Sticking to a Budget

So you've decided to take your out-of-control financial situation firmly in hand. You've identified your spending "hot zones," set some motivational savings goals, and created a budget to get you where you want to go. Now the trick is: Sticking to it. 

Here are some tips that other nurses have found helpful toward reining in overspending:

* Shop only with a list and pay with cash. An immediate and tangible payment method (cash at the counter versus a credit card and bill in the mail 30 days later) makes more of an impression on your money consciousness.

* It doesn’t matter if you have a penchant for Target and Old Navy. Discount shopping still counts as shopping. Don't fool yourself into thinking that only a trip to Nordstrom or Saks will make a dent in your wallet.

* Wait 24 hours before making a major purchase. Put the item on lay-a-way (that's what folks used to do before credit cards) or on-hold if you think the item may disappear overnight.

* If you can’t wait 24 hours, at least imagine that you have. Project yourself into future: How do you feel the next day when you make the purchase? Or when the credit card bill comes in a month later?

* Question purchases that may have an emotional basis. For instance, by buying this item is your intention impressing others with luxury brand logos?...compensating for too many long shifts?…working out marital frustrations?…seeking a shopper’s endorphin rush?

Whatever emotions may be driving your spending, figure out other ways to handle them, such as going out with the gang, getting to sleep early, or taking a brisk walk after dinner. That's also a good way to remind yourself of the immeasurable value of the non-material aspects of life, such as loved ones, pets, and nature. 

* Talk to friends, family, a financial planner, or clergy member to help you uncover your feelings about money or to sort out your financial situation. You'd be surprised how many others are also trying to save money, pay off debt, or stop senseless spending.

* Don't cut out all pleasure spending though. Budget some money for small joys (like a latte), so that you don't swing back and forth between tightwaddery and shopping 'til you drop. Moderation is more easily sustainable.

* Set up automatic withdrawls from your checking account into an emergency savings fund or 401(k) or IRA. Then you won't have to make a choice not to spend extra funds. Out of sight, out of mind.

* What if you keep spending money you don't have by charging up a storm? Cut up your credit cards. Painful but sometimes extreme measures are all that will do.

Jebra Turner is a freelance health writer in Portland, Oregon. You can visit her online at www.jebra.com.

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