Year in year out : Our tips on how to get out of bad habits with money

By Natasha Culzac

Revolutionise your spending habits so that they don't have so much control over you. Take back control of your finances

Don’t let your life become an adaptation of the Bill Murray classic Groundhog Day. Finding yourself in the same unfavourable position time and time again can really grind you down.

You might be stuck in the cycle of deleting and reinstalling Tinder, or crawling to the cafetiere when you swore yourself off caffeine for the month, but don’t let your awful spending habits or terrible willpower keep holding you back from getting in control of your finances.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) we are now a nation which prefers to flash our hard-earned cash on experiences, such as holidays, bars and restaurants, while our interest in spending on clothes and stuff wanes. One trend forecaster, Lorna Hall, told The Guardian that this change will continue to grow thanks to millennials, who have a different attitude to owning things to their parents because they’re less likely to be homeowners. Ha.
Which means that maybe your bad habits aren’t even related to buying things as we might view a traditional shopaholic, but in doing things.

How can I stop haemorrhaging money?

There’s a well-known fable that says it takes 21 days to form a new habit. According to a scientific study, however, the truer number is nearer 66 days (don’t let this put you off!). There are some practical changes you can make to your day-to-day behaviour to help you overcome your repeated spending hiccups.


1. Download your internet banking app and log into it every morning or evening. It’s hard to ignore those daily Costa coffees or weekly ASOS purchases (other outlets are available) if they’re in your face every day.


2. Give yourself a cooling-off period before making any big purchases. Obviously some things are necessary but really, just how desperate are you for those trainers? Either sleep on it, or wait a few days.

3. Understand your triggers and change them. When you’ve had a bad day at work or you’re just feeling like crap, do you end up buying yourself something nice? Go straight to a friend’s for a cup of tea instead and hopefully they’ll crack open an undrunk bottle of plonk they’ve got lying around and make you laugh – for which is no substitute.


4. As sad as it sounds, plan your year’s fun now – as in holidays and festivals. Don’t let these become spontaneous purchases that suddenly financially cripple you. Festivals aren’t cheap! Make a decision on which festivals you want to attend, or the holiday you’ll inevitably need in October, and start saving up for them now. Don’t pay for them until you’ve pulled that cash together.

5. If you can, leave your bank cards at home and only take cash out with you for the day, particularly if you’re just meandering about. Give yourself an allotted amount for food/drink and, if you’re in London, make sure your Oyster is topped up so you don’t need your Contactless. You won’t be able to buy any old tat this way.


6. Avoid temptation. If you know that the shops are your Achilles Heel, is there any way you can re-route your journey home from work so that you don’t pass them? Or next time a friend suggests meeting up, avoid going to shopping centres or high streets.


7. Implement ‘£0’ days. This is where you challenge yourself to spend absolutely nothing, except travel to work, one day a week or on a weekend. Do a big supermarket shop beforehand so that you can make your lunches and dinners.

I need better willpower!

Don’t we all!

Here’s two other tips I found helpful when trying to keep motivated:

- I recently came upon a fantastic new cash card called Monzo. It’s a prepaid Mastercard, where purchases you make are immediately deducted from your balance unlike a bank’s, when it can take at least a day to show on your online statement. All purchases are also categorised into ‘groceries’, ‘eating out’, ‘holidays’, ‘transport’ etc. Not only is this great for budgeting and working out where your money is going, but it means that on payday you could give yourself a monthly allowance to play with, load it on the Monzo, and track it real-time, leaving all your other cards at home.


- Get someone else involved in your finances. I found that saving money into one of my sister’s unused bank account meant that it was a bigger deal to ask for some of this back if I was skint and needed a cash injection.

Top Takeaway

It’s possible to annihilate those niggling bad spending habits, but it just takes a bit of effort and dedication. Constantly picturing the prize – something you desperately want, like a deposit for a house or for your credit card to be paid off – does help. The key is to take it slowly as going cold turkey on the things you enjoy may not work. Don’t put yourself under too much pressure, just make small changes to your daily schedule which have an impact. To find out how you could manage your money better click here.

By Natasha Culzac

Thanks to a journalistic career history and a childhood at Sylvia Young Theatre School, Natasha has her fingers in a few professional pies, doing her best impression of a model and actor as well as personal finance writer. Outside of work she compulsively watches BBC period dramas and constantly lies to herself that this year will be the year she learns French, once and for all.

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