Don’t Let These 4 Impulse Spending Mistakes Blow Your Budget

The effects of the recent recession have forced some Americans to make a budget for the very first time. But sometimes, impulse spending can blow these budgets and defeat the purpose of budgeting in the first place. Even with the right plan in place, it is still easy to make financial mistakes when you fail to handle your impulse spending effectively. Let’s look at these common mistakes, and learn how to fix them after the fact.

Failing to Recognize that You Will Spend Money

The quicker you recognize that no matter how hard you try, you will engage in at least a little impulse spending, the better your budget will be. Even the most disciplined person occasionally shops on impulse. Instead of trying to avoid unplanned shopping, build some impulse shopping into your budget. Have a category of “blow money” that you are allowed to spend on anything, no questions asked. However, once this money is gone for the week or month, it’s gone. This will allow for some impulse purchases, but limit the damage to your budget.

Not Noticing Shopping Triggers

Another helpful way to reduce budget damage from financial mistakes is to identify your shopping triggers. Everyone has different triggers, and the quicker you recognize your trigger, the quicker you can stop yourself before shopping.

Sales and coupons are very common shopping triggers for some consumers, while the need to reward yourself is another popular trigger. Once you identify your trigger, you can direct your shopping instinct to another area or use your ‘blow money’ to satisfy the urge.

Some common triggers and their cures include:

  • Eating out: If you know you’ll be away from home for a few hours, eat before you leave to avoid the fast food temptation.
  • Reward triggers: There are other ways to reward yourself than spending money. Consider a break to read a book or play a game.
  • Sales and coupons: Just because an item is on sale or you have a great coupon, it doesn’t mean you need the item. For needs, by all means, find the right category in your budget and use that money. For wants, if there’s no ‘blow money,’ you’ll have to let this one pass by.
  • Comfort triggers: A hard day at work or a fight with your significant other can trigger comfort spending. You can handle this either by limiting your comfort spending to something cheap like $20 at the dollar store, or better yet, go talk to a good friend who can lend an ear and a shoulder to comfort you.

Failure to Plan

After you identify your shopping triggers, the next best step is to make a plan to avoid future excessive impulse shopping. If you are able to generate a budget that really works for your family, you can greatly reduce excess spending and save more money. The most important concept of a budget is to avoid spending more than you earn. Avoid borrowing at all costs.

Budgets fail for many people when they do not incorporate a little wiggle room. Revisit your budget every month if you find your first budget was too restrictive. Think of every single thing you will have to spend money on in the upcoming month and plan for it in the budget. Don’t let your mother’s birthday gift completely derail your budget because you forgot to plan for it.

Planning, but not Following Through

Finally, actually use and follow your planned budget. Keep track of your budget every week, so you know exactly how much you have left to spend. Utilize an online budgeting tool, such as Mint, to keep track of your purchases every month. Another popular way to keep a budget in place is to use cash.

Withdraw the money you have planned for the week in each budget category, and keep each category in a separate envelope. This cash only plan ensures that you will not spend more than you plan for the month and will help you avoid financial indiscretions that will blow your budget. The only downside to this method is that utility bills are paid by check. When it’s time to pay the bills, you can take the cash, put it in the bank and then write those checks.