4 Clever Ways to Control Your Spending -- and One That Will Shock You!

By Claire Millard on 9 June 2016 0 comments

If your spending is spiraling out of control, then it can be tempting to take extreme measures. After all, it will be worth it in the end, when you're debt free and living the high life — won't it?

And if you're thinking that the extreme end of cutting spending might be simply staying home on Friday nights, or dabbling in a little light couponing, then you're simply not using your imagination enough. Taking the lead from other fields of behavior modification, tools, techniques — and even apps — are all available to help you to go all out on zapping that spending.

Would you be tempted by any of these wacky approaches?

The Shocking Solution

Pavlok is a bracelet style device that delivers a mild electric shock when you take an action you have committed to quit. Read that again one more time. Yep — you can pay for a device to give you an electric shock every time you splurge online, splash the cash on coffee, or whatever else you're trying to quit.

The basic theory is to train your brain into associating bad habits with mild pain, and therefore remove the temptation in the long run. The device's makers claim great successes, from people who have quit sugar, stopped biting their nails, or even stopped smoking. There are training guides to help you use the tool, and one of the suggested habits it can be used for is, indeed, overspending.

Try a Fast

If you thought that the Pavlok was a bit cruel and unusual, then maybe a spending fast will work better for you. This is a method that many people have employed to either quit spending on non essentials entirely, for a defined period of time, or to stop themselves from making purchases without a "cooling off" period to think more about the decision.

If you're tempted by the total fast, the results can be dramatic — as this Wise Bread writer found, when she completed a year long spending fast to tackle mounting debt. But if a year sounds like too much, you could still make a difference with a month or even a week — and might find that simply taking the time to consider your purchases more carefully establishes new habits which contribute to your financial wellness in the long run!

For a slightly less dramatic way to curb your bad habits, think about freezing your credit cards in an ice block — an approach that forces a cooling off (or maybe warming up) period before you can make a purchase. (See also: 13 Creative Ways to Avoid Spending Money)

5:2 Your Finances

You may have heard of the 5:2 diet in which you eat normally (but reasonably healthy) on five days of the week, but have two days of fasting, during which you have an extremely limited calorie intake. Well, why not try the same with your finances?

It might sound a bit out there, because logically, cutting your spend for only a couple of days shouldn't have a massive impact on your overall spending. But psychologically, this can be a winner. If the barrier to saving is a fear of doing without, or you can't think of ways to restructure your life to cut out excesses that are hard wired into your routine, then the small adjustment of cutting back only a couple of days can be the trick you need to get moving.

For example, if you feel bad for depriving yourself of something on a fast day, you can simply tell yourself you can pick it up tomorrow instead. In reality, this forces thinking time, during which you may well reevaluate the purchase and decide to do without. Similarly, if you have some expenses that you simply cannot think of losing — like buying a work day lunch out, or taking taxi cabs to appointments — then doing so only a couple of days a week could show how easy these small adjustments actually are. After all, how hard is it to pack a sandwich a couple of mornings? If you force yourself to notice the savings as they add up, the net result might actually be behavior change with relatively limited pain.

Commitment Contracts

Back in the world of dieting, making a public commitment to lose weight, by joining a slimming club and going to weigh-ins on a weekly basis, has long been a popular strategy. It works because we are far more likely to follow through with something when we tell others that we are committed to it.

The act of making a public commitment works outside of the diet sphere, too — and thanks to new apps, you can leverage this power to get your spending back in order. You need to choose a platform that allows you to make a public commitment contract — usually with an agreed punishment if you fail to keep up your end of the bargain.

There are many different options out there, but one of the best established is StickK. Here you choose a goal and create a commitment contract. You set the stakes (the punishment), which could be a financial penalty, and choose a referee if you want an impartial verdict on your success. By sharing your goals with followers and friends, you can then get their support on the way as you work towards your goal.

One interesting thing with StickK is that your money is then given to a charity (or "anti-charity") if you forfeit it. So you can choose an organization you would be happy to donate to — or go the opposite and choose a cause (or sports fan club) that you do not like, to really up the odds. Would that be enough to motivate you to stick to your non-spending goals?

Just as juice fasts and boot camps have become popular to give fitness and diet lifestyle changes a kick start, taking some dramatic action to tackle your spending habit could be a good plan. It all hinges on building momentum — once you get moving, it is easier to keep moving, whether that is in shedding some excess pounds from your waistline, or squirreling a few dollars away in your bank. By hitting it hard for a short period at first, you can build momentum that can keep you moving, until the changes you are trying to establish slip into habit. And if the end result is healthy finances, then maybe a few electric shocks along the way are all worthwhile.

What do you think? Would you consider these extreme tactics to quit your excess spending habit? What's the most full-on approach you have ever heard about when it comes to cutting expenses?

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