Four Money Saving Hacks – How Do You Stick to a Budget?

download (81)There was a candy store on my walk back home, and my weakness was a local, oversweet jelly like candy called jujubes. I used to buy them every chance I got if I had spare pocket money.

My grandfather would encourage me to not ‘waste my cash’ on that ‘junk’. All the things he said were true – it was bad for my teeth, it was probably full of chemicals. He made some very good arguments. But I didn’t stop.

We all have weaknesses we spend our money on. We have a hard day, we think we owe ourselves the treat of a nice dinner, or a vacation after a tough year, or a new flatscreen TV, or that pretty outfit in the window. The temptations are many. It’s hard to walk down a brightly lit cheerful shopping street and not buy something. But there are some saving hacks you can use to get over the temptation.

Some of these hacks actually work. Take it from a former jujube lover: eventually as I got older, I tried to get over my candy addiction by taking a different route home. I still wax nostalgic over them but they no longer have a hold over me.

Here are four great hacks that are easy to adopt and turn into habits.

1) Make a list. Every time you go out, make a list.

This is easy to do and has an effect, simply because when something is not on the list you have to think about buying it, and that moment is death to the impulse buy. Keep the list in hand and refer to it, so that when something is not on it, it’s a lot easier to ignore.

2) Don’t go shopping hungry.

This matters – studies show that hungry shoppers buy more, sometimes as much as 40% more, compared to people who are shopping on a full stomach. When you’re hungry you are swayed much faster by not just the smell of the caramel popcorn at the other end of the store, but also by those cute wineglasses you are just certain you urgently need.

3) If you are married, make a plan at the start of every month.

Planning your monthly spends is pretty useful for single people too, but it’s an especially powerful exercise if you are married. No matter what, no two people are entirely alike in their financial behavior. Sit together at the start of every month and plan out the monthly spending – essentials, the fun stuff, the kids’ expenses, and so on. Once that is done, take the leftover cash and move it immediately to your ‘long term savings’ account. This takes away the temptation to touch it at all.

Doing this regularly at the start of every month brings down the tension couples often have around money. And done right, brings you closer together.

4) What are the savings for?

Debt can often come up un-announced, from a medical emergency, or a job loss, and so on. Be clear to yourself, and if you have a partner, reach an agreement on what part of the savings constitute an ’emergency fund’ and cannot be used for expenses, etc. Remember, bad things happen to everyone. It’s how we manage these, that make financial tragedies and horrible events short term ones, not life-changing ones.