8 Ways to Stop Spending Money You Don’t Have
I get emails all the time from people asking me how can they get their budgets under control to stop spending money. It’s never fun to live paycheck-to-paycheck, not to mention how stressful it can be! It’s a tough situation to be in, not to mention a scary one!
I’m here to help!
My family has lived off of one income since the birth of my oldest son almost 6 years ago. And not just one income… but a really, really low income: an income that was only up to $17,000 a year at its peak when we had a family of four.
So how did a family living below the poverty line buy a house, 2 cars, and build a savings account?
Magic, obviously! And by “magic,” I mean Making A Grossly Incredible Change.
The cold, hard truth of it is this: we had to stop spending money that we just didn’t have!
Something in the way that we were handling money wasn’t working. Our issue wasn’t just that we didn’t have money, but that when we got the money, we spent it. And we spent it on anything. 99% of the trouble that people have with money isn’t that there isn’t enough of it, but in that, there is no plan for it once you actually get it!
I’m not going to tell you “a really great way to save a whole lot of money is by not buying toilet paper!” I love saving money, but even that is a ridiculous statement. You need toilet paper! No, that’s not what I’m going to tell you.
Find more money saving resources here:
- How to Make Saving Money Easy
- Save Money When You Live Paycheck-to-Paycheck
- Money Saving Hacks from an Extreme Cheapskate
- Money Saving Websites That Thrifty People Love
- 11 Expenses to Stop Spending Money On
You can also find some great and easy way to start a side hustle to make some more money here:
- How to Start a Profitable Blog the Right Way
- October 2017 Blogging Income Report: $12,007
- How to Become a Virtual Assistant and Make a Full-Time Income Doing It!
- Make a Full Time Income From Home Proofreading
- Earn $40,000 per Year From Home as a Bookkeeper
- Make More Money by Freelance Writing
- Take Easy Surveys, Make Money
- 5 Side Hustles That Pay For My Groceries (and More!)
Here are 8 ways to stop spending money that you don’t have:
Write down your goals.
Start your week with goals. “I want to stay $20 under budget on groceries.” “I only want to spend $50 this month on clothes that we need for the family.” They could even be bigger goals, too! “I want to save up $500 this month.” Or “I want to get out of debt by the end of the year.”
If you write them down, your goals are able to be seen and tracked easily. You can also be held accountable by your husband, your kids or even (if you hang them up on the refrigerator) people who see them in your house.
Make your weekly budget.
I absolutely hate a monthly budget. It is completely ridiculous to me to be able to keep track of that amount of money. The best that I’ve ever heard it compared is to a diet: if you’re counting calories, you’re not going to count your calories for the entire month. That’s just insane!
You want to do it for a smaller amount of time that’s easy to keep track of. A weekly budget is a lot easier to keep track of than a monthly one. I’m much happier to keep a $100 in my wallet than I am to keep $500 in my wallet.
Related: 10 Habits of Highly Frugal People
Use cash only!
I know, everyone is done with hearing it, but you know what… using cash really works. My husband is a spender. And it took a long time for him to get into the habit of controlling himself (this is why I make him have his own bank account). Giving him cash really, really helped control his spending!
It took a while, but after a few weeks of blowing through all of his weekly spending money in the first day, he got used to the budget and the amount that he had to spend. And once he got used to it, it really worked for him. Having cash really helps to put in perspective just how much money you have to spend or how much money you spent on something silly.
For me, it was the one time I went out and bought a new microwave. Why did I do this? I have no idea! Maybe because it was shiny and red… but, either way… I only had $50 to spend that week (back when it was just my husband and myself before we had kids), and after my purchase of the microwave that we didn’t need, I had $15 to buy groceries for the rest of the week. Not just in the budget, but in the bank account! Yikes!
Bad choice! Obviously, I returned the microwave! But if I had the cash system in place, I never would have picked up the microwave…I would’ve just kept walking and finished my grocery shopping.
Shopping with a list.
This is a lifesaver and a game changer. It’s so simple! Literally, all you have to do is write down what you need in the house that week.
Make the list, and stick to it. If you only need to get chicken and vegetables and some pasta at the house for the week, there’s no reason for you to be going to the snack food section. It’s a trap!
My friend Tiffany from Eat at Home has meal plans for $1.61 per week that will create your entire shopping list for you. All you have to do is pick the meals that you want for the week and then you’ve got your shopping list without ever needing to do any work!
Pro tip! : If you find yourself getting hungry when you go to the grocery store and impulse buying when you’re hungry, try bringing some nuts in your purse while you’re at the store. Being hungry and going grocery shopping is just not healthy for anybody!
Related: 20 Things Frugal People Don’t Do
Create a meal plan!
This is honestly the biggest game changer for your budget. Meal planning helps you to plan your week, never run out of food, and never forget what you need from the store.
It’s a sanity and budget saver like nothing I’ve seen before. My husband and I – just the 2 of us, before kids – would spend $1,200 EACH MONTH on food! We’d fill our cart at the grocery store, then go get takeout on the way home. Most of the food would sit and go bad in the fridge. And most of our meals were takeout even though we’d still spend a lot of money at the grocery store.
I tried making my own meal plans with the grocery lists, but I’d always miss a crucial ingredient or mess up the overly complicated recipe.
Which is why I’m more than happy to pay the $1.61 per week to Tiffany from Eat at Home to make my meal plans, my shopping list, and save me tons of time and money.
I absolutely love meal planning. Since I know exactly what will be cooked in my house for the week, I know exactly what I will need at the grocery store that week (thanks to Tiffany’s handy grocery list). It’s really convenient to know what you will be buying at the grocery store before you even have to go in there but it is also less wasteful.
Not sure if you have the time to meal plan?
Trust me – I don’t either! Which is why the Eat at Home meals are the best! Tiffany takes all of the guessing and hard work out of meal planning. Now all you need to do is buy the ingredients on the pre-made shopping list and you’re all set for the week!
Despite the fact that there’s plenty of things that you can do to stretch your grocery budget and to use up all of your leftovers, you just don’t want to waste in the first place. Almost 40% of all the food that you buy ends up in the trash.
If you are able to meal plan, you will absolutely waste less food because you will know exactly what you have on hand.
Figure out where you went wrong in the past.
Did you have a really bad month last month? Why did you overspend? Was there an issue with planning? Or was it just impulsion? Did you overspend because of a holiday that you failed to plan for? Whatever it was, figure out where exactly you went wrong and what you can do the stop it from happening again.
And don’t be so hard on yourself! When you’re just starting out, sticking to a budget is hard. It’s really, really hard! There’s no denying it. It just is and it doesn’t always have to be. But give yourself grace. And remember that we are all not perfect. We are all human! Even people who are complete budgeting gurus and financial masters have a bad month and they overspend. Breathe in, breathe out, learn from your mistakes, and move on. You can do this!
Avoid shopping for FUN.
Remember my story of the microwave? Yeah… that was just “shopping for fun.” I’ll admit that sometimes I go window shopping at stores like Pottery Barn or Anthropologie (just to try to get a good idea for decorating tips that I can then go to Pinterest and find for cheap). I know myself too well. No matter how much I like the scent of a candle from Anthropologie, I’m not going to pay $80 for it. So for me, there’s just no temptation that comes along with shopping at big-name places.
Where I will not shop “just for fun” are yard sales or Target. I am a sucker for the idea that “it was on sale! I saved so much money by buying this accent rug for $30 instead of the regular price of $120!” No, you still spent $30.
Get into the habit of not going out to go shopping just because you have nothing else to do. If you don’t go to the store then you can’t spend money right?!
Find free fun!
This is the biggest and best way to not spend money! It seems so obvious, but it’s shockingly hard. “Date nights” are constantly expected to be at least $100, between dinner, a babysitter, and a movie or show. It doesn’t have to be that way at all! There are so many other things to do that won’t need you to break the bank just to have some fun.
- Here are 50 + free or cheap family fun ideas that I do with my family to spend time together without spending money.
- Going out on a budget is even easier than you might think!
- Hanging out with friends doesn’t have to put you in the poorhouse. There’s so much fun to be had without needing a $300 Girls’ Night Out every weekend!
- TheDatingDivas.com is an amazing and fun resource for all things dating. You can find a lot of fun ideas for date night games and printables on their site.
It’s true that you can stop spending money. If it takes putting your debit card and credit cards under lock and key (maybe burying them in the yard after putting them in cement), then do it! Letting your money own you is no way to live. Plan for fun, but make sure that you plan!
Related posts and resources:
- 11 Expenses to Stop Spending Money On
- The Class That Saved Me $10,800/ Year (& Taught Me How to Cook!)
- How Much Should I Budget for Groceries?
- 6 Steps to Drastically Reduce Your Grocery Budget
- How to Feed Your Family on a Budget (so You Don’t Feel Poor)
- How to Save Money When You’re Broke
- Take Imperfect Action When Budgeting
- 10 Reasons Why You Need An Emergency Fund
- Budgeting Books You NEED to Read
- The Best Budget System When You Can’t Budget
- 30+ Real Ways to Earn Money From Home
- Money Saving Hacks from an Extreme Cheapskate
What do you do to stop spending money?
Join the FREE 10 Day Side Hustles That Work Challenge!
Here's my challenge to you:
Can you pay for your grocery bill with your side hustle?
Take the challenge!
(PS - NONE of them have to do with sales!)
Bring in extra income without having to spend a penny. I want to share with you the side hustles that I love that help my family every month.