Self-Discipline: The Key to Controlling Your Overspending

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Whether your most pressing financial goal is to pay off money you owe or to increase your savings and investments – the most important skill you’ll need is self-discipline.

Self-discipline can feel inaccessible for some people, and a lack of self-control can leave you feeling disappointed and defeated.

It’s important to note that self-control is one of the most challenging behaviors to master. Mastery of self-control and self-discipline is so tough to achieve because it involves changing behaviors that occur in high-emotion or even addictive situations like:

  • eating
  • losing weight
  • arguing with someone
  • smoking
  • playing video games
  • drinking alcohol
  • spending money

Some people are born with more than their fair share of self-discipline, while others struggle with self-control from a young age. If you fall into the latter group, don’t be alarmed! Self-discipline is a skill that can be learned. It’s not an easy skill to develop, but with the proper dedication, you can train yourself to be more self-controlled.

Spending money is fun and can feel rewarding and emotionally satisfying, which is why many people go shopping to relieve stress, boredom, anxiety or depression. Thus, it is easy to begin associating spending money with a feeling of happiness. As this behavior and response become habitual, it will lead to more and more spending in order to continue feeling happy.

Replacing a Bad Habit With a Good Habit

To gain discipline when it comes to over-spending, you’ll need to start practicing the responses you want to have regarding money. Over time, you’ll notice a shift in how you feel about spending as your new responses begin to replace the bad habits you have currently. Some tips to help you:

  • Set up a budget. You’ve heard this before, but we’re going to say it again. A good budget is a necessary building block on the way toward financial freedom. You need to start practicing spending only the amount of money that’s in your budget each month in order to make it into a habit.
  • Stop using credit cards. Cut them up or put them in a shoe box at the back of your closet. Do whatever it takes to get them out of sight and, most importantly, out of your wallet.
  • Question every purchase. Shop mindfully, asking yourself if you really need each item that’s made its way into your shopping cart.
  • Treat yourself. Once you’ve stuck to your budget for an entire month (or longer), reinforce this behavior by rewarding yourself with something you’ve been wanting (within reason).
  • Punish negative behavior. If you go out-of-bounds budget-wise, deny yourself something you enjoy until you get back on track with your spending.
  • Open a separate bank account. If you don’t already have one, a savings account is great idea. Every time you have an urge to make an unnecessary purchase, instead: put the equivalent amount of money into this account. Also, set aside a set dollar amount to go directly to this account from every paycheck.
  • Be accountable to someone. If your finances are really dire, you may need to be accountable to a debt relief professional at first. They can help you find additional ways to reduce your debt if you need more help. You can also have a close friend, spouse or sibling keep you accountable as you work to turn your new money choices into habits.

Studies have shown that developing self-discipline is possible at any age. It’s also been shown that you can get better and better at honing your self-control the more you practice your new habits. By changing your behavior from overspending to living within a budget, you’ll be able to pay down any debts you’ve accrued and build up your savings account!

 

Image credit: Luke Hayfield

 

Friday Five: Personal Finance Books Worth Reading

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If you’ve ever strolled down the ‘Self-Help’ section of any bookstore, or scrolled through an Amazon book search, you were probably overwhelmed by all of the titles just begging to be read. Here, we’ve hand-picked 5 critically acclaimed works that will help you take the steps necessary to get your financial life in order.

  1.  Small Move, Big Change: Using Micro-Resolutions to Transform Your Life Permanently; Caroline Arnold
    This book assists you in taking long-reaching goals and turning them into small, manageable changes that can ultimately lead to a huge shift in your life, both in the present and in the future. By using “micro-resolutions,” you reward yourself instantly, which creates new habits that will ultimately change how you think and act regarding money, food, productivity and organization.
  2. The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition; Dave Ramsey
    “Dave Ramsey is America’s trusted voice on money and business.”¹ The Total Money Makeover helps you create a plan to get out of debt in 7 easy steps. It also teaches you how to build up that nest egg you’ve been wishing you had. The success stories (included in this book) alone ensure that this read will really grab your attention, regardless of your age, job status, or income level.
  3. Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money that the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!; Richard Kiyosaki
    This book held a top spot on the New York Times bestseller list for more than 6 years. Kiyosaki grew up with a very educated, yet financially unstable father. Conversely, the father of his best friend dropped out of school in 8th grade only to become a multimillionaire. Throughout his childhood and young adulthood, Kiyosaki learned that “the poor and middle class work for money,” but “the rich have money work for them.” He internalized this message and was retired by the age of 47. In Rich Dad Poor Dad, he teaches you a type of financial literacy that goes against conventional wisdom.
  4. Get Rich Carefully; Jim Cramer
    There are no get-rich-quick schemes that actually work, and Jim Cramer knows it. In Get Rich Carefully, you’ll learn how to plan for long-lasting wealth using a low risk plan. The “personal finance book of 2013,” is a very readable guide that will show you how to turn your savings into long-lasting wealth.
  5. Your Money or Your Life: Nine Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence (Revised Edition); Vicki Robin & Joe Dominguez
    This international bestseller was originally written in 1992 and has been printed in 11 languages. It has been dubbed “the seminal guide to the new morality of personal money management” by the Los Angeles Times. Now, it’s been updated for the new millennium and our wavering economy. You’ll learn how to: get yourself out of debt and start saving, live better for less money, deal with any inner struggles regarding your values and lifestyle, live green while spending less, and ultimately take charge of your money. You’ll start living rather than just “making a living.”

When deciding which book(s) to use as financial guides, it’s important to remember that just about anybody can write a book these days. We’ve recommended the above 5 to you because they’ve been proven successful, and are written by actual finance/money experts. If you have a book you’d like to recommend to our readers and clients, please leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you!

Image credit: R Cocks

¹Editorial Review; Amazon.com