Getting into good spending habits

By Ali
Category: Financial | Date: Fri 07 Nov, 2008

Whether you’re a first-year in charge of your own finances for the first time in your life, or a PhD student struggling to make ends meet, get into good spending habits now. It’ll make uni go much more smoothly – along with the rest of your life.

If you know your spending can be a bit out of control, here’s some good habits to start adopting:

Be aware of how much you spend

Have you ever tried keeping a record of what you spend? It can be quite an eye-opener! If you seem to be constantly broke, and can’t figure out where the money’s going, try logging your spending for a couple of weeks. You might find that all those sandwiches and coffees, magazines and CDs, are adding up…

Another good way to be aware of your spending is to register for online banking, and check your statement online every few days. That shopping trip where you put everything on a card, and completely lost track of what it was all adding up to? You’ll be able to see exactly what you spent in each store.

Treat your overdraft as an emergency buffer

Far too many people view their overdraft as “free money”. Remember that even if it’s interest-free, it’s still debt; you’re going to have to pay that money back eventually. There’s nothing fun about spending a summer stacking shelves just to pay off your overdraft – so unless you genuinely need the money, start treating your overdraft as “emergency use only”.

Post-uni, a lot of full-time employees end up the trap of being constantly overdrawn by the end of the month; it’s wise to start being sensible about your overdraft now so that this doesn’t happen to you.

Don’t use shopping as a mood-enhancer

If you’re feeling a bit down, it’s easy to pop to the shops and treat yourself to a magazine, a new CD, new clothes, or whatever it is that makes you happy. Try to get out of this habit – shopping to improve your mood doesn’t work in the long run.

Of course, I’m not saying you should never go shopping just for fun, but be aware that buying new stuff won’t improve your mood for long – especially when you see your bank balance afterwards.

Ask yourself questions before you buy

When you’re thinking of buying something, ask yourself a few questions first – this is a great way to cut back on impulse purchases:

  • Will I use it?
  • Is it worth it?
  • Have I checked if it’s cheaper anywhere else?

(These are the questions that the money-saving guru Martin Lewis recommends on MoneySavingExpert.com)

Whenever possible, shop around. Online shopping is great for this, as you can check the price of a DVD on various sites – Play.com, Amazon.co.uk, HMV.co.uk and so on – to find out where it’s cheapest. There’s nothing more galling than buying something at full-price only to find out it was discounted at a different shop.

Buy second hand where possible

Often, you can slash the price of something by buying second hand. Cars are a great example, but on a more day-to-day level, books and clothes are almost always available second-hand. Charity shops have an abundance of both, and are definitely worth a look.

If you love a particular brand of clothing, or a particular shop, try searching on ebay. You can often get brand new items (complete with tags) for just a few pounds. For books, always check Amazon’s second-hand sellers – again, you can get brand new books very cheaply. Unread copies of mass-market novels are often available for under £3.

Over to you

Further reading:

Do you spend more than you mean to? Or do you have a tight grip on your budget? Let us know your experiences in the comments…


7 comments:

  1. Thanks a lot for these tips! I am not a student, but I did graduate in 07 and am still adopting a frugal lifestyle. I prefer to travel vs. buy things so I am always looking to save money where I can.

    The idea of asking yourself before buying is a important tool. Whenever I see something I want at the store, I always wait until I come back. If I still want it then, I will buy it. It stops me from buying things on the spot and then regretting it later.

    Awesome blog by the way, I found it through your post on Problogger. Keep it up!

  2. Hi Justin,

    Ex-students are just as welcome here as current students — the student mindset dies hard! I too live a fairly frugal lifestyle, despite not being quite as hard up as I was as an undergrad.

    Your tip of avoiding buying on the spot is a great one; I do that too, and it’s surprising how many things I find I didn’t really want in the first place, they just caught my eye.

    Glad you like the blog, and hope you’ll be sticking around!

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