How to Recover from Christmas Spending
by Cindi McMenamin
You did it. You tried not to, but it still happened. You overspent during the Christmas holidays.
But that doesn’t mean you have to feel depressed, remain in debt or scrimp for the rest of the year.
With a little creativity and self-discipline in January, you can recover from overspending and get back on track, financially, even if you’re not one who normally works within a budget. All it takes is three steps: 1) Tighten it up; 2) Stretch it out; and 3) Think it through.
Tighten it up. Your money really comes down to two columns on a ledger sheet—income and expenses. And the best way to get back in balance (apart from a hefty raise in income) is to tighten up your expenses. It’s easier than you think. And since it takes about 30-40 days to develop a habit, starting to tighten up in January is a smart move to developing a better financial habit to get you through the year and end it in the black. Here are three ways that you can tighten up your expenses so you spend fewer dollars this month:
Don’t luxury shop. This is most likely what caused you to overspend last month. Stick to the basics of just what you and your family need this month and you may find you can get by on a lot less than you thought. Set a goal and challenge yourself to “live on the basics” for a whole month and reward yourself with a small treat next month if you can do it.
Don’t stockpile. If you are one to “stock up” at the discount warehouse stores, try buying just what your family needs for this month—and only if they need it—with the goal of ending the month in the black.
Don’t pay full price. There are so many coupons, deals and buy-one-get-one-free offers these days (especially after Christmas) that you really don’t need to pay full price for anything. Ever. So make it a challenge to get a deal, discount or “free item” with every purchase you make this month. There are aps like Retail Me Not and Offers.com to help you find local deals and save money on everything from meals to makeup.
Stretch it Out. If you’re like my daughter, you toss things once they begin to show wear, or once the contents have neared the bottom of the container. But try stretching out the shampoo to the very last drop, squeezing the toothpaste until no more comes out, and using the last bit of the cereal by combining it with the contents of another box. Depending on how much you use that particular product, you could be saving yourself another week or month’s worth of use! By stretching it out, you are also making yourself aware of how much you are using, which will help you use it more sparingly in the future. Waste not. Want not. And that amounts to buying less when you don’t have the money for it.
Think it Through. You and I don’t have the money this month for impulse buys, which get us into trouble anyway. Start making a list every time you shop and vow to not buy anything else on it, unless it’s absolutely necessary. If you find a “deal” that looks good, think about it at least 3-4 hours before you buy. That way the urge leaves you, the impulse is over and common sense is most likely there to persuade you against the purchase. And if it’s a “now or never” deal that doesn’t give you time to think, then the best choice is almost always “never.” There’s never regret when you take the time to think it through. You may want to think through a more practical budget for this year, too, especially in light of any incurred debt from Christmas. Budget a way to pay for what you couldn’t last month. Set aside money for unanticipated expenses and save for future special occasions or planned purchases. There’s always a way to plan for the future when you continually think through your budget and monthly expenses.
Are you ready to tighten it up, stretch it out and think it through? Chances are you’ll learn some new financial habits to help you save more and spend less in the coming year.
Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker and author of 15 books, including When Women Walk Alone (more than 125,000 copies sold), When Couples Walk Together (co-authored with her husband, Hugh) which includes ways to save money together, and her most recent, 10 Secrets to Becoming a Worry-Free Mom. Her newest book, Drama Free, releases in April. For more on Cindi’s ministry, or for free articles to strengthen your soul, marriage or parenting, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com or connect with her on Facebook.
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