It’s hard to go even one day without seeing an advertisement for some form of “fast, amazing, unbelievable!” diet. If you somehow managed to spend your days away from the television, internet, or social media, you still have to deal with the many times you hear friends and co-workers talk about “losing a few pounds” or trying a new program.
Unfortunately, the diet won’t last long for them more than likely and old habits will reign once again.
The problem is, psychologically, these dieters aren’t preventing the temptation from catching their eye. And how can they? If one person brings cookies to the office, the dieter might think, “Well, one bite won’t hurt. I don’t want to hurt Suzy’s feelings; she worked hard to bake these.” If that same dieter watches television, the chances are high that they will see at least three food-related commercials during that time.
And what does all of this have to do with money?
When someone tries to spend less money (in an effort to trim down expenses), they encounter the same temptation as the food dieters mentioned above. They may go out with friends who are all buying coffees at Starbucks; or, they may think that spending a few dollars here or there won’t really hurt their mission to save money.
If you think that, then you need to go on a spending diet. Yes, you read correctly, a spending diet.
No matter your reasoning (maybe your significant other lost their job or you’re drowning in student loan debt payments), a spending diet is a simple solution to a seemingly difficult problem.
When you go on a diet, you typically try to rid your kitchen of all of the foods that are now no-no’s; for a spending diet use this concept and hide or cut up all credit or debit cards. If you can’t find the box of Oreos, you can’t eat it; same idea goes for your cards (please don’t try to eat them though!).
As for those temptations that are less in your control (like Suzy’s famous chocolate and nut cookies), take a step back to think before acting. Do you really need a coffee at 11 in the morning, or is it just the normal stop on your mid-morning walk around the office building? Should you spend your free time (when your boss isn’t looking) browsing online boutique sales, or could you search MoneyNing.com for more financial tips?
Spending diets are easy to set up and even easier to implement. First thing is first: commit to it! Tell yourself that, for exactly one month, you will track what you are spending (and attempt to keep that number as close to $0 as you can).
Second step: cut the temptation in any way possible! One big motivator to stay on your diet is if you constantly remind yourself about the reason for why you began the spending diet in the first place: debt repayment, job loss, saving for a big expense, etc. Your motivator will help you when that 11 AM coffee is calling your name from across the plaza.
As with any diet, it is okay to slip. Maybe you left your travel mug of coffee on your kitchen counter this morning, and your boss even commented on how you seem to be dragging today. One $5 morning coffee won’t kill you, or your diet. (But just one.) The best way to ensure you keep those extra expenses from creeping up is to only carry cash for the month you decide to diet. If you only have $5 on you, that is all you can spend. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, and you need to accept the fact you can’t just whip out your credit card to buy a second coffee (because you hid it at the beginning of the month, remember?).
The spending diet can be an effort to either slim or eliminate non-necessity spending. This much is up to you. Just like a food diet, you need to make the spending diet work for you and your finances; only you can decide how much you truly want to spend (or save).