” as a popular way to make oneself feel better, but if you’re not disciplined with money, then it’s best to seek your “therapy” with a therapist.
Emotions might not trigger your spending habits, but that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from getting an accountability partner for finances. Invite a friend to come with you to free activities as a way to avoid spending money, or set a goal together to both get out of debt with the promise of regular progress check-ins. Involving someone, professional or otherwise, is an excellent way to get your finances at the forefront and under control.
6. Find other ways to reward yourself
Money isn’t the only way you can reward yourself for accomplishments. Think about the things that bring you joy that aren’t directly tied to shopping, like doing your favorite arts and crafts, spending a day doing yoga with free videos online, hanging out with loved ones, re-arranging your home, or anything else that makes you feel good.
The bottom line
Overall, the more you practice managing your personal triggers, the more you’ll notice how you can resist them more often. Use one of these six ways to change your spending habits so that you can create a solid financial foundation and become debt-free quickly.
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