Are you constantly falling into a cycle of shame and frustration because you’re overspending?
You might even be sticking to your budget and following through with your financial goals all week long. Then the weekend hits and it’s a completely different story! Come Monday morning, you’re feeling guilty about overspending in areas of your budget that you didn’t plan for.
If you relate to this pattern of spending, this episode is for you!
Here’s the question I recently got that became the whole reason I decided to dedicate an entire episode to answering:
“I have an eight month old and I watch him and work from home during the week. By Friday, I’m exhausted. I’ve gotten into this habit of wanting to reward myself on the weekend, whether it be online shopping or going out to eat — something that relieves stress and rewards me for getting through the week. So basically, I have a really hard time controlling my spending on the weekend — and so does my husband. So we’re not really keeping each other accountable. Any advice to protect ourselves from overspending is welcome.”
The Repetitive Loop of Overspending
It’s incredibly easy to get stuck in this repetitive loop when it comes to overspending. This loop looks like this:
- You’re doing really well with your finances and you’re sticking to your budget.
- You get to a certain point (Friday) and then you lose control.
- You end up overspending and going off track with your budget.
- Shame and guilt set in, so you make attempts to get yourself back on track before the cycle starts back over again
Why is this happening? You’re making the hard choices and the sacrifices you need to during the week but by Friday you’re so done with trying to make all of the adult decisions. You’re tired from working. You’re wanting to reward yourself for a job well done during the week. So you end up splurging on items or experiences you didn’t plan for and letting your emotions dictate your spending. When the weekend is over, you’re left picking up the pieces of your budget and falling into the shame and guilt spiral that sometimes gets you out of the budget-game altogether.
If this sounds like you, here’s what I want you to remember: you are human. Spending money isn’t just about numbers. Spending money releases endorphins and adrenaline, especially in someone who is a spender (I’m looking at myself here!). There’s a reason why you’re wanting to spend.
As you know, you’re going to have to deal with money for the rest of your life! There’s no way around it. So we might as well learn now how to control your urge to overspend so that when the weekend hits, you don’t blow your entire budget and ruin all the progress you made throughout the week.
Now, are you going to be perfect? No. But perfection isn’t the goal here. If you’re here striving for perfection with your money, I’m just going to let you know that it’s impossible. Instead, you need a mindset shift in order to navigate the slippery slope of overspending. Here’s how.
How to Control the Urge to Overspend
Step 1: Identify Patterns
In the above question, this person has identified a consistent spending pattern:
- Sticks to their budget during the week
- Experiences stress from working and watching her baby
- Tired of the sacrifices made during the week to stick to the budget
- Friday hits and it’s time to relieve that stress and let loose! (Swipes & Adds to cart!)
- Monday – it’s back to the budget!
You can see here that this is a very clear pattern of spending. Once you’ve identified your spending pattern, you’ve now got two choices.
Choice 1: Disrupt The Pattern
Your first choice is to disrupt the pattern. This means you STOP the pattern in its tracks before it occurs. So for instance, the person who wrote in knows that she overspends on the weekends. So if she’s wanting to disrupt this pattern to keep herself from overspending, before Friday rolls around she could have a list of ideas for ways that not only relieve stress, but also trigger that endorphin release and/or adrenaline rush without spending money and blowing her budget.
So disrupting the pattern for this person might look like inviting a friend over for a glass of wine or going on a hike. She could pick up an inexpensive hobby or find a podcast that has an intriguing storyline. I’ll tell you my pattern disrupter – getting outside! Going on a walk with my dog or getting out in nature is my go-to.
I will tell you that choice number one does require a lot of self-discipline. You have to have a plan in place before that pattern hits. You do have another choice to curb your desire to overspend, however, and it’s one that I prefer using!
Choice 2: Lean in
What I prefer to do is to lean in to the pattern.
What that looks like for our example above is putting something in place that allows you to still spend money, but within healthy and clear boundary that allows you to be intentional. So essentially, you still get to spend money! You lean into that desire to spend, but within a safe space. And this allows you to have more control over the situation.
So for instance, the person that wrote in, I would say:
You’re exhausted every Friday because you’re working from home and you’re taking care of an eight month old. You know that you’re going to want to go out to dinner on Friday night or Saturday night because you’re tired and you just want to relax. You also feel like it’s a reward for getting through the week. Now let’s look at how you can gain more control over this situation. You can lean into that pattern by saying, “Okay, I’m going to cook dinner at home Sunday through Thursday, and I’m going to plan to go out to dinner Friday and Saturday.”
This is actually exactly what our family does. I never cook on Friday. It’s the last thing I want to do after a long week. So instead of disrupting the pattern and making sure I’m making a meal plan for Friday or I have frozen foods on hand that I can throw in the oven, I actually lean into it. You can lean into this pattern by adding restaurants to your budget within reason. Because the way I see it, you know that this spending pattern is going to happen anyways. So why not lean into the pattern and plan for it in advance? This way, you no longer fall into the cycle of shame and frustration. You no longer overspend all weekend long and come Monday morning, you’re feeling bad so you decide to get your act together. Then come Friday, you’re repeating the same pattern again.
This cycle of of starting and stopping and starting and stopping is what so many people do when it comes to their money. It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing! What I personally love is that when you have these boundaries and expectations in place, when you can lean into the pattern, you’re actually allowing yourself to still spend money. BUT, you have more control because you’re anticipating your spending pattern AND you have a plan for how much you’re going to spend and what you’re going to spend money on.
Now, you can actually feel excited about spending money, you can look forward to it! Because you know that you have control over your spending and the choices you make around money. You know that the set dollar amount is going to your weekend eating out, or whatever it is that you want to spend that money on.
My Story with Overspending
Now I love to tell a story a personal story of how I actually disrupted a pattern in my spending in the past. Several years ago, we moved into our current home. To say that I like our home would be an understatement. I LOVE our home. It’s a 25 year old home that sits on a quiet cul-de-sac with a large tree-filled backyard. We actually have 10 trees in our backyard. The moment I stepped through the door to see this house for the first time, I knew it was where I wanted to live. Once we moved in, my love for this space could not be contained! I was determined to make our house everything that I dreamed it could be. I filled it with new furniture, artwork, and I was always looking for ways to keep it organized. I started shopping online for something new to add to our home daily. Well, that’s fine at first, but within a month, my desire to provide new things for our home had morphed into an obsession. The excitement and dopamine hit I got after opening another Amazon box was unmatched. Deep down however, I knew that spending had gotten out of hand.
One night after the kids had gone to bed, I sat next to my husband on the sofa. Very carefully he said, “Allison, there’s something I want to talk to you about.” I knew instantly where this was headed. It was headed to my online shopping obsession. I explained to him that I had actually started to crave online shopping. As crazy as it sounds, I could actually feel my body gravitating toward it, to the point that I didn’t even have the willpower to stop myself. And I’m supposed to be teaching people how to stop themselves, right? I’m supposed to be the one teaching people how to budget, pay off debt, save money and stay on track with their spending. And yet here I was, craving another box arriving on my doorstep.
So Matt and I sat down together that night on the sofa and we decided that if I was to overcome my impulse spending, I would need clear boundaries around online shopping. So we decided in that moment to identify the pattern that allowed me to obsess over buying new things for my home. We knew we needed to disrupt the pattern because it was out of control. I needed to basically go cold turkey around my online shopping. With clear boundaries in place, I was able to actually free up my mind and determine the real reason behind my overspending: I had a desire to create a home that was a safe haven for my kids, specifically, my oldest son who was so anxious and nervous about starting second grade at a new school. You see I had so much guilt about moving him across the state and uprooting him from the only home he remembered and the friends he had and the school he loved. To combat those emotions, I did everything in my power to create a home that he and everyone else loved. I couldn’t control how he responded to the move, but I could control spending money and buying things that would make him feel at home.
But as soon as I put my debit card away, as soon as I stopped opening up the Amazon app, as soon as I stopped shopping online, that actually freed up the time and mental space to work through these realizations and emotions. And I realized that our house was already a home because we were in it. My son didn’t need a perfect house to feel at home. He didn’t need it to be perfectly organized. He didn’t need everything on the walls to be absolutely beautiful. All he needed was for me to actually close the Amazon App, put down my phone, and have a conversation with him.
By disrupting the pattern, I was able to actually realize that!
So whether you’re overspending because you just want to reward yourself for making it through a good week, or you’re overspending because you have mom guilt and you’re trying to use money and online shopping to cure that emotion, I want you to first identify the pattern. Look for the spending patterns in your life, and then make a choice. The choices are simple, you can either disrupt the pattern and stop it in its tracks. Or, you can lean into the pattern. You know that it’s going to happen, you can anticipate it and you can put clear and healthy boundaries in place so that you can still spend money. But within the intentional boundaries you set that makes sense for you and your budget.
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