9 common overspending triggers - and how to overcome them

Unless you want to experience another “Where’d all my money go?” moment, put a stop to overspending by recognising these common triggers and overcoming them.

Photos: ING Image
Photos: ING Image
11 Nov 2015

Photos: ING Image

Unplanned purchases. A big night out celebrating with friends. Summer travels. End-of-season sales. We fall into these overspending traps, often unaware of the damage until we take a peek at our bank accounts. Then come the excuses: “I’ll use it often.” “I deserve to treat myself once in a while.” “I can always return or sell it later.”

Unless you want to experience another “Where’d all my money go?” moment, put a stop to overspending by recognising these common triggers and overcoming them.

1. You’re on vacation
1. You’re on vacation
11 Nov 2015

1. You’re on vacation

There’s something about being on vacation that makes us less sensible about our finances. In our relaxed holiday mode, we’re more likely to overspend on tourist traps, fancy dinners, and exorbitant items from the resort gift shop. ($15 for a magnet and $20 for mosquito repellant? Really?)

Overcome it: Allow yourself to indulge a little but not go overboard by working these extras in your vacation budget, on top of the flights and hotel. Set a daily spending limit. Plan and pre-book daytime excursions and more affordable, local restaurants to avoid last-minute decisions that lead to a $300 bill at the hotel grill and bar.

2. You can’t resist good deals or “free” things
2. You can’t resist good deals or “free” things
11 Nov 2015

2. You can’t resist good deals or “free” things

Who doesn’t love a mega sale? 50% off those designer shoes sounds too good to be true, so you take the plunge. And you’re never one to say no to buy-two-get-one-free deals. Free shipping on orders over $100 from your favourite online retailer? You’re on it.

Overcome it: Everybody likes a good deal, but it’s not a bargain if you’re spending money on something you didn’t want in the first place and certainly don’t need. Ask yourself if you’d buy the item at full price. If not, walk away. Or at the very least, wait until the next day to see if you’re still hankering for it. The time delay stops your urge for instant gratification and restores a better sense of judgment. You might even completely forget about the item you thought you had to have.

3. You’re bored and online shopping is easy
3. You’re bored and online shopping is easy
11 Nov 2015

3. You’re bored and online shopping is easy

It’s a slow day at work and your boss isn’t around. Time for a little online shopping. A couple of clicks later you’ve somehow dropped $150, yet you don’t fully register that you just spent real money. It’s easier to press a button on a screen than it is opening your wallet and counting the cash.

Overcome it: During your spare time, engage in something that won’t tempt you to spend money. Better yet, get productive. Organise the million paperclips and orphaned pen caps on your desk. Start researching for your next project. You get the idea – anything to ward off your click-happy shopping tendencies.


4. You don’t want to look bad in front of your friends
4. You don’t want to look bad in front of your friends
11 Nov 2015

4. You don’t want to look bad in front of your friends

You have rich friends who don’t think twice about spending big. You don’t want to miss out on the fun, but their living standards are on a whole ‘nother plane and it’s putting a serious dent in your wallet to keep up. They’re constantly egging you to buy expensive things you’re too embarrassed to admit you can’t afford. “OMG. If you don’t snatch that up, I will,” they say jestingly. Such is peer pressure.

Overcome it: Is keeping up appearances worth blowing through a week’s salary? If they’re truly your friends, they wouldn’t want you to be in debt. Grabbing a coffee and inviting them over for dinner aren’t the same as joining them on a trip to Spain, but it’ll still be good times spent laughing and catching up.

5. You’re job-hunting and your last interview outfit is way outdated
5. You’re job-hunting and your last interview outfit is way outdated
11 Nov 2015

5. You’re job-hunting and your last interview outfit is way outdated

Your interview outfit looks like it’s from the 90s. You justify buying several new sets thinking you’ll make up for the expenses once you land your dream job. They’re investment pieces. So is that swanky leather resume portfolio. And those new shoes. And the other new shoes because you can never own too many back-ups.

Overcome it: Carefully assemble the ultimate timeless, high quality go-to outfit that’s polished and well fitted. Avoid anything too “in-your-face” trendy. Invited back for the second round? It might not be necessary to spring for an entirely new outfit. If possible, borrow some pieces from a friend.

6. You had a bad day
6. You had a bad day
11 Nov 2015

6. You had a bad day

Nothing like a shopping spree or a night out drinking your sorrows away to compensate for a crummy day. You deserve a pick-me-up after what you’ve been through, but linking your mood to splurges will do more harm than good. Plus, it only provides temporary relief.

Overcome it: Treat yourself to something less costly that’s equally satisfying, like a relaxing bath or a movie night in with a bowl of buttery popcorn. You’ll probably also feel better after talking to a friend or taking out your frustration at the gym.

7. You’re using cards instead of cash
7. You’re using cards instead of cash
11 Nov 2015

7. You’re using cards instead of cash

It’s easier to overspend when you’re using plastic. Taking out a credit or debit card simply isn’t the same as handing over cold hard cash. But when your bank statement arrives… Ouch.

Overcome it: Only use cash for a week. Budget for that week, then make a cash withdrawal of that amount. Place the money for each category - such as groceries, gas, going out, etc. - in separate envelopes. You’ll have a better grasp on where your money’s going, and hopefully this experiment will help you think twice before charging anything on your credit card.

8. You’re celebrating an anniversary, birthday, wedding, and other special occasions
8. You’re celebrating an anniversary, birthday, wedding, and other special occasions
11 Nov 2015

8. You’re celebrating an anniversary, birthday, wedding, and other special occasions

It’s easy to overspend on people you care about, especially for special events like their graduation or job promotion. Then there’s also Christmas, Chinese New Year, Valentine’s Day, and those baby showers you’ve got lined up because all your friends are suddenly popping out babies. You want to treat your loved ones but all these gifts are adding up.

Overcome it: Stash away some money in the months leading up to the gift-giving event. Avoid last minute shopping as your desperation to find ANYTHING will likely trigger overspending. Remember there are other ways to make someone feel special: a homemade meal, free babysitting (especially for your mummy friends), a scrapbook of your memories together, handmade sweets and treats, or anything else that’s meaningful and made with love.

9. You want first dibs
9. You want first dibs
11 Nov 2015

9. You want first dibs

The latest gadget, the new Spring/Summer collection, you name it. If it’s new, you want it. Now. You’re all about pre-ordering just to have it before anyone else. Problem is, after some time when the hype passes, the exact item you paid full price for is marked down and you’re left feeling jipped.

Overcome it: Get excited, take a breath, then…wait. You might change your mind after reading the reviews. Sometimes new models have a few kinks. Plus, is it really so crucial to be the first one seen with the latest “it” product? Not that being up to date is a fault, but if you’re overpaying as a result remember that if the product is really so great they’ll keep restocking, so either way you’ll have it.

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