The Best Way to Cut Down on Excess Spending

You may have the best of intentions, but sometimes when you go into a store to buy just one thing, you come out carrying three bags. Everyone spends a little too much now and again, but cutting back is easier than you think — you just need to be aware of when you’re spending too much.

Start in the Kitchen

“Americans waste over 25 percent of the groceries they purchase,” says nationally known consumer-savings expert and writer Andrea Woroch. A great way to resist overspending is by purchasing less expensive whole foods instead of processed foods. You’ll typically find them in the outer aisles of the supermarket, so avoid temptation by steering clear of the middle aisles. Make a list and stick to it. If an item isn’t on your list, it’s likely an impulse buy that could easily end up in the trash next week, advises Woroch.

On-the-Go Spending

Impulse shopping can strike at any time. Use the Quicken app to snap images of your receipts for a week or so as you’re out and about. When you look at the weekly totals, you’ll probably realize you’re spending money that you don’t even think about. Quicken Starter Edition breaks the expenditures down into categories, and can even tell you how much of your spending budget you’ve used so far. This gives you a clearer picture of whether you can really afford to treat yourself the next time you whip out your debit card — Quicken Starter Edition also can text or email you when you’re close to going over the limit.

Another trick is to ask yourself how many hours you’ll have to work to pay for something before you actually purchase it. Put the expenditure in terms of your actual paycheck. Is it still worth the price? 

Cut Back on Monthly Services

Consider cutting back on expenses for things you don’t regularly use. “Two-thirds of all health club memberships in the U.S. go unused,” Woroch says. “If you do use your gym, but you’re looking to reduce spending, consider freezing the account — paying a small monthly fee to keep your membership status and avoid cancellation fees — while you embrace less expensive exercise activities that can be done outdoors during the warmer months, like walking, jogging or biking,” she suggests.

Take a look at your cable or satellite TV service, too. Do you really watch all those channels? How about your cell phone — do you use all that data you're paying for?

Your Credit and Debit Cards

Take a moment to read over your credit card statements. Check for interest rate increases that may have happened without warning or reason, and call the company to defend yourself if you notice that something has changed. The effort might not be as futile as you think — you have about a 50 percent chance of getting the rate reduced if you speak up. 

Take care when using your debit card, too. If you use an ATM anywhere other than at a branch location, you’re probably paying an additional fee, which adds up if you do it often enough. If your nearest branch is out of your way, consider taking out enough cash to get you through at least several days so you don’t have to make the trip too often. 

Quicken Starter Edition tells you how much money you need to set aside, not just for spending, but for your regular fixed monthly expenses as well. Review the categories to see where your money is going. There may be more than one area where you can cut back without feeling a big pinch.