During times of crisis, it is normal to lean on vices like food delivery, alcohol, subscriptions, and online shopping for comfort and self-care. However, as the reigns loosen on COVID-19 restrictions these habits have become less necessary and could be wreaking havoc on your finances. Breaking spending habits is doable with patience and commitment. This blog includes 5 ways you can change the spending habits you developed during the past year.
Don’t Feel Guilty for New Spending Habits
Before you give yourself a hard time for spending money during the pandemic, take a moment to pat yourself on the back for making it through the past year. Also, when you think about your spending habits, try giving yourself a pass for spending money on things that helped you stay safe and happy, even if it’s time to let those things go.
I did not title this blog “bad spending habits after lockdown” because I don’t want anyone to feel guilty for the spending habits they developed during the pandemic.
For example, expenses like regular grocery delivery, prepared meal delivery, and online shopping weren’t simply convenient at the height of the pandemic, they were a responsible way to avoid large crowds.
Likewise, investing in supplies and equipment was necessary to transform your home into an all-in-one school, office, gym, restaurant, and more! We spent money on things we might not normally buy so that we could feel comfortable, safe, and optimistic.
5 Ways to Change Spending Habits
Now that restrictions are lifting, we can reassess where our money is going. As you begin enjoying pre-pandemic activities, take some time to adjust your budget and consider five ways to change your spending habits.
- Prioritize Spending to Make Room in Your Budget
- Establish New Habits and Reduce Buying Frequency
- Set Limitations for Impulse Buys
- Remove Triggers and Targeted Ads
- Make it Harder to Pay
1. Prioritize Spending to Make Room in Your Budget
Make a list of everything you spent money on last month. Set aside essential expenses like rent, utilities, insurance, bills, and medical expenses then categorize the rest as:
- Eating and Drinking Out (restaurants, coffee shops, etc.)
- Household good and supplies
- Subscriptions (recurring monthly charges)
- Self-care (haircuts, cosmetics, treatments, gym memberships, etc.)
- Investment Purchases (home improvements, equipment, etc.)
Look at the things in each category and ask yourself a few questions:
- Did it involve a delivery fee?
- Did you buy it spontaneously on an impulse?
- Is it something you rely on daily and would feel stressed without?
- Is it still a priority for you?
- Does it save you time or money?
Highlight Opportunities for Change
Any expense where you answered YES to 1 and 2 and NO to 3, 4, and 5 are opportunities for change! Highlight these! Some could be eliminated altogether, like canceling a subscription you don’t use. With the others, a few small changes could help you establish new habits that are more budget-friendly.
2. Establish New Habits and Reduce Buying Frequency
If you’ve gotten hooked on the convenience of a new spending habit, see if you can replace it with a new, more cost-friendly one.
For example, if you forgo grocery delivery you’ll have more opportunities to comparison shop, use coupons, or take advantage of in-store deals. These new habits can save you a lot of money in the long run.
If one of your pandemic spending habits is hard to forgo entirely, you can also try reducing how often you spend money on it.
For example, instead of having meals delivered daily, try switching to once a week. Setting limitations can help you enjoy conveniences occasionally without going overboard.
3. Set Limitation for Impulse Buys
Shopping can be a great stress reliever. If it’s something that you genuinely enjoy and makes you feel good, you don’t have to cut it out completely. If stress shopping is a habit, quitting cold turkey will probably fail and leave you feeling stressed and frustrated. Instead, set some parameters so you can have fun without breaking the bank.
Try limiting shopping trips to a preset dollar amount to prevent overspending. If you need a little discipline to make this work, you can buy a prepaid debit card or gift card and use it exclusively for recreational shopping, stopping when you’ve reached the card’s limit. This is a plastic-friendly variation on the cash envelope system.
Note: I don’t recommend trying this with a store credit card, as that can affect your credit score and may set you up for issues down the road. Stick to prepaid cards if you need the extra accountability.
4. Remove Triggers and Targeted Ads
Every time we use a search engine or visit a website, our behaviors can be tracked and used to trigger targeted advertising. These tools are a goldmine for advertisers. Sometimes, they can be helpful by showing us links and ads for products and services we need. However, if you are susceptible to online ads and are trying to limit spending temptation, removing these triggers can help.
A few ways to limit targeted ads:
- Personalize your ad setting in Google
- Turn off location settings on your phone
- Shop in a private browsing window
4. Make it Harder to Pay
One-click payment on your computer or touchless payment using your smartphone makes it so much easier to impulse buy high ticket items like electronics. Removing the convenience of one-click payment, you force yourself to go through an additional step before committing to the purchase.
Slowing down the transaction can give you the time you need to assess if the expense is a good choice for your financial goals.
Make it harder to pay:
- Remove Apple Pay and Touchless paying from your phone
- Do not save CC information on your computer
- Unsave payment information from Amazon or other marketplace apps
Dealing with Debt After the Pandemic?
Changing your spending habits is one thing; dealing with out-of-control debt is another. If your financial issues or concerns involve difficulty paying off loans and credit card debt accumulated during the pandemic, you may need more help.
Accredited Debt Relief can help you explore debt relief options and match you with an appropriate program.
Some signs it’s time to consider debt relief:
- You are behind on debt payments
- You can only afford to make minimum payments on your debt
- Creditors contact you frequently about missed payments
- Your debt is more than half of your yearly income
- Your debt is a significant source of stress
- You don’t see a way out of your debt
Contact a Certified Debt Specialist for a free consultation.