Here is what I always keep in my wallet and 6 tips to save money

“I go spend less this month.”

We have all said these words at some point in our lives. Corn change your bad money habits is not easy. Most of our impulse spending occurs when our brains are on autopilot. The solution is to implement short and long term strategies that disrupt our reactive spending routine.

From turning your wallet into money to visualizing your financial future, here are some tips that didn’t just work for me – a financial therapist age 17 – but also for my clients:

1. Give your wallet a makeover.

Back in the days when I was paying off my credit card debt, I would take out small amounts of money every week and put them in my wallet. The goal was to have as much money as possible at the end of each week.

Paying with credit cards or phone apps is always more convenient, but using cash exclusively for a while to sense and visualize the ways the spending has drained my resources was a shake enough to change my behavior.

There is something about deletion of physical invoices, count the price and hand over the money that is the weight of any purchase.

I still follow this rule. Unless I have big spending plans, I keep my wallet as simple as: $ 20 to $ 40 in cash, one or two credit card, gift cards, my driver’s license, a few business cards and a post-it (pasted on the side) listing the first three money goals.

Psychologist Mary Gresham goes further: she recommends carry a $ 50 or $ 100 bill, because most people tend to think twice about spending bigger bills because they think of them as “special money”.

2. Know your habits (and your pitfalls).

Identifying your habits requires accepting two truths about your relationship with money:

  1. Your emotional state affects your purchasing choices.
  2. You place a symbolic value on money and what you buy with it.

Consider the feelings that make you look for your wallet. What emotional needs are you meeting with this behavior? Are you looking for a sense of accomplishment? Or spend to distract from anxiety?

Then think about what you are buying and why. Do you identify as the type of person who treats others for lunch or owns the latest trending item?

Being more and more aware of your unique emotional and symbolic triggers will help you recognize when you are in danger of overspending before the opportunity even presents itself.

3. Press pause.

Spontaneous purchases, even the smallest, seem innocent at the time, but together they add up to significant sums.

To curb the build-up of these expenses, I try to put a 24 hour break rule on most purchases. Saying “no” in the moment is a hindrance, especially when “yes” is an autopilot response. But saying “I’ll buy it tomorrow” makes it much easier to get away from the cash register or the computer screen.

This extra time to reflect on the choice highlights the necessity (or absence) of the purchase and breaks the spell of impulsivity.

4. Be enthusiastic about your goals.

According to The recent Prudential Financial Well-Being Survey, 50% of Americans feel that their financial mobility is fixed – which means that they think that no matter what the future holds, they are powerless to improve their current financial situation.

The best way to combat a discouraged state of mind is to visualize the future you want and set goals for yourself to achieve it. Once you cut back on spending, what will you do with the money?

Write down your top three goals and post them where you can see them every day. Remembering what you’re working on will make quitting familiar spending habits less tedious and more positive.

For example, my biggest goal is retirement. But I’ve never been able to connect with those giant retirement numbers I’ve seen touted by money experts; I understood the calculation, but the amounts were so out of my frame of reference that it seemed abstract to me.

So I created a monthly “retirement budget” by visualizing where I would like to live, the type of activities I would like to do and a large amount of money for health care expenses.

It helped me get a “large number” that I felt was relevant and personal. From there it was easier to organize my behavior to meet the pace at which I would need to save and invest to hopefully get there when I stop working.

5. Date your money.

It’s okay to respond to negative feelings about spending by ignoring the issue. If this is your tendency, you can avoid looking at bank statements and bills until absolutely necessary, which provides momentary relief, but generates more anxiety down the road.

I learned the hard way that the more time you spend with your money, the more confident and able you become to make the desired changes in your life and in the autopilot settings.

To encourage yourself to do this, consider reviewing your finances as a weekly meeting rather than a chore. Make it an experience you look forward to every week by pairing it with something you love, like watching a movie, listening to a playlist of your favorite songs, opening a bottle of wine, or ordering take out.

6. Make automation your friend.

When battling unwanted spending habits, it helps to take some of the risk out of the equation by automating essential bill payments, as well as contributions to savings and major goals.

Making sure your priorities are met at the start of each month or payroll cycle will ease the anxiety of day-to-day buying decisions.

I like this strategy because it provides a clear picture of your discretionary income each month and allows you to spend it guilt-free.

Amanda clayman is a psychotherapist specializing in financial therapy. His approach is to decode how thoughts, feelings and associations shape our financial decisions. and identify how these patterns both serve and limit us. She is also a Defender of financial well-being at Prudential, and his work has been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Forbes. Follow her on Twitter @mandaclay.

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