You would think that after a childhood spent, nose to the grindstone, in tuition classes and after school activities, followed by long hours at work, Singaporeans would be the most disciplined bunch on the planet.
But it seems we lack self-control when there’s nobody around to tell us what to do. Overspending and credit card debt are growing problems here, but before pointing a finger at the high cost of living, take a look at the number of Chanels and Louis Vuittons on the arms of your fellow office workers at Raffles Place.
If you have the willpower of a flacid seahorse and your declarations that you’re going on a shopping fast always end in failure, here are some hacks that can help you to reduce your spending without falling prey to your weak will.
Bring limited cash and leave your credit cards at home when you’re in high-spending situations
Telling yourself you’ll leave the house with only $10 a day is not realistic. But there are certain high-spending situations you can very well pre-empt—going to a club or bar with friends on Friday night, heading to a shopping mall to run an errand or, if you’re a lunchtime shopper, wandering around during your lunch break at work can all turn into spending sprees if you’re not careful.
If you forsee that you’ll be spending more than you like, preempt this treacherous situation by leaving your credit cards home and bringing just enough cash to get through the day.
For instance, if you’re headed to a bar for post-work drinks, leave your credit cards in a locked office drawer and head out with just $30—enough for you to get one drink and take a cab home, but not much else. If you bring your credit cards with you, don’t be surprised if you find yourself buying 6 cocktails too many.
Stick a reminder in your wallet to spend mindfully
In theory, we all know that we need to ask ourselves whether we really, really need something before buying it. We know we should be checking if there are cheaper alternatives, or if the item is less expensive when bought online.
But when you’re standing in the middle of a crowded shopping mall and you have that beautiful item in your hands, it’s all too easy to just say screw it, I’ll get it, it’s not like I can’t afford it.
That’s why we could all do with a reminder or two right before we fork out the cash. If you are very prone to overspending and then immediately regretting it, stick a reminder somewhere you’ll see it before you get the chance to spend.
It could be a tiny post-it pasted inside your wallet, or a message on the home screen of your smartphone. This can give you a much-needed kick in the ass just as you are about to purchase something you don’t need.
Budget when planning outings with friends and family
You should already know the importance of maintaining a budget which sets out how much you’re allowed to spend each month.
But if you want to reduce your monthly budget further and cut your spending even more, it can be helpful to create micro budgets for specific situations. For instance, if you find that you constantly overspend when dining out on weekends, you want to institute a budget for each weekend outing.
Think about it—meeting friends for brunch on a Sunday afternoon can quickly spiral into a spending fest. You spend $20 on your eggs benedict at a hipster cafe, then you head out to a bar for a $12 alcoholic beverage since it’s Sunday. Before you know it, you’re having dinner at an overpriced restaurant and have barely enough money for the cab ride home.
On the other hand, if you bring $30 out just for your brunch date, you won’t be able to spend on all the other stuff. Your friends will be obliged to do something cheap if they want to spend the rest of the day with you.
Do instead of buy
Time-starved people, as we all are in Singapore, tend to buy stuff related to their interests to compensate not being able to spend time actually immersing themselves in these hobbies.
We all know one of those photographers who’s constantly buying and selling expensive gear, but who doesn’t actually spend that much time shooting. Then there are the board game enthusiasts who collect roomfuls of games but are only able to organise gaming sessions once every few months. Or that person who signed up for a membership at Pure Yoga and has countless pairs of colourful lycra tights and LuluLemon workout attire, but barely has time to use them.
Each time you’re tempted to buy something related to your hobbies, pause, take a deep breath—and then plan to actually DO something related to your interests instead.
Tempted to buy yet another game on Steam? Stop yourself and dedicate some time to playing the games in the collection you’ve already amassed. Dying to buy another contraption to add to your collection of coffee-making paraphernalia? Invite a friend over to sample your new coffee beans instead.
You’ll not only spend less but might actually start feeling like you have a life, which I think we can all agree would be great.
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