Here are a few signs you’ve been on autopilot with your spending:
1) You regularly check your cart out without actually looking at the total cost. 2) Your cart always ends up with a few extra purchases, like ChapSticks or salad tongs, you don’t need and didn’t plan on buying. 3) Random items have arrived at your doorstep and you forgot you’d ordered them in the first place. 4) You feel a little numb and disassociated from reality when you’re shopping, which often translates into completely forgetting the essentials you need, like an extra carton of milk or multivitamins. 5) Your purchases bring you a quick hit of dopamine (temporary happiness), followed by regret.
If this is you, you’re not alone. Recent polling shows being on spending autopilot is a byproduct of prolonged stress from the pandemic. And, it’s not good for your finances, because it’s directly correlated to overspending.
With costs for food and other essential goods projected to go up in 2021, breaking out of spending autopilot mode, and bringing a healthy fresh consciousness back to your spending, is one of the most valuable money moves you can make this year.
The good news is that it can be done in as little as one week.
The method I recommend is a seven-day no-spending detox…where you literally don’t spend a dime for a week…insert screaming emoji here.
Going seven days without spending can save you hundreds of dollars (I actually have stats on this from thousands of my students who’ve detoxed their spending in the past, and have averaged savings of $ 25 to $ 35 per day). That money can be used for other important things like anticipated higher grocery costs, saving up for a trip once you’re vaccinated, paying off debt, building an emergency fund or investing for retirement.
It’s actually much easier than you may think. Personally, I detox my spending at least three times per year when I want to boost my savings and strengthen my money mindset. My favourite times are January (right after the holidays), April (spring cleanup), and November (before the holiday season).
Here are three rules to follow if you want to challenge yourself to seven days of no spending:
Stop spending money on anything non-essential. If it’s not food, medicine, baby supplies or your housing, it’s OUT.
E-transfer your savings into your savings account daily. For example, if you were going to buy another pair of socks, don’t, and e-transfer the $ 12 into your savings account instead.
Pay your normal essential bills and budgeted expenses like rent or groceries. This isn’t a payment holiday.
Detoxing is super effective because it helps to reset your money mindset and adopt better habits. Stopping yourself literally in the act of almost spending accesses a different part of your brain, and forces a new consciousness around spending. It immediately shifts you out of autopilot and puts YOU in complete control of your spending, for that moment. When many of these moments are combined, old habits of overspending get broken down and remapped to better, more conscious spending. This process is also known as building financial empowerment.
At first, going without spending money is going to feel weird and uncomfortable. But, after about three days, you’ll feel like a pro! When the week is complete, your stress level should actually be reduced.
The greatest opportunities for savings that I have found are the following:
Make the majority of your meals at home and limit take-out. Buying prepared meals can be a major budget killer. Make your own food daily. This means you’ll need to be more thoughtful in your meal planning, so that you reduce food waste, too. Your wallet and waistline will thank you because you’ll save money and reduce calories in the process.
Review subscriptions that automatically hit your bank account or credit card. While you’re not spending, cut unnecessary spending on subscriptions permanently. Subscriptions are small, but when they add up, they can be substantial. One of my friends just reviewed her subscriptions and found she was spending $ 325 per month! She’s reduced to three subscriptions now — music, streaming shows and a fitness app — and is down to $ 50 per month.
Use up household supplies and food from your pantry, medicine cabinet and fridge. Use up whatever you’ve stockpiled over the past few months; cans of soup, beans, jars of tomatoes, soap, toothbrush heads, paper towel, bathroom cleaner, laundry detergent and more. If your cabinets are nearly empty, you’re doing a good job.
Purge your home and closet. Get rid of, and sell, anything you don’t need. AND, don’t replace it. Put that money in your saving account. And, by carefully going through your home, you’re bound to find items like coats, boots or lamps, you can fall in love with again.
Unsubscribe from email shopping lists. Unsubscribe from any email marketing lists that are tempting you to spend. And, when you’re scrolling through social media, focus on connecting with friends and family rather than shopping.
Once you finish your seven-day no-spending detox, you’ll be off spending autopilot and on a healthier path with your finances. Plus, your savings account will be more full. My best advice is to be thoughtful about what the money gets used for; hopefully not another consumer good, but maybe paying off that pesky credit card balance. Embrace how amazing it feels to be in total control of your finances.