The very idea of only paying for what you need right now may seem like impossible advice to follow during this time of year. However, it’s important to focus on reining in your budget again after the holiday rush is over. Even if you didn’t take on any new debt to buy gifts, you may just find that the recent slackening on a normally airtight budget can make it a little too easy to continue on that path. I know that’s a problem I encounter this time every year!
That’s why this is a great time to talk about how to delay your desire for instant gratification and only pay for what you need right now. Here are a few strategies that I intend to try this year. If you’ve got some of your own, please share them in the comments below!
What do I mean by this? Well, you could spend all other eleven months of the year staying on top of your finances and not spending a dime over your budget. But then the holidays roll around and suddenly you’re required to go shopping and spend money on many people in your life. Once all that’s said and done, it’s not necessarily that easy to start back over on your budget. Imagine if you gave up coffee and did well all year, but then had a few cups in one month. Suddenly, you’re back to square one on giving up the coffee again! That means brand new cravings to fight off that you haven’t dealt with in a long time. This situation can prove to be quite challenging.
The first step to making sure you don’t continue the holiday spending all year is to remove yourself from temptation. For me, temptation = the mall. I avoid the mall like the plague all year long which makes it easy to not spend money on things I want but don’t need (cough *Sephora addiction* cough). But when I have no choice but go shopping for holiday gifts, I’m back in the place I’ve avoided all year. I have a steadfast rule for myself to cut out those weekend mall trips as soon as Christmas day arrives.
Another possible temptation – internet shopping. If you found yourself pulling out that credit card online to buy gifts this year, make sure you un-bookmark any of those sites and put a ReadyForZero sticker over your credit card number. That way you can break the habit of online purchases quickly and easily.
Create a List
The funny thing I’ve noticed about this time of year is that I’m much more likely to go out and buy something as soon as I think I need it instead of waiting and giving it more thought. For the other eleven months of the year, if I want something I put it on my list and strategically decide if and when I can make the purchase. But shopping is like a frenzy for me and holiday shopping for others makes it that much easier for me to swipe that card for my own wants. To ensure I don’t keep it up, I have to focus back on my budget and my list.
Do you have a list? If not, now’s a great time to start one! You can put it on your refrigerator, your desk, or anywhere else that is easy to find. Then, as soon as you know you want or need something, add it to your list. It’s sort of like a grocery list – but for bigger life purchases.
Making the list won’t help much unless you then prioritize it. For example, the first page of your list can be in order of what you want as it comes to mind. Then the second page is the list rewritten in order of when you truly need to have each item. This could be a month from now or several months for now. Just knowing that you intend to make the purchase helps you feel gratified that you’ll get what you need – but making sure it’s not until you absolutely must have it empowers you to stay in control of your budget and avoid debt.
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Create a Strategy
Avoiding temptation? Check. List of desires prioritized? Check. Now it’s time to make a plan for how you’ll pay for the top priorities on your list. The idea here is not to charge anything on the credit card, but to wait to pay until you can do so in cash. In order to do this, sit down with your budget and determine the amount you have extra each month to apply to the things on your list.
Then determine how long it will take to make each of your priorities happen. Don’t be surprised if you suddenly find yourself re-prioritizing your list at this point. Priorities can change a lot when logistics are being realistically taken into consideration. So once you know exactly what you need and how you’re going to make this happen, keep up this process any time a new need arises. That way you can always make sure that you’re only paying for what you need right now.
With diligence, we can all reign in our spending after the holidays and make sure that these few short weeks don’t blow our budget mind-frames for the first half of the year. Give these tips a try to see if they help you out – I know I’ll be taking these steps!
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