“I want to cut my spending, but how?” Here are some emergency measures to try

I know, cutting spending can be hard. Seriously, I know. The world is full of lovely things that demand to be PURCHASED! I get it. But being good with your money involves putting your big girl knickers on and making some sacrifices. So let me share some ideas with you that should help you kickstart a spending cutting spree (that’s like, the complete opposite of a spending spree).

First thing, you need to be tracking your spending (I am so not kidding about this you guys – no. 1 skill). Once you’re doing that – try some or all of these things.

1. Try a cash diet

I have always found this super hard to do, but it is an amazing way to dramatically cut your spending. People who are better than me at life do all-cash diets – they pay their rent with cash, and all of their bills, and use cash money to pay for gas. To me, that sounds like a giant ballache. When I cash diet (get it? Like crash diet, but not really?) I go for reasonable. I pay my rent/mortgage, utilities, and Netflix subscription with credit cards or debit orders, and then I budget out how much I want to spend on everything else for the month. I divide that amount up by week (like, $100 for groceries, a $100 for cat toys, a $100 for shopping a week).

Then I put the cash into labelled envelopes (“groceries”, “cat toys”). And then I DO NOT DRAW ANY MORE CASH. I can only use what’s in the envelopes. If I spend it all and there’s a great sale, I feel sad and that is all.

Like crash dieting, cash dieting is pretty extreme. But unlike crash dieting, it’s effective. Try it for a month: make a game of it, tweet about it, do it with a friend, treat it like a drinking game, whatever encourages you to give it a bash. You will be amazed.

2.  Identify your spending sucks, and plug them up

Everyone has something that they spend money on when they don’t really need to. My husband buys gaming minis, with me its makeup (I buy SO much makeup), some people spend $100 a month on fancy coffee, other people have a music download problem – there’s always something.

Identify your personal spending suck – trust me, it’ll be obvious (spending $200 a week at Banana Republic? You may have a clothing addiction). Then think about ways you can plug this hole in your budget without feeling sad and deprived. There are a lot of ways you can do this. For example, I do a few things to manage my makeup addiction.

- I keep half of my makeup in a box. When I am feeling the burning need to spend a MILLION DOLLARS at Sephora, I open up the box, and shop my stash. I switch out some products that I’ve been using for stuff I haven’t used in a while, and the itch is scratched.

- Wait for sales. It’s not like I’m never going to buy makeup again. I am not made of willpower. So I wait for sales. I shop Hautelook, I scan the weekly drugstore sales, I wait for the Balm to have 50% off, I wait for the Sephora sales, or for Ulta coupons – my goal is to never pay full price. I also spend a lot of time researching products before I buy them. It satisfies some of my shopping craving, and is free.

- Set aside a cash budget for your spending suck, and stick to it. This is similar to the cash diet, but focused on one sticky part of your spending. Put aside a reasonable amount for your suck - $100 is a good amount – and spend no more than that.

3. Try a no-buy

This is another intense idea. As you probably know, a no-buy is when you… er… don’t buy things. Try it for a month – pay your bills (obviously!) and buy groceries, but do not buy a single thing that is not absolutely necessary to keep you alive. This is VERY tough, but it’s also really empowering – it helps you realize just how much control you actually have over your spending. The daily latte, the H&M shirt, the funny lunch box, the glass of fancy wine out – those are all choices, not necessities, and if you want to spend less, you totally can. Again, enlist your social network to support you on this – research shows we’re way more likely to stick to things like diets or cutting spending if we tell other people about it.

These are some intense spending cut ideas. In future posts, I’ll talk about some more practical ideas, but I say if you’re gonna go, go big.