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Good money management habit: think before you spend
By Tammy May

I was recently talking with a client about how their spending habits have changed since joining MyBudget. They told me, “My money management has improved because now I have to think before I spend.”

Wow. It’s such a simple, but powerful concept: the idea of stopping to think before spending money.

It sounds like common sense, doesn’t it? I mean, who would spend their money without thinking first?

The answer, unfortunately, is most of us. It’s hard not to. We live in an impulsive, fast-paced culture that’s all about ease and convenience. “Buy now, pay (think) later”.

We’ve all had that experience where we look in our wallets or at our bank account statement and expect to see more. “I thought I had $50 in my purse. I can’t believe I spent $40 yesterday.” Does that sound familiar? Lots of MyBudget clients are surprised by how much money they used to spend on stuff or how easy it used to be to buy new clothes or eat out and then not have enough money to pay bills.

But how do we swim against the cultural current and always think before we spend?

It’s all about creating new money management behaviours — and when we repeat behaviours often enough, they become habits.

As with learning any new skill, sometimes we have to challenge ourselves. So here is a 30-day money management challenge which is designed to result in thinking before spending. By the end of the month, the idea is to have established new money management habits that stick.

For 30 days:

1. Use only cash

No cards at all. Cash is an excellent visual reminder of your financial position. It’s way too easy to spend thoughtlessly with a credit or debit card.

2. Sleep on it

Delay all impulse purchases for 24 hours. This applies to anything from a bag of chips to a cute-as-a-button puppy. If it still seems like a good idea in the morning, go back and make the purchase. (If it’s gone when you get there, assume it wasn’t meant to be.)

3. Do your research

For any product or service that costs $100 or more, compare at least three prices through different suppliers. The internet makes this pretty easy to do. Also read consumer reviews when available.

4. Stick to your list

Never hit the shops without a pre-written list in hand and do not buy anything that’s not on that list. That rules out impulse purchases (see point 2 above.)

5. Meditate on your goals

Carry a reminder of your financial goals in your wallet or purse where you will see it every time you go to spend. You can type or write your goals on a piece of paper or you can use a visual symbol or representation that has meaning for you. For instance, if your goal is to save for a new car, you might carry a small photo of the car in the plastic window of your wallet. You don’t have to fixate on the image every time you open your purse. It’s enough for your brain to register it subconsciously.

Remember, the aim of this money management challenge is not necessarily to save money — it’s to train your mind to think before you spend. The upside, however, is that the more you manage your money consciously, the wiser your spending habits will become.

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