How to be really good at spending

Budgeting, Savings, and Money Management
By Becca Allison

Can you become a smart shopper? Can you be better at spending your money? Let’s face it, we all must spend money. Whether to buy the basics, or to splurge a bit, we have compiled the 8 best tricks to make sure that when you spend, you do it wisely.

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We all have our talents: Some of us are athletic. Some of us can sing like the greatest. And some of us can cook up chicken and rice that would make your grandmother cry tears of joy. But is there anyone out there who can say that their greatest talent is spending money?

No, I’m not talking to you shop-a-holics who blow your money every day on things you don’t need and, frankly, don’t have the money for. That isn’t exactly something one gets commended for. I’m talking to the smart shoppers who spend their money the right way. Is that even possible? To spend your money the right way?

Contrary to what you might think, you don’t have to be a coupon queen to be a smart shopper. It just comes down to knowing how to spend the right amount on the right stuff at the right time. Here’s the thing. There isn’t an exact formula for this, so if you were looking for a step-by-step instruction manual that tells you exactly when to buy what, you’re out of luck. Instead, consider this to be more like one of those lifestyle columns, offering advice and general guidelines on how to improve your life. (Maybe one day, Instagram bloggers will be talking about this very post.)

  1. Keep an eye on price

    If you’ve got an upcoming purchase in mind, start off on the good old Google, MSN, Bing, or any other search engine. Smart spenders are always aware of prices of what they’re going to buy, whether the purchase is big or small. If you’re writing up your grocery list, consider researching to see which store everything has you want for less. That may mean making a couple of different trips for different items. Or, if you’re saving up for that brand-new TV, which retailer will have the best price? Is a store running a special sale? Have you checked out the clearance section?

    Always keep in mind, particularly when considering the prices of your future purchases, that prices can fluctuate throughout the year, or even throughout the week for certain grocery items. Try to make yourself aware of which stores offer the best prices, or when is the best time of the year to make a specific purchase. Don’t forget that many stores will do price matching.

    With enough information and some basic negotiation skills, you can always the best deal possible. As far as online shopping goes- be weary. We have seen retailers like Amazon allow their vendors to increase price on some items when the demand is higher- something a retail store can’t immediately do. Bottom line is always price compare and do your research.

  2. No more impulse purchases

    This is the downfall of so many shoppers, and for good reason! We’re only human, so it’s easy to give in to temptation. Social media has become a huge marketing business, and you now you can see and know everyone’s moves and purchases. You never see any of these people miss their credit card payment, or getting things for free for their pictures. In the meantime, you are trying to keep up, or at least thinking of those things you also should be buying for yourself. And now, with tailored ads being served to you all day long, with the ease of a click you can buy anything you see, almost immediately. This is great in many ways, if you really need something, but often it leads to impulse shopping and overspending.

    One way to keep yourself safe from falling into the black hole of useless materialism, is to determine based on your budget (read the 4 Easy Steps to Budgeting) how much money you can burn through every month. This allows you to make some impulse purchases without completely hurting your financial future.

    Some impulse buys are harmless, like that pack of gum in the grocery store checkout line, or the pair of tennis shoes on sale that you have been wanting. Others are just simply unnecessary, will throw your budget off and will only give you temporary satisfaction. It can be hard to know when to draw the line, so what do you do?

  3. Hit that unfollow button

    I hate to say it, but it could be time to break up...with your favorite brand or your favorite influencer who is always selling you something.

    Well, not completely. You still have permission to shop when you need it, but it could be time to stop being “Facebook-official” or “Instagram follower” and end that online relationship. Unfollowing those tempting sites or people can help you not to splurge when THEY want you to (remember those specifically tailored-to-your ads I mentioned?). Instead, you can just look them up when you really need some inspiration and not be tempted by every single sale. Or if you have become immune to the constant “buy now” messages, keep on for inspiration, but always go back to your budget and you’re a quick “do I really need this” analysis for those impulsive thoughts on purchases.

  4. Mission impossible

    We invite you to do a small challenge. Love shopping for clothes or shoes? Watches? We all have a sweet spot. I won’t keep you from having fun - you should still be able to do it! That’s right, go ahead. Go to the mall and try on all the clothes your heart desires. But here’s the catch - you can’t buy anything. Not for two weeks. If those two weeks go by and you still can’t stop dreaming about how good you looked in those jeans, how your life is incomplete without that watch, those shoes, then go see if you can find the item somewhere for sale and buy it.  But be careful not to add many other things to your purchase. If you feel an impulse again, follow this two-week rule. You will see how it starts changing your impulsive shopping habits.

  5. Monitor your drinking habits

    No - I haven’t been talking to your mother. This may sound odd, but this is good for two reasons:

  6. You could be spending more money on drinks than you realize. It’s easy to lose track of your spending on a night out with friends.
  7. Your intoxicated self might be spending more money on online orders and pizza than you realize (or remember). Impulse purchases are way more likely when you aren’t exactly thinking straight.
  8. Which reminds me…

  9. Don’t shop when you’re hungry

    The last step to stopping impulse purchases. If you’re headed to the grocery store, you’re much more likely to overspend if you’re hungry. You know that saying that your eyes are bigger than your stomach? Well turns out they’re bigger than your wallet, too. Walking down the aisle with a full stomach will prevent you from purchasing based on cravings and allow you to really stick to what’s written on your grocery list. Also, don’t shop when you are emotionally hungry. Yes, that is right. Going shopping when feeling sad, depressed or just lonely may likely result in buying something just to feel better.

  10. Loyalty programs

    Although we said not to follow all those brands on social media, it doesn’t hurt to be a member of loyalty programs for your real favorites. These will include more than just promotions geared towards getting you to spend more. This works best for things you buy regularly, like necessities or maybe that daily cup of coffee. Not that you need to be spending $5 on a latte every day, but you should be earning points and rewards for those necessities you buy consistently.

  11. Know your times worth

    This exercise can often be hard to do, particularly because most people don’t make yet all the money they would like to, or that they need to.

    But, just try it. It should help you see, in a very pragmatic way, what is worth your time and what isn’t. it may also give you a clearer picture of why it is important to budget and be smart with your money.

    Consider how much you make hourly (after taxes) and how much you are willing to work for whatever it is that you want to purchase. To make the numbers easy, if you make $50 an hour, and after taxes that is $45 dollars, that would be your net hourly income. If you are faced with making an unnecessary purchase, think: is this “item”, which costs $50 dollars, worth 1 hours of me working for it? The number is different for everyone, but the questions should be always the same- does it make sense to give X number of hours of my work towards this purchase?

    If you want to take it one step further, the next question could be “how long this will be good for” or “how many times I will use this?” Memories and experiences can last a lifetime, but other items may not. Shoes, clothes, electronics- they all have a limited lifetime value, and some may be used only sporadically. To find out, divide the number of months the purchase should last, or times you think you will use the item, by the number of times you plan to use it.  This would be your cost per use.


Be honest. When it comes down to it, better money habits come from mindfulness.

Becoming better at spending comes from being honest with yourself and your hierarchy of needs. Considering your financial and personal goals before making purchases will help you to place a value on what you are spending, aside from the dollar amount staring you in the face. It can be tempting to splurge more often than you need to, seeking that instant gratification from something new that you will make you feel immediately good, but prioritize what matters most: saving for your new home, having a reliable car, paying off student loans, or a vacation with the family - whatever that goal of yours may be. Prioritize and don’t be a victim of circumstance.

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