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How to avoid money drain

by Karen on June 9, 2011

Recreational shopping has always been one of my biggest money drains. I can turn a quick stop at Target for a necessary item into a $40 splurge more easily than I want to admit. It’s a problem that I acknowledge, and I’ve been working to correct it.

We have a lot of things on the “to-do” list for our house – new furniture, a garage door opener, an epic garden, a riding lawnmower, and decorating to name just a few. All of these things are going to cost money. Since our mortgage payment is a bit higher than our rent used to be, our budget is a little tighter these days. Not to mention, I always promised myself that once we bought a house I’d finally buckle down and divert more money toward our student loan debt, so that’s definitely on my mind.

The point is, I certainly can’t afford to walk into Target or sign into Amazon and drop $40-$50 on crap I don’t need. When it comes to money drain, prevention is key. The trick is to avoid your triggers. Here are my main money drains, and how I combat them.

Marketing emails.

Signing up for email updates from your favorite stores and websites can help save money, because it will alert you of sales. It can also be a major money drain. If I receive an email about a big sale, I’m always tempted to buy something because “it’s such a great deal!” – even if I don’t really need anything. If you’re on a tight budget and unnecessary spending is an issue, unsubscribe to all of those emails. If an occasion rises that requires you to buy something, be purposeful about your shopping and seek out sales or coupon codes.

Daily deal alerts.

Daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social are incredibly popular on frugal blogs right now. It’s true that they can save you a ton of money, but again, you’re not saving if you’re spending money on things you don’t need. If you’re struggling with self control, it may be time to unsubscribe and tune out the “daily deals.”

Recreational shopping.

This is a tough one for me, because browsing is one of my favorite frugal ways to get out of the house in extreme hot weather. I take a walk around a store or mall to enjoy being out and around without sweltering in the heat and humidity. Unfortunately, it usually leads to buying things – or seeing things that I want to buy, which just makes me feel deprived when I have the will power to refuse. I’m still looking for an alternative to this activity when the weather is too hot to get outside. Any suggestions?

The drugstore game.

I’ve amassed quite a stockpile of toiletries and hygiene items thanks to the “drugstore game” – matching coupons with weekly deals at CVS and Walgreens. I’m guilty of buying things I don’t need just to get a deal. Even if it’s a great price, any money you spend to buy things you don’t need is a waste, especially if you’re acquiring more items than you can reasonably use. Remind yourself that there will be deals in the future, and you can stock up again when your supply runs low. Use that money to pad your savings or pay off debt instead.

Plan a menu – and skip boring recipes.

If dining out is a big spending trigger for you, it’s time to get organized and get excited about eating at home. The two biggest reasons people spend unnecessary money on dining out is poor planning and lack of excitement about meals at home. If you frequently head to a restaurant or drive thru because there’s nothing else to eat, try creating a menu plan at the beginning of the week and hanging it on the refrigerator to remind you of what’s for dinner each night. If you plan meals, and still find yourself heading out to eat because tonight’s dinner doesn’t sound appealing, it’s time to shake things up. Try new recipes, recreate your favorite restaurant meals, or add new flavors to old foods. My favorite recipe sites are AllRecipes, Real Simple, and Food Network.

Make your favorite treats at home.

I’ve made no secret about my terrible little Starbucks habit. But when I realized my weekly fancy coffee allowance was turning into a two or three times a week habit, I decided to find another way to indulge. I make iced coffee and smoothies at home now for a fraction of the cost. If there’s an expensive treat you indulge in, find a way to satisfy your cravings at home for less money. Alcoholic drinks are usually way overpriced in restaurants and bars. Mix your own cocktails at home or buy a case of beer or bottle of wine and invite friends to your place instead of going out.

Get organized.

One thing I absolutely cannot stand: losing money due to poor organization. Even if it’s just a 25 cent overdue fine at the library, it is such a waste, because I get no value out of the money. I’m paying for a stupid mistake. Overdraft fees (which do still exist in some situations), late charges for bills, overdue library fines, and expensive repair bills for things that could have been avoided with better care and maintenance all fall into this category. Create a system for reminding yourself of due dates and service appointments for the car and home. Keep a close eye on bank accounts and statements to avoid charges. Keep your emergency fund healthy so you can afford to make repairs before small problems become expensive emergencies. Every penny you avoid losing is a penny in your pocket.

What are your biggest money drains? And how do you avoid them?

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