How to Get Out of Control Spending Under Control

Updated: Nov 19

Here's what I changed to spend less without feeling like I was missing out.


Have you ever looked around and wondered how you ended up with so much stuff? And why? Yeah. Me too.


Eventually, I reached a point in life where I realized that I wasn't happy spending so much money on so much stuff.


And that was a big deal. Why? Because I loved to shop.


And when I did shop, I spent a lot of money. And most of the money I spent was on stuff I didn’t need.


But I wanted it, so I bought it.


I bought new stuff because I was bored with the old stuff or some new and improved version came along. To be honest, I also bought stuff for no reason at all other than it caught my eye.


I call this my "see it, want it, buy it" period of life. No matter how much I shopped or how much I owned, it was never enough.

I call this my "see it, want it, buy it" period of life. No matter how much I shopped or how much I owned, it was never enough.


My thoughts about owning stuff were warped, and my spending habits were broken.


I was unhappy. And nothing I bought changed that.


My unhappiness eventually led me to learn more about minimalism and simple living. Both helped inspire me to get my out-of-control spending under control.


Spending to Fill the Gaps in Life

I spent money for a lot of reasons that had nothing to do with needing what I bought.


A lot of times I bought things on impulse. Or to take my mind off other things. Or because I had nothing better to do.


I didn’t buy because I needed things; I bought to fill an emotional gap.

I didn’t buy because I needed things; I bought to fill an emotional gap.


But the gap never went away. All the stuff crammed in closets and drawers and cabinets didn't make any difference over the long run. I had more stuff but felt the same.


Eventually, I realized I was spending to fill a gap in life. A hole that I hoped bags and boxes of stuff would fill. There was only one problem, though. Spending never filled that gap. And, my uncontrolled spending wasn't sustainable, so I had to change.


We Are Not the Stuff We Own

I'm an emotional spender. I buy for reasons that have nothing to do with what I need.


Over time, as I made my way through a journey to minimalism, I realized that what I own doesn’t make me the person I am. I'm an introvert who loves caramel cake and gardening. Owning a new car or an expensive purse doesn't change that.


Realizing this changed my thinking about how and why I spent money.


As I began to understand that buying more stuff wasn't going to change my life, I had less of a desire to shop. I felt happier and more content with what I owned.


Spending Starts with Emotion

I reacted emotionally when I saw something I wanted to buy. I think most of us do.


We see something, we feel something, then we buy that something.


The emotions I felt when I bought something were strong. I made many buying decisions because buying elicited a strong emotion, not because the purchase was rational.


The thing about emotions that make them hard to deal with is this:


They happen without our consent. We don't decide to feel this or that. We experience something, and we react emotionally to that experience.


To control my out-of-control emotional spending, I had to find a way to overcome emotional spending triggers.

To control my out-of-control emotional spending, I had to find a way to overcome emotional spending triggers.


Today, I’m much better at controlling my spending because I think differently about what I’m willing to buy and why I’m buying it. I recognize there’s an emotional aspect to much of my spending, so I stop and think before I buy something.


Ask Yourself These 6 Questions to Control Out-of-Control Spending

Here are six questions I ask myself to keep me from buying something impulsively or buying something I don’t need or value:


1. Can I afford this without going into debt?


2. Do I already have one of these? If I do, why do I need another one?


3. Will buying this add value to my life or improve it in some way?


4. If it wears out, breaks, or gets lost, would I replace it with the same thing?


5. Will I use it enough to justify the cost of buying and maintaining it?


6. Can I borrow one from someone else instead of buying one?


Answering these questions helps break my “see it, want it, buy it” impulsive spending pattern.

Answering these questions helps break my “see it, want it, buy it” impulsive spending pattern.


If I answer “No” to at least one of these questions, then I think about what’s motivating me to buy. Just thinking through the purchase is usually enough to stop me from buying something that isn't going to add any real value to my life.


Even if I decide to buy the item, I'm at least aware of how the purchase will affect me financially and the value it will add to my life.


Conclusion

Based on my own experience, I know it's possible to get out-of-control spending under control.


You don't have to be a minimalist or want a simpler life, like me.


What's important is that you're willing to make changes in how you spend. A good first step is to think about what triggers your spending. Do you spend out of habit, or boredom, or for some other reason?


Before you buy, think through the purchase. Ask yourself the six questions above.


Those questions help me identify emotional spending and encourage me to spend in ways that make me happier and more fulfilled.


I hope they will help you too.