Are you all too familiar with that euphoric rush of clicking “add to cart,” followed by a wave of buyer’s remorse as soon as the transaction is complete? Well…join the club, says a recent poll from LendingTree. In this survey of 1,600 U.S. consumers, nearly 40 percent will overspend to feel successful—or even to impress those around them.
But the ramifications are swift for most of these over-spenders. 77 percent regret their decision, while 30 percent agree it turns into financial pressure, and another 27 percent are currently in debt as a result. What’s a habitual card swiper to do in situations like this?
How to Stop Overspending
At times, it might feel impossible to combat the cycle of overspending, but your bank account begs to differ. Here are a few easy and actionable steps you can take right now to curb those impulse buyer tendencies and finally stop overspending.
1. Create a list of your needs versus wants.
Sometimes easing the itch to overspend is as quick and simple as redefining what you can’t (and can) live without. So jot down a checklist of all your regular expenses and sort each of them into two distinct categories: “Needs” or “Wants.”
A need is essential to your well-being (think: food, clothes, housing, utilities, health care, insurance, or transportation). A want, on the other hand, is extra—it’s desirable but not a necessity (think: vacations, entertainment, or designer labels). There’s no problem with having wants, but it is important to differentiate them from actual needs.
For instance, weekly groceries are in the “Needs” column, while an oat milk latte from your favorite local coffee shop is in the “Wants” column. Once you can visualize this side-by-side comparison, it’s easier to prioritize where to allocate your spending.
2. Don’t store your card information online.
Retail transactions on the web skyrocketed in those quarantine months of 2020, and this will only continue, increasing by 11–14 percent between 2022 and 2025. The world of e-commerce literally exists in the palm of your hand, which makes online shopping both convenient for your schedule and concerning for your bank account.
If you’ve been known to mindlessly cart the items you see on Amazon, Etsy, Poshmark, and Instagram simply because the transaction is under 30 seconds, there’s a practical solution to avoid this temptation. Do not store card information on e-commerce websites or in your phone’s virtual wallet—a smart move for security and financial reasons.
Online marketplaces count on the ease of an automated checkout to incentivize you into making a purchase. If your card information is on-file, the website can fill in those details, completing the transaction in just one tap or click. But when you have to manually enter this information, it will force you to reconsider if that purchase is worth the effort.
3. Test out a month of cash-only purchases.
It requires almost no emotional investment to swipe a card at the store or transfer a payment with Zelle. The digital, touchless nature of modern transactions has normalized buying whatever catches our eyes, even if we left our wallets at home.
On the flipside, using cash is tactile and intentional. The sheer act of counting your dollars at the register forms a sense of attachment you just won’t be able to replicate with a shiny plastic card. Not to mention, cash is limited—once it runs out, you cannot conjure more with a mobile device. You’ll have to wait to replenish those funds until a later date.
Pulling out your wad of bills, then finding the exact amount you need is an invitation to pause and think: “Is this how I want to spend the money I have on me right now?” So experiment with using only cash on non-essential purchases for one entire month. It’s an exercise in self-control that will teach you to not only stop overspending, but also to appreciate the true value of a dollar.
4. Occupy your schedule with free activities.
According to a recent survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average U.S. household forks over $243 per month on entertainment—that’s $2,900 each year. If you think this sounds exorbitant, we have to agree. But it also makes sense when you factor in the cost of a Friday night at the movie theater, brunch and mimosas with your friends, a restaurant or takeout dinner with your S.O., and those tickets to the Beyonce concert.
Hey…we get it. Sometimes the experience is worth a dip in your bank account. However, the keyword here is sometimes. If you allow overspending on entertainment to be the norm, debt can creep in so much faster than you bargained for.
Fortunately, there’s a simple workaround for this scenario too. Fill your spare time with free (or low-cost) personal hobbies and social activities. Next time a friend invites you out for cocktails, float the idea of a nature walk to catch the sunset. Or instead of meeting your partner for a date at the elegant (read: pricey) new bistro, cook a meal together, then play board games at home. You can have fun in all sorts of creative, resourceful ways.
Tell Us Your Tips to Stop Overspending
We’re self-proclaimed financial nerds here at The SunDaze Journey, so our team is always on the lookout for useful money management tools and effective but low-maintenance hacks to create healthier, smarter spending habits. But now we want to hear from our community: How do YOU stay in control of finances and steer clear of overspending? Share your best moves for a solid financial future in the comment section below!