From The Straits Times    |

PHOTO gwolters

We’ve all succumbed to the temptation to spend. But when you do it repeatedly, it can become a problem. “Excessive or impulsive spending is like a bad habit,” says BJ Tan, senior debt consultant from Debt Reform, a local debt management company. “You need to break the cycle slowly to successfully control it.” Here are some strategies to help you.

1 Have A No-spending Day
Schedule a day or two each week when you spend on nothing but daily necessities, such as meals and transport, or items that you’ve already budgeted for.

2 Find Your Hourly Rate
Take your monthly salary and divide it by the number of hours you work in a month – including overtime – to get your hourly rate. BJ says: “Knowing you’ll need to work a certain number of hours to fund a purchase may make you think twice about buying it.”

3 Schedule Post-shopping Appointments
Setting a time limit on your shopping helps you to control your spending. “If you know that you’re an impulsive shopper, give yourself as little leeway as possible,” BJ advises.

4 Don’t Shop With Just Anyone
Whom you shop with influences your spending habits, says BJ. “Shop with someone who’s a rational spender – who is likely to help you to watch your money and make sure you don’t part with it too readily.” He adds that your shopping partner should not encourage you to buy everything you try on, unless it’s within your budget.

5 Ask: “Do I Really Need It?”
“We can always find a reason for ‘needing’ something. But before you hand over your money, stop and ask: ‘If I need it this badly, how have I gone for so long without it?’” It’s a simple question to put your spending into perspective, explains BJ.

6 Shop Like A Man
Men are efficient shoppers – they take only what they need and spend less time in shops, reducing their chances of going home with an impulse buy. To help you shop like a man, make a shopping list and keep to it. “Don’t go browsing for something you think you might need,” advises BJ.

7 Beware The Checkout Counter
Those sweets and treats beside the counters? They can add up, warns BJ. Before long, you could find yourself forking out an additional $5 to $10 for these goodies.

“Most people pick things up at the checkout counter while they’re waiting idly for their turn to pay. Do something to occupy your waiting time – read a book, catch up with a friend over the phone, or play games on your smartphone,” he advises.

8 Control Your Mummy Guilt
You know the drill – you’re feeling guilty about not spending enough time with your kids, so the next time you’re out, you “make up” for it by buying them clothes, toys and treats.

BJ says you should think of your guilt-spending in this way: “The money you spend now is the reserve for your children’s future needs, which will become greater as they get older. You don’t want to be in a situation where you can’t afford to let them further their studies because you spent too much on them when they were younger.”

9 Remember: Group-buying Deals Add Up
Group-buying websites send out daily updates on current and upcoming deals, tempting you to buy things you don’t need, just because of the fabulous offers, says BJ. He adds: “It’s like having a sale all the time – it helps you save money but it also makes you want to buy something you don’t need, just to take advantage of the savings.”

10 Be Patient
You really, really want that new tech gadget? Chances are, you can buy it for less if you hold out a while longer – and you can save towards its cost in the meantime. BJ shares his own experience: “My first television set many years ago was a 42-inch plasma that was retailing at almost $15,000. I had only set aside a budget of $1,000, so I waited almost two years until the price fell within that region before I finally bought it.”

This article was originally published in Simply Her July 2013.