What a long winter! Thank goodness spring is here! I’m looking forward to fresh air, birds chirping, and flowers blooming. As these signs of spring arrive, many of us start to plan our spring cleaning schedule and this got me thinking…We clean up our houses in the spring; yet, many of us don’t think to clean up our finances. The winter was harsh and we survived, but can we survive taking a good, hard look at our debt?
According to CNBC.com, eight out of ten Americans are in debt. Unfortunately, many of us have developed poor spending habits. We think nothing of spending more than we earn and our debt storm grows. Suddenly our bills are stacked up like a bunch of pancakes at IHOP. As the bills pile high, we continue to swipe away, thinking it will ease the pain.
In order to get out of debt and stop spending, it is important to look at the reasons why we overspend. Often, many of us were never taught how to budget or some spend to fill a void. Others spend to keep up with the neighbors or maintain an image. Whatever the case, discovering the meaning behind the spending will help us make a change.
However, this is harder than it sounds. I mean, how many times have we gone over our budgets while simply buying groceries? It is so easy to continue putting items in the cart and packing our homes and lives full of stuff. The next thing you know, we are cringing every time that bill shows up. It is like one big storm that keeps burying us. So once and for all, let’s dig our way out and get to the bottom of our destructive spending.
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Take a Look at Your Debt
Are you getting a sinking feeling as you read this? Are you buried sky-high in debt? If so, let’s take a look at what is holding you back from paying down your debt and curbing your spending. I’ve devised a list of four types of spenders. Do you fit into one or more of these categories?
Which one below best describes you?
- Budget Blower – You simply were not taught how to budget. Maybe your family had money and everything was paid for. It is possible your family did not have enough money and money was not discussed.
- Hurt Honey – You are using stuff to heal wounds. You buy to fill a void but continue to feel empty after the rush of making a purchase is gone. You feel excited after buying an item but later feel guilty.
- Stuff Seeker – You are trying hard to keep up with your neighbors. Everyone around you is driving a nice car or wearing nice clothing and you feel inadequate unless you join them. You always want the latest and greatest because Tom or Jane has it.
- Joe Cool Buyer – Keeping up your reputation is the name of your game but your financial situation has changed and you now cannot afford the lifestyle you were once living.
If you are in debt, pick which group you identify with. Maybe you fit into more than one. Nonetheless, the rest of the post offers some ideas to help each spender.
I Know Why I Spend, Now What?
Whether you are a Budget Blower, Hurt Honey, Stuff Seeker, or a Joe Cool Buyer there is a way to change. It is never too late to mend your finances and the sooner you start the better. Continue reading for some advice on how to turn your finances around.
First, we will address the Budget Blowers. You need a wake-up call. Since you did not learn how to budget it is your job to start now. There are so many resources on budgeting out there, so no excuses. Try one of the following:
- Read a book on budgeting -Suze Orman offers several excellent budgeting books which provide amazing financial advice. Suze Orman’s Financial Guidebook: Put the 9 Steps to Work
- Take a money class – Here is a suggestion by financial expert Dave Ramsey: The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness
- Subscribe to a personal finance blog (hint, hint – Check my sidebar) for tips on saving money. If you are continually reading up on budgeting and money-saving tips, you will be more likely to stick to it.
- Research the cash envelope system and only pay cash until you have paid off your debt.
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Secondly, the honey is always looking to fill a void. You know how to budget, yet you continue to spend and live beyond your means. The best advice is to seek help in the form of a counselor or close friend and work through your wounds.
People self-medicate in different ways. Some turn to food, alcohol, drugs, and others choose to shop. Shopping doesn’t seem so bad compared to some of the other choices; however, you will find yourself trying to fill that void often. Unfortunately, shopping will never heal the way you feel. Try counseling and/or read self-help books to help heal. Two amazing books I just finished reading are Living Well Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life and Unstuffed: Decluttering Your Home, Mind, and Soul by Ruth Soukup. Both of these books are excellent at explaining why we do not need more stuff.
You are spontaneous and fun. You enjoy the impulse buys! People love your zest for life. Yet, most do not know you are drowning in debt. You continue to make purchases on a whim and do not think about the consequences. However, my friend, there are consequences for every action you take. For example, if you do not pay your credit card bill, you receive a late fee. Also, if you show up late for work daily, you get fired. The same goes for your spending. If you fail to think ahead, you will soon have so much debt, you will not know how to manage it. Here are some strategies to help you curb your spending:
- Use a shopping list
- Wait a week before making a purchase
- Stay out of the stores
- Tell yourself you are good enough without more stuff
- Unsubscribe from e-mail advertising
- Remove your credit card from saved sites (better yet freeze it or cut it up)
- Give your credit card to your spouse and only pay cash
Joe Cool Buyer
Mr. Joe Cool Buyer! Yes, you! You spent years building your wealth and spending how you pleased because, well, simply you could. You could afford all the luxuries life had to offer and you enjoyed them to the fullest. However, your situation changed. You lost your job or became ill and didn’t think to put away for your emergency fund. Now you are drowning in debt and do not want to admit to your friends and family you can no longer afford this lifestyle.
Get out of debt Joe Cool Buyer:
- Sell, sell, sell – You don’t need all the luxury items you own. Sell some of them and pay down your debt. A great place to sell name-brand clothing is Poshmark.
- Be Honest – Tell your family and friends the truth. Yes, you may lose some of your friends, but since you are taking a good look at your finances, you can also take a good look at your relationships. If someone claims to be your friend only in good times, you are better off without them.
- Downsize! You do not need to drive the pricey B.M.W. Trade it in for a lower priced car or better yet, buy a used car with low miles. One of the highest depreciation of a purchase is a brand new car. Also, take a look at your living situation. Can you afford the Penthouse downtown or would a single family home make more sense while you are paying off your debt?
If you can get to the bottom of your spending and fix the root of the problem, you are on the right track. Take a good hard look at why you spend and “spring” into action. Find your spending group and begin to make some changes. Set some goals for yourself and create a plan of action. Tackle your debt and change your spending habits.
It is not always easy to own your finances. Yet, once you dig your way out of debt, you will feel a sense of relief. Once your debt is paid off, it is now time to start looking toward your future. My advice is to start an emergency fund and save for retirement. You will be on your way to financial success and it will feel fantastic.
Do you have a spending problem? What do you like to buy? I would have to say my weakness is clothing, although I am getting better! Leave me a comment below.
Take Care – Sarah
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