Money — it’s the one thing we work hard for and one of the things we wish we had more of. Chances are you’re not getting a raise at work, and you probably won’t get one for a while.
You shouldn’t be expecting a financial windfall from your job, so you probably need to stretch every dollar you have. The best way to do that is by making a budget and sticking to it. In addition to budgeting, keeping a close eye on how you spend your money is essential. Sure, there are some really crazy ways to save a buck and curb spending, but there are simpler solutions. It’s your hard-earned money, so hold on to it. Here are 10 hacks you can use to keep yourself from overspending.
1. Beware of bulk
We’re not talking about warehouse bulk retailers Costco or Sam’s Club, at least not in the strict sense. No, we’re talking about the seemingly too-good-to-pass-up 5 for $5 or 10 for $10 deals. Multiple retailers use the gimmick to make you feel like you’re getting a deal you can’t pass up, but it’s only a deal if it’s something you use. As the website Acorns notes, if you don’t drink Coke, it doesn’t make any sense to buy any amount, no matter how good the deal is.
Next: There’s an app for that
2. Cold as ice
It’s not just brick and mortar stores trying to separate you from your money. Shopping online comes with its own set of perils, especially the Buy It Now button. That convenience is just a convenient way for retailers to make more money off you. A great way to get around spending on that impulse buy is by installing the Icebox browser extension. It will block you from making purchases with the Buy It Now button (putting the items ‘on ice’) but keep track of the items you view so can revisit them later — if you still want them.
Next: Flying solo
3. It’s best if you go it alone
Peer pressure is real, and it can throw a wrench into your spending habits. One survey cited by the New York Daily News shows 64% of people overspend when shopping with friends. Not surprisingly, a nearly identical number would prefer shopping alone. So if a friend asks you to join them at the mall, it’s probably best to decline or leave your wallet in the car.
Next: Go big or go home
4. Carrying big bills can help you avoid spending
You probably wouldn’t think twice about spending $1. Heck, even $5 or $10 might not mean much to you, so you spend it freely. Next time, try carrying a $100 bill and see how willing you are to shell out for anything. It’s called the denomination effect, and it can impact how you spend. One study explains why: “[A] large denomination of money (1 $100 bill) led to lower spending intentions than an equivalent amount of money in smaller denominations (5 $20 bills) … because people perceive higher value when money is in the form of a large single denomination.” That’s how a stack of Benjamins can make you look rich and stay rich.
Next: Hands off
5. You can look, but don’t touch
We have seen some relatively complex ideas so far on this list, but this one is simple. When you’re shopping, look but don’t touch. An academic study shows that when we touch something, it “results in an increase in perceived ownership of that object.” So the best way to avoid an impulse buy, or any purchase, is to keep your hands to yourself.
Next: Picture what could be
6. Imagine success
If you know a big purchase (house, car, or vacation) is looming, don’t be swayed into spending on anything that won’t help you make that purchase. Is the lure of your credit card to hard to ignore? Try putting a picture of your vacation destination (or dream house, or next car) next to your credit card in your wallet. That way, when you reach for the card you’ll be reminded of where your money should be going.
Next: Doing a high wire act can help you save.
7. Keep your balance
Balancing on a tightrope, spinning in circles, or wearing high heels can help you save. A Brigham Young University study finds that “consumers experiencing a heightened sense of balance are more likely to weigh the options” when making a purchase. The study is one of many researching the ways physical sensations impact decision making. If you’re committed to a big-ticket item like a TV and don’t want to overspend, stand on one foot or lean in your chair and it can lead to you making a more reasonable decision.
Next: Look to your left.
8. Read the entire price tag
When was the last time you shopped and saw an item that cost $5.10? It’s probably been a while if it’s ever happened at all. Prices for most things you buy end in .95 or .99, and for good reason — because most people only look at the left-most digit on a price tag. Research shows people believe they can buy more if prices end in .99, and Dr. Jamie Madigan of Psychology Today explains why:
“This [left-digit] effect reflects how the left-most digit disproportionately affects our perception of price. For example, the 1 in $1.99 exerts more influence on our perception of price than do the 9s. So shaving the price of something is most effective when it changes the leftmost digit. The psychological difference between a $2.99 designer banana and a $3.00 designer banana is bigger than the difference between $3.60 and $3.59 because the left-most digit matters most.”
Next: Ignore the small stuff
9. Rein in your impulses
As we saw with item No. 4 earlier, carrying big bills can help you spend less since the perceived value is higher than if you had several small bills. This is kind of along those lines. There’s a lot of personal research that goes into buying something big like a house or car. Yet people don’t think twice about the small impulse buys they make every day. The packs of gum, glossy magazines, or giant frappuccinos you buy on a whim are small purchases that quickly add up. Or as one study finds, “[I]mpulsive consumers end up overconsuming … when they try to make purchase and consumption decisions that do not involve clear-cut constraints,” such as a mortgage or car loan. So think twice before buying that Juicy Fruit or latte.
Next: Always trust your own judgment.
10. Turn your back on the rude dude
Being rude to shoppers didn’t result in any sales for Jimmy Fallon’s character on Saturday Night Live. Real life is a different story. When confronted with a rude salesperson, most people are more willing to spend, according to one study. Whether through being rude or effusive praise, a salesperson’s job is to make you spend your money. In either case, it’s best your judgment when it comes to making the purchase.
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