How to Save Money » Frugal Living

Change Your Spending Habits to Save More & Spend Less

Bad habits are hard to break. When it comes to spending, a bad habit can make all the difference to your personal finances.

Maybe you already know that you need to spend your money more wisely but you haven’t quite figured out where to start. If that sounds like you, here’s what you need to do:

Understand Your History

Influences early in life shape who we are in our adult life, including our spending habits.

So take a look at your parents and other influential people from your childhood and you will most likely see a strong resemblance in your own spending habits. Did you grow up around spenders or savers? People who splurged or invested?

Do you see any patterns that you have taken with you to adulthood? Take notice and take action to make a conscientious effort to curb any of the bad habits that you were exposed to.

Know What You Value

Make a list of what is truly important to you in life.

It will be different for everyone but, in the end, knowing what you truly value will help you in making sure that your spending habits are in line with your goals.

Once you have that list, you can evaluate your money decisions against it. I’m sure that you will be surprised to find how much of your spending does not contribute to the overall happiness of your life.

Track Your Spending

Track every penny that you spend for at least 3 months to see where your money is going.

How much did you spend on stuff that you really didn’t need to have?

Create a Budget

Knowing where all of your money is going is great, but you also need to plan where all of your money should be going.

Create a budget so that you will have a plan in place to make sure that you are using your money the way that you need it to be used.

Set Financial Goals

Setting financial goals can help you keep overspending in check. Do you want to take a beach vacation this summer? Are you trying to grow your house fund?

Impulse purchases may not seem so great once you consider that that money could go toward saving for time on the beach or a down payment on your house.

Ask Yourself, is it Worth it?

When you are deciding whether or not spend money on something, take a second to ask yourself “is this worth the time I will spend paying for it”?

Y our time is money. Let’s say you make $20/hour and you are about to buy a pair of jeans for $150. Are those jeans really worth 15 hours of your time?

Ask yourself this question before you buy anything to see if it is worth it. If not, figure out a free or cheaper alternative that will leave you with more money in your pocket.

Figure Out What Your Triggers Are

Have you noticed that there are certain things that put you in a spending mood?

Does a bad day at work make your feel like shopping? Do your emotions cause you to turn to retail therapy for comfort? Does the thrill of a sale compel you to buy something even if you don’t need it? Does the constant exposure to ads in the media feed your need to have lots of stuff and pricey brand names?

Humans are creatures of habit, so being aware of these triggers will help you to come up with a way to avoid the negative triggers that lead to frivolous spending.

Needs vs. Wants

Do you understand the difference between your needs and your wants?

To save more and spend less you will need to take a look at what it is you really need and eliminate spending on some of your wants.

Don’t Deprive Your Yourself Altogether

The idea is to spend less and save more, not to make yourself feel totally deprived by not being able to spend anything at all.

It’s important to be able to splurge here and there in order to satisfy your need to indulge once in a while.

Spend Less and Save More When You Shop

Stick to a List – Never go shopping without a list. Always plan what you need to buy before you go to the store.

Use Cash Only – Make a cash only rule. If you can’t buy with cash, don’t go shopping at all. Credit cards make it far too easy to give in and overspend, making very costly mistakes.

(This may not apply to everyone. Some people – myself included – actually spend more when they have cash instead of credit.)

Think Before You Buy – Look at each item in your shopping cart and put back anything that you really don’t need. If you need to convince yourself that something is worth buying, then it most likely is not.

Trust your instincts and put those items back.

Sleep on It – Giving yourself time to think about large purchases will allow you the to figure out whether or not really want to buy something.

Wait at least 24 hours before purchasing any big ticket items. You may be surprised that you forget all about them the next morning.

With these tips you should be well on your way to changing your spending habits to save more and spend less.

Just be aware that it will a little while to break bad habit. Give yourself some time and celebrate the small wins along the way.

If you make a mistake, get back to it and try again. It does get easier.

Do you have any bad spending habits?


  1. Christa

    I am the same way with cash if I have it I spend it. I tend to be more cautious of my spending if I use debit. I am doing most things you suggested. I make a list and stick to it. I distiguish my wants from needs
    I also don’t shop when I’m hungry to avoid all those things that look good just cause I’m hungry. Since I walk to shopping and on disability (and only get one check a month) I try to do my shopping for the month in one trip (it’s only me). Then during the month just get milk and fresh fruit and veg. I use a walker and use a square laundry basket to sit on top for shopping so limited how much I put in there. today I went to Walmart just to get the Resolve for $2-$2 coupon so didn’t take large basket (only had small basket) so wouldn’t be tempted to buy too much. If someone is driving me I’ll take a basket instead of cart to avoid more than will fit. Knowing I have to walk 1.78km to nearest Walmart/nofrills/freshco/SDM kinda curbs spending too

  2. Shannon

    Great tips for saving. We have been doing these for a month now and although we thought we were not making enough after making a budget and focussing on our needs over wants we realized we could save money each month and we weren’t falling short at all just over spending on wants. Im not sure if you can edit the article but the jeans math doesn’t work out I think you meant 10/hr. I knew all these tips already but reading them on a regular basis helps keep my spending in check.

  3. Poor Fat Chick

    One spending habit i noticed is “emotional spending”. When i have a stressful or upsetting day i would find myself shopping for stuff i really don’t need. I would try and justify that with going to a thrift store like Value Village. In my mind i would be like “look how much i got for so little” but then, after i had calmed down i would realize i didn’t really need that extra pair of shoes or that jacket or whatever. And doing that as often as i did added up
    I didn’t realize it actually until my BF pointed it out one day. i didn’t want to believe him at first but then i stopped, thought about it, tracked my spending and then compared to days that were rough.. then i admitted he was right.
    Since finding out that trigger i have been careful not to fall into that trap again.. knowing i have it i am more aware of it.
    Emotional spending is like emotional eating

  4. Carrie H

    Think Before You Buy – I have no problem putting it into my cart (implus buys) but by the time i get to the till i have had time to think about it and it usally gets left behind.

  5. Jelena

    great article!
    I tend to spend to much on make-up. I almost bought a $50 Lancome foundation- I don’t have good skin and desperately trying to camouflage it

  6. dawn

    Don’t track your spending, grab your last 3 month of bank statement, it gives you a better picture of how you really spend your money

  7. Jessica

    I’m actually the complete opposite of my parents….they have no savings, still rent, no budget… husband and I are saving for a house, live by a budget and have already started putting money away for retirement even though we are only 25. I think my parents showed me what not to do lol
    I do have my triggers though….i’m an emotional eater…i used to go out and buy bags of chips and candies and junk when i was upset or angry….which at one point was a lot of the time. I’ve learned and am still sometimes learning to control that spending, because in the end it means less money we have saved to buy a house.
    I think another thing that makes it so we can get ahead….is we don’t live on credit. I know several people that have thousands of dollars in credit card debts, and end up paying a whole lot more then what the item originally cost….we have one small credit card to build up our credit score so we can get a good mortgage, which gets paid off every month. If we want something, we save up, shop around for the best deal and then buy it.

  8. Betty

    I used to be an “emotional spender” but I was always a good saver too. I learned most of my budgeting skills from both parents and also from my accounting teacher in high school. When I see an opportunity to make some serious interest/money on something, I pounce on it immediately (like Canada Savings bonds @ 19% compounded interest many, many years ago; made enough to put down a very large downpayment on a house I bought with my new husband 28 yrs. ago!!) I don’t think we’ll see those kinds of interest rates again. Of course, mortgage rates were like 15-16% on a 5 yr. closed mortgage (compared to what 5% now). I also learned quite a few cooking, baking, etc. lessons from my mother. I’d say she was an extreme couponer in her day. Although, to show you how thrifty she was, we could only do projects that started with the letter “A” as when she bought us an encyclopedia she only bought “A” because it was on for a penny. The rest of the set was too much money according to her ($1.50/book). I laugh about it now but she was very serious about the price of those books!!!

  9. Krista

    We use cash where we can.
    For gas, we budget $20 per fill and try to save $5 each time.
    The $5 goes into an envelope for grocery or gas emergencies throughout the month.
    TIP: Don’t use debit or credit at the gas station — this is where a lot of fraud happens with skimming and stealing of credit information.

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