Making smart financial decisions even when you feel too busy

Aug 7, 2019, 11:10 AM by Denali 


When school picks up and the year gets hectic, it’ll get harder to stick to your financial goals. Starting new and adjusting to different schedules and responsibilities can be stressful—and studies have shown that people tend to spend more when they’re stressed. Taking steps to ease the pressure and make decisions ahead of time will keep spending in check and help prevent you from choosing the easy option.

Take a day before buying

On average, each US consumer spends about $5,400 annually on impulse buys. This includes small things like candy or soda at checkout, along with bigger things like clothing or home goods.

Many purchases are made not with logic, but with emotion, or a sense of urgency that is created by a deal or discount. When you’re under stress, the effects of these impulse buys become even worse.

There’s one way to safeguard yourself from these purchases that can be so detrimental to long-term success: waiting. Before pulling the trigger on a purchase, you should wait at least a day. Giving yourself time to clear your mind will ensure you are in a relaxed mental state and able to decide without the influence of other shoppers, advertising, or your own emotions.

Pay yourself first

This is one of the most crucial things people forget when it comes to money management. Your savings should be a non-negotiable. Without even giving it a thought, the first thing you do with your paycheck is put a portion of it away in a savings account that you don’t touch. Live off the rest and don’t dip into savings unless it is absolutely necessary.

Maintaining this habit can help maintain your future security. If an emergency or new opportunity were ever to arise years down the road, you’d be prepared.

Remember time equals money

Logic can be hard to grasp when all you can feel at the checkout counter is an intense need for a specific item. If all reason has failed and can’t talk yourself out of a purchase, try and think about the time it took you to earn the money.

If you make $15 an hour, and you’re eyeing a new purse that costs $90, that’s nine hours of work right there. If that bag is was not worth nine hours of work to you, then you might want to consider putting it back and walking away. If you wouldn’t work for it, then it’s not worth it.

Always have a plan

How much do you spend on convenience items? Things like fast food, a coffee on the go, and packs of gum add up. Planning ahead can help eliminate some of these unnecessary costs.

Instead of eating out, pack a lunch. Make coffee at home. Allocate a specific amount per month for miscellaneous purchases, and don’t exceed it. And always walk into the store with some kind of a plan. Don’t just wander into Walmart hoping to find what you need. Write out a list. Otherwise, you could end up walking out with a bag full of items that doesn’t even include what you originally visited for.

Taking steps to control the stress and make decisions ahead of time will keep spending in check, especially during the school year when there are many activities and events to keep track of.

Focus on your long-term goals

Each small purchase you make, however inconsequential it may seem, means less money you can put towards major goals. When saving seems difficult, think of the one thing you’re working towards. Maybe it’s a house, maybe it’s a vacation, or maybe it’s a college education—whatever it is, remind yourself why you want it and what you need to get there. Don’t compromise your future for something temporary now.

Give yourself reasonable rewards

Overspending can happen when people are stressed and want to treat themselves to something nice. There’s nothing wrong to treating yourself when you’ve worked hard---but it should be reasonable and proportional to what has been accomplished.

Going out every weekend to an expensive restaurant probably wouldn’t constitute a treat, it really is more reckless spending. Treating yourself in a reasonable way looks more like allowing yourself that candy bar at check out or some fast food on the way home. The treat doesn’t even have to be monetary. You could a movie on hold at the library and watch it. Host a game night with friends. Get outside. Anything you enjoy that will take your mind off the money for a bit.

The information contained within this article is for informational purposes and should not be considered financial advice. Everyone’s financial situations are unique and you should consult a financial advisor for assistance with your particular situation and goals.