How to Stop Spending Money

Help for Habitual Shoppers Is Here

Woman cutting up credit card.
••• Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

Are your spending habits out of control? Have friends told you that you are a shopaholic or habitual shopper? Are you maxing out your credit cards and over your head in bills? Here are tips designed to help curb the temptations to spend money.

Know What You Own

Take time to organize what you own by going through and getting rid of items you no longer wear, no longer like, are too dated to display, or -- in the case of perishable goods -- those that have expired. Once things are organized, it will be easier to check out what you already own the next time that you think that you "need" something. You may already have what you think you need to purchase, but you simply can't locate it.

Get Rid of the Plastic

Adopt a "cash-only" policy, or use your debit card (after getting rid of your overdraft protection) when you shop. Credit cards add to the temptation to spend more than you can afford. Close your department and chain store credit cards. Not getting the coupons in your monthly credit card statements will help with avoiding the temptation to shop.

Avoid Shopping When Bored or Depressed

Hitting the stores when you are down in the dumps or just plain bored can result in buying more stuff that you do not need. Divert that unspent energy into something positive and self-indulgent, such as taking a long bath, browsing the library for a good book or movie, exercising, or inviting a friend over for coffee and good conversation. If you find you have a lot of time on your hands, try volunteering for something that interests you.

Bring a List

Whether you go to the grocery store or the mall, take the time to make a list of the things you need -- not things you want. It is helpful to make the list, then edit it and make a second list. Once inside the stores, stay focused and only buy the items on your list. See something else you think you need? Go home, check what you have, and make certain you do need it. You can always go back the next day to buy it.

Watch Where You Shop

When it is time to go grocery shopping, go to a grocery store. When shopping for groceries at stores like Walmart, Target and the warehouse stores, the temptation to pile non-grocery items into the cart can be too much for even frugal shoppers. Any savings that you thought you would get on food will quickly disappear with the other non-food items that you end up buying.

Avoid Shopping With Other Spendaholics

Shopping with someone who has bad spending habits will influence your shopping habits. You can always do something else with that person that does not include spending money recklessly. Instead, shop with a frugal friend who often leaves stores empty handed.

Remember: You Don't Need It Today

If you allow yourself time to think about your purchases, you may end up realizing the items are not necessary today. By asking a store associate to put the items on hold, or just leaving them at the store until the following day, you may decide they aren't items you need to have.

Drop the Return Logic

Do you frequently fall back on the logic that you "can always return it?" The fact is, spendaholics almost never return anything they purchase.

Pay Your Bills Before You Shop

Are you going to the mall with friends? Allow time beforehand to pay your bills and review your checking account and current credit card balances. A dose of reality before you hit the stores will help curtail the desire to spend money.

Identify the Purpose

Part of breaking the habit of shopping is knowing what purpose it will fulfill. When the purpose for what you want to buy ends up being vague, put it back. You can always buy it once you know why you need it.

Examples of buying an item for a purpose:

  • I need a present for a baby shower I am attending next week.
  • I need a new hair dryer because my old one no longer works.
  • I need to bake a birthday cake for my daughter's birthday this weekend.

Examples of buying an item without a purpose:

  • I may need a baby shower present next year, and this frame is so cute!
  • I love the color of this hairdryer, and the one I have looks so old.
  • I already have cake mix, but I am going to load up on more because they are on sale.

Try Shopping Like People Who Don't Like to Shop

People who do not enjoy shopping will drive to the store, go inside, get the item they came for, go to the checkout, pay for the item, and leave. They don't have to walk down every aisle in the store. They don't shop, they buy.It may be boring, but it saves money.

The Bottom Line

Utilizing these tips to prevent wasteful spending and the guilt that comes with it can result in bringing back the real pleasure of buying something that you need and can afford rather than buying something you only want and can't afford.