The holidays are over and you’ve just tallied up your generous gift-giving tab and—shocker—you went over budget. Again. No shame—we’ve all been there and have all had that “yay-I’m-under-budget-on-this-gift-so-I-can-afford-that-new-dress” moment, but a new year means a new chance to (finally) get your finances in shape and nix those bad spending habits once and for all.
1. Cash, not credit
First thing’s first, remove your credit cards from your wallet and put them somewhere you won't see them everyday. Go back to that simple time before you turned 18 and were pre-approved and spend only what cash you were given for your allowance. Seeing the cash in your wallet deplete with every purchase will help you keep your finances in check and will make you reconsider what you’re spending it on, and will also help you break the vicious cycle of paying off a balance on your credit card only to put something new on it.
2. Track your purchases
Set realistic budgets for yourself. Do you really need to spend $150 a month eating out for lunch? Probably not. Sites like Mint or MoneyStrands allow you to connect all of your accounts so that you can keep track of every dollar you spend and allows you to modify your monthly budgets. Not sure how much you spend each month on coffee? These apps alert you when you go over your set budget and even give you a head’s up when you have a bill coming up.
3. Avoid the malls (and online shopping, for that matter)
This one may be a no-brainer and easier said than done, but after all of your holiday shopping, it’s an important one. Just stay home. Relish in the gifts you got over the holidays, start a new show on Netflix or invite some friends over for brunch or game night, but whatever you do: just stay home. If you need some incentive to skip the mall, set a goal for yourself: If you don’t go shopping for a month (or a few, if you’re really committed), you can treat yourself to something later (like a mani-pedi or a new blouse). But, if you can’t avoid the malls completely…
4. Shop the sales—with purpose
The first couple months of each year are always a great time to hit up the sale racks since most stores are trying to get rid of their winter inventory to make room for spring products. If you absolutely must spend that Christmas bonus you got, go shopping with a mission. Pick an item that you’ve really been wanting (like that splurgey pair of boots you selflessly left the store without) and hit up the sales to find it. Bringing just cash to pay for them, when you find those 50 per cent off boots, you’ll curb your shopping itch and save yourself the buyer’s remorse.