Author: Dave Ramsey
1. Let the budget be your guide.
We’ve all been living in the same really strange science-fiction novel. Stores were shut down, you didn’t leave the house, and if you wanted to buy something, it was from the comfort of your living room and delivered to your front door. And after making it through all of that, you (like a lot of people) might be looking forward to getting out there and having the freedom to shop, eat out, and go about your life like you used to.
We get it. We all get it. But just because you haven’t set foot in a mall for a billion years, that doesn’t give you permission to throw your budget out the window and fall for impulse buys. Challenge yourself to live by this motto: If it’s not in the budget, it’s not happening. Plain and simple.
And remember, the budget doesn’t have to be like a taser zapping you every time you try to reach in your wallet to spend some money. If you want to set aside some cash for fun spending, go for it! Just make sure you’ve already planned for it ahead of time in your budget.
2. Unsubscribe to emails.
Everybody has a sale going on right now. You’ve noticed it too, right? Email after email is flooding your inbox, letting you know there’s a sale out there with your name on it. Every company wants you to come and help out the economy by buying stuff from them. How thoughtful.
Hey, they’re just trying to make sure their business stays afloat in these weird times. And that’s totally fine! But if you’re trying to steer clear of spending temptations, know that you’ve got the power to use that unsubscribe button.
3. Let go of comparisons.
Did your next-door neighbor spend their stimulus check on a new tile backsplash in the kitchen (and they tell you all about it any chance they get)? Take a page from Frozen’s playbook on this one and let it go.
Comparisons, aka keeping up with the Joneses, will eat away at you if you’re not careful. It’s a slippery slope, and spoiler alert—it doesn’t lead to anything good at all. You’ll start noticing all the things you don’t have instead of being grateful for the things you do have. And at the end of the day, all that does is create a heart full of unrest instead of a heart of gratitude.
4. Take a break from social media.
You don’t have to go far (or even walk out your front door) to feel the bite of the comparison bug—thanks, social media. Think about it: You’re minding your own business, scrolling through your newsfeed, when a photo of someone’s latest new tech gizmo, super hip room décor or brand-new home pops up. At first, you’re genuinely happy for them, but then that twisty feeling hits you in your gut. You start to think about how you don’t have those things—and how much better your life would be if you did!
And social media marketing doesn’t help either. Ads target you based on the things you buy, the people or businesses you follow, and even your search history! Yeah, it’s pretty creepy when you stop and think about it. So, if you’re trying to keep overspending at bay, consider a social media break or at least limiting the time and attention you give to it.
5. Practice delayed gratification.
All right, you’ve stayed at home for months. You’ve learned how to live without seeing other people, going to a salon, or wearing real pants. You even learned how to ration the toilet paper. It’s safe to say you’re somewhat of a pro at delayed gratification now. It’s pretty easy to “do without” when you’ve gone without.
If you’re trying to avoid splurging post-quarantine, then keep right on with delaying the gratification. What’s that look like exactly? For starters, wait at least 24–48 hours before making a purchase (so you can really think about it). And maybe you need to start a sinking fund to save up for the expense you want.
Be Smart About Your Spending
It’s exciting to see businesses opening back up again, people getting out of their houses, and things getting back to a new kind of normal. And maybe your job is secure, you saved up a lot of money during quarantine, and now you’re eager to get out there and support some local businesses. There’s definitely a way to stimulate the economy without going totally overboard with your spending. Here’s how to do it:
Make a budget.
Shocker, we know. Bet you didn’t see that one coming. Still, it needs to be said—making a budget is just setting a plan for your money and telling it exactly what to do. The tricky part is actually sticking to it, but you can do it.
Whatever kind of spending you plan on doing, it’s got to be in the budget. So maybe you add a few more bucks to your clothing budget or restaurant budget for the month. Or maybe you want to make a separate line item for eating at restaurants you want to support, sprucing up your front lawn landscaping, or adding a piece of non-loungewear to your closet. Use SmartDollar‘s budgeting tool, EveryDollar, to give a job to each dollar in your budget. And whatever kind of spending you plan on doing, make sure you set a limit to it.
Make a list.
All right, so you’re out of quarantine, your budget is locked and loaded, and you’re ready to go. You want to support local business in your community, and the list of things you want to buy is growing by the day. Woah there, cowboy. Take a step back. It’s time to make a list. Write down the items you’re looking at or businesses you want to support. Then prioritize it all so you know what’s most important to you.
Let’s say you set aside $100 in your budget for some post-quarantine spending. Your priority list will help you go through and figure out where your money’s going to go. Maybe you’re like a lot of people and want to go have a nice dinner somewhere, maybe you want to have a new paint color in your bonus room, or maybe you just want a haircut. Whatever it is, put it on the list. And when you’ve hit your budgeted amount, that’s all she wrote!
Don’t Blow Your Savings
Sure, supporting local business is great, but don’t use that as an excuse to justify your overspending. The economy will bounce back eventually, it doesn’t need you dropping $5,000 on a new furniture set to make it happen. So don’t let your spending get out of control! You’ve worked hard to build up this nice little savings cushion, so don’t go and blow it just because stores are opening back up again and you’ve got pent-up spending to do.
If you did tuck away a lot of money during the pandemic, take that money and keep plugging away at the Baby Steps (once things start to look stable for you). As life gets back to normal, make it a point to remember to live like you did during this season—being thankful for what you have, living on less than you make, and favoring saving over spending.