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If you've felt like your spending has been steadily inching up as of late, you're not alone. According to a recent report from The Wall Street Journal, "Americans spent 5.8% more in August than a year earlier, well outstripping less than 4% inflation." The so-called "experience economy" flourished last summer as Americans made up for time lost from the pandemic — Delta Air Lines reported "record revenue in the second quarter" and Ticketmaster's sales were "up nearly 18% year-over-year," the Journal reported.
But there's a difference between purposefully splurging and that feeling that creeps up when you know you've been routinely blowing past your budget. A few concrete signs you’re overspending include a growing mound of credit card debt, the lack of an emergency fund, or that you're falling behind on bills, per RocketMoney.
If that sounds like you, here are some tips to rein in your spending and jumpstart your savings.
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1. Figure out why (and where) you're overspending
If you want to stop spending beyond your means, a good first step is to drill down into why you're doing it. According to RocketMoney, some common psychological reasons for overspending include peer pressure from friends and social media, as well as resorting to shopping as an emotional crutch or as a way to lash out against a budget that's too restrictive.
Once you've figured out the why, figure out the where — that way, you'll know where to tread carefully as you try to curb spending. Per SoFi, "one way to gain control over spending is to actually track how much you’re spending each day (that includes every cash/debit/credit purchase you make, plus every bill you pay) for a month or so."
2. Wait before you purchase
One of the biggest culprits for going over budget is impulse purchasing. A good way to ditch this habit is by introducing some space between the impulse to buy and the actual purchase. Try the "24-hour rule," which means that “when you come across something you’re tempted to buy immediately, give yourself a cooling-off period of 24 hours," explained Bankrate.
Other options include the more extreme "30-day rule," where "if you still want it in 30 days, then buy it," or getting in the habit of only making a purchase when you "have the money in hand," suggested RocketMoney.
3. Avoid aimless browsing, particularly when it comes to sales
Another smart guard against overspending is to avoid browsing around. As SoFi pointed out, "if you spend an afternoon stopping by boutiques, it's probable that you'll be tempted to spend." The same principle can also apply online, where you can stumble upon items you might not have previously considered buying.
Sales can be particularly dangerous territory, as you'll have the added incentive of what appears to be a deal. A tip from SoFi: "If your inbox is often cluttered with emails alerting you to sales at your favorite retailers, you may want to think about getting off these email lists" so as to eliminate the temptation altogether.
4. Make savings goals so you have a purpose in mind
Curbing your spending can feel easier if it seems like you're working toward a goal. Just as you should dig into your motivations for overspending, you might also consider doing "a little soul-searching to understand 'your bigger reason to be intentional'" when it comes to saving, advised Nerdwallet.
For instance, you might find it easier to skip out on ordering in or buying yet another sweater if you can remember you're saving that money for a long-awaited trip with cherished friends, a much-desired upgrade to your home, or an early retirement filled with travel. "People can get super focused if they have a bigger 'why' than, you know, the pair of shoes on Amazon," Jonathan Kiehl, a certified financial planner based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, told Nerdwallet.
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