So you’re dead set on saving. You’ve created a new budget, listed the amounts and deadlines for each savings goal, and feel a glowing sense of satisfaction as you jot it all down in your bullet journal. Now all you need to do is stick to your new budget and check up on things every so often, right?
If only it were that easy. Besides staying motivated, you’re prone to feeling deprived when trying to save. If you put yourself on a diet, you might lust after a burger and fries as you peck at your salad. Similarly, if you’re constantly feeling like you’re missing out when you put yourself on a budget, you risk going hog wild on a splurge or may fall off the bandwagon entirely.
Here are some ways you can manage those nagging feelings of want when you’re on a budget:
Start with the easy wins
Along the lines of the Marie-Kondo approach to clutter, assess your spending habits and figure out what things bring you the most joy or value. Don’t make any drastic changes to spending on the things you love, and cut back on the stuff you’re more blasé about.
For instance, if you love your pressed juices, while they’re pricey, don’t stop drinking them—not at first, anyway. You’ll just start to hate life and revert to your old spending habits. Rather, look for spending areas that don’t add as much value to your life. For instance, if you don’t care what kind of deodorant you use, spring for the generic version. While deodorant is a small thing, that kind of approach can lead to larger savings. Case in point: If you’re not a car person, get an older, used car instead of a fancier one.
You can also cut back on expenses that are unnecessary or redundant. Have a gym membership but get your fair share of exercise at softball practice? Drop the gym pass. Also, don’t forget those expenses that have fallen off the radar. You can use apps like Trim to help you find the subscriptions you no longer need and can cancel.
Swap it, don’t stop it
Instead of doing a spending freeze on the things you love, find less-expensive alternatives. If you love craft beers, check out a happy hour at your favorite local brewery. Love weekend getaways? See if you can get the same "experiential high" by taking a day trip via train. And going back to the pressed juices, maybe you can drink less of them every week, or split each bottle into two smaller servings.
I did this when I set out making changes to my health and diet last year. I tried to go cold turkey with the chips, but after a week or so, was stuffing my face with Doritos. I took a step back, and opted for snacks that were still salty but not as bad for me, such as popcorn. Over time, I found myself weaning off the junk food and eating healthier.
Pinpoint the emotional triggers
Our relationship with money is complex. There are a lot of feelings linked to how we perceive and in turn treat our money. If you’re overspending, there may be an underlying emotional basis.
"What’s important is that people figure out what it is that people are shopping for," explains April Lane Benson, PhD and author of To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop. "It’s not that 8th pair of black boots. It might be something closer to home, such as self-esteem, or love and affection."
See if you can figure out what is it exactly that triggers you to overspend—boredom, anxiety, stress—and work on fixing that instead. Over time, you may lessen the urge to spend money on stuff you don’t.
Allow for the occasional mini-splurge
Give yourself permission to have a "money cheat day" every so often. And set a limit as to how much you can spend. Try creating a guilt-free spending fund with small pockets of cash—change saved in a jar or cash you received for your birthday.
Once you set foot in a store, you’ll be more tempted to buy things you don’t need. Retailers use a handful of tricks designed to make you spend more when you’re in the store. The easiest way to avoid spending money is by not going inside in the first place.
The same applies to online shopping. As tempting as it may be, avoid browsing Amazon during your breaks at work. It also might be easier to avoid impulse buys by unfollowing your favorite brands and retailers on Instagram.
As hokey as it may sound, cultivating abundance – focusing on the things you already have – works. There’s a good chance that you have far more than you need. I stopped buying as much stuff after I went on a massive purge the last year. Getting rid of stuff was so mentally taxing that nowadays I am far more selective about what I buy. If you want to purge some of your belongings, you can sell them on online marketplaces such as decluttr, OfferUp, or Tradesy. A bonus is that you’ll earn cash you can sock away.
Managing deprivation when trying to save is no easy feat. Nobody will ever be perfect at it, but by employing a few tricks, you’ll find yourself slipping up less and sticking to your savings goals more.