Woman holding a coffee mug looking at a laptop computer

How to Stop Spending Money

Some days it may feel like your spending is out of control. You look at the bank account, the credit card statement, or the empty wallet and wonder, Where did my money go? But how do you stop? How do you stop spending money when the temptation to spend is all around?

If you’ve asked yourself that same question—if you’ve spent a latte on your coffees or gotten near the end of the month and thought, Welp. That paycheck didn’t last as long as I needed it to—then here are 25 ways to stop spending money on food, clothes, household goods, and those nonessentials that feel pretty essential in the moment. 

Money Icon

How to Stop Spending Money

1. Create a budget.

If you want to stop spending money, the first step is to make a plan for where your money should go. That’s called a budget. Lots of people cower in fear at the word budget. It sounds restrictive. It sounds boring. It sounds difficult.

It doesn’t have to be any of those things. A budget actually gives you freedom because you’ll start telling your money you’re the one in charge. And budgeting doesn’t have to be boring or hard. With the EveryDollar app, you can start budgeting in minutes and keep up with your spending on the go.

2. Track your spending.

So you want to stop spending money. You’ve got your budget set. But there’s one more thing we have to mention before moving on: Throughout the month, you’ll need to track your spending. This shows you where your money is actually going.

­

For example, let’s say you budgeted $400 for groceries, but as you track all those grocery store receipts, you find out you actually spent $600. Either you’ve got to cut back or you’ve got to face the truth that $600 is what your family needs each month for this budget line. Either way, watching where and how you spend your money is how you start spending it well!

3. Set money goals.

Notice how all these first tips are about your mindset. To get your mind in the space of not overspending, you need to set money goals. These start you on the path of prioritizing your spending now so you can get where you want to be later. Spending money isn’t bad when it’s planned for. And money goals help us put all those plans into a bigger perspective.

When you have goals for the future, you’re going to think twice about spending money in the present.

4. Don’t use credit cards.

Credit cards give you a false sense of what you can afford. They encourage overspending because you’re making today’s purchase tomorrow’s problem. Stop using credit cards. Start paying with cash or debit, which uses money you actually have in your bank account.

You’ll be more mindful of your spending when you can actually see your bank account or cash stack shrink.

5. Give every dollar a job.

Don’t leave money sitting around without anything to do. An unbudgeted dollar gets frittered away. And we don’t have time for frittered-away dollars because we’re on a mission to get things done with our money. We’re saving more and spending less. We’re making progress on our money goals because we mean business. Business. Job. All these words are intentional. If you want your money to work for you, you’ve got to give every single dollar a job.

Food Icon

How to Stop Spending Money on Food

1. Meal plan.

Why does meal planning keep you from spending dough? It’s because making an intentional plan for food helps you avoid all those, “Oh no, what’s for dinner?” trips to the drive-thru.

Set up a weekly plan for each meal. This doesn’t mean you’re cooking all day every day. It means you’ll have stuff on hand for morning, noon, snacktime, and night—the last (most likely) being the most elaborate plan you’ll make.

Just like a budget tells your money what to do, meal plans tell your food what to do. When you make a meal plan, you know what you’ll be eating, so you know what to buy, so you waste less. It’s a different kind of food chain.

2. Make a grocery list.

As you’re planning, begin creating a grocery list. Write out all the stuff you need to bring those meal plans to fruition. Look through your pantry, fridge, and freezer as you do. This keeps you from spending money on something you already have. Then—and this is key—don’t buy things that aren’t on your list. This isn’t improv class. Stick to the script.

3. Eat leftovers.

Once you make a meal, don’t let what’s left after dinner die a slow and moldy death in a Tupperware coffin in your fridge. That wastes food and money. Put that tasty goodness to use. Enjoy it for lunch the next day or put a “Leftovers Night” on the meal plan calendar for the week. This keeps you from buying new meals every mealtime.

4. Brown-bag your lunch.

Speaking of lunches—stop your daily restaurant routine. Stop giving your dollars to the vending machine or office snack shop throughout the day. Remember how we said you should meal plan for snacks too? Keep some midday munchies at your desk and bring your lunch to work most days of the week. It’s okay to eat out some—if it’s in the budget. But bringing in leftovers or brown-bagging a sandwich, fruit, and pretzels like your middle school days is a wonderful way to stop spending so much money eating out.

5. Order your groceries online.      

When you order your groceries online, you can track the total cost as you go, and then if you’re over budget, you can delete items from your virtual cart before you check out. You don’t have to walk through the grocery story with a calculator in hand to make sure you aren’t shocked at the register. You’ll know exactly what you’ll be paying before you complete the order, and you’re far less likely to impulse buy the sharing-size bag of sour gummy worms on the grocery aisle’s end cap.

Clothes Icon

How to Stop Spending Money on Clothes

1. Shop your closet.

When was the last time you went on a shopping spree—in your own closet? You’ve got great pieces in there gathering dust in a drawer or on a hanger, wishing they could live their best life on your body. But they can’t. Because they’re forgotten.

Remember them. And when you do, you’ll realize you have more outfit possibilities than you ever knew—literally within your reach.

Do some internet searching or Pinterest investigation work to see how you can use what you already have to make your wardrobe work even harder for you.

2. Only buy pieces that extend your wardrobe.

If you do buy something new (or used!), get a piece that helps you make a new outfit out of things you already own. Don’t buy something that needs even more to make it useful.

For example, a denim jacket can be used in multiple ways with things you probably already have. Put it over a dress. Pair it with your favorite graphic tee. This is a piece that makes new outfits out of old ones. That’s better spending.

3. Purchase clothing you need. Avoid the pieces you just want.

If your socks are falling apart, by all means—get new socks. When you need certain clothing items, purchase those. But if you want to stop overspending on clothes, show some restraint and don’t buy stuff you don’t need.

4. Go for quality clothing items that will last.

When you buy clothes, think long term. Clothing that lasts longer may be better on your budget overall, and it can help cut down on the clothing waste that’s become common in our get-it-then-ditch-it society. Sometimes cheaper isn’t cheaper in the long run. Stop spending money on cheap quantity. Invest in quality.

5. Set a monthly spending limit for clothes shopping.

The best way put the kibosh on your spending here is to create a budget line for clothes. Set a spending limit. And don’t go over it. That’s real adulting: giving yourself fashion freedom within a financial framework. You can spend money on clothing—if you’ve put it in your money plan, aka budget.

Household Goods

How to Stop Spending Money on Household Goods

1. Switch to reusable containers.

Do you hear that? It’s the environment thanking you for the next couple tips. “You’re welcome, environment. We love you too.”

Instead of spending money on all those plastic baggies that go from the pantry to the lunch box to the garbage, get some reusable containers. Yes, this is an initial investment, as a couple of these suggestions are. But, in the end, you won’t have to keep spending money on all that plastic pre-trash. Oh yeah.

2. Use washable towels over paper towels.

You probably already have hand towels tucked in a drawer or cabinet somewhere. If not, ask your mom to buy or crochet you some for Christmas. Or hit up your local dollar store. These things aren’t expensive, and using them instead of a new paper towel sheet every time means fewer trips to the store and to the dumpster.

3. Buy in bulk.

Wait. How does buying more make you spend less? Well, first of all, buying in bulk doesn’t always save you money. But it often does. Check out those price-per-ounce figures. If buying that giant box of cheese crackers or toilet paper is cheaper by the unit, then you’ll spend less not only on the product but also on trips to the store (saving gas and the possibility of splurging on one of those shareable-size bags of sour gummy worms).

4. Use rechargeable batteries.

Batteries. Can’t game without them.

But really—those gaming controllers are always dying. Buy rechargeable batteries, enough so you always have backups when the others need charging. Then you don’t have to miss a single minute of racing your kids around the mushroom-themed track with your Italian plumber driver.

5. Make your own things around the house.        

Don’t spend money on things you can make yourself. This is the day of the DIY. Pinterest, YouTube, and social media are teaming with tutorials on how to make your own slime, soaps, drapes, household cleaners, mouthwash, dog food, laundry detergent, ant killer, face scrubs—the list is longer than this blog. For a small investment in ingredients, you can save big in the long run and stop spending money on a lot of the daily essentials.

Lightbulb Icon

How to Stop Spending Money on Unnecessary Items

1. Discover your spending triggers.

If you’re a natural spender, or if you find yourself spending more during certain key moments in life, figure out those triggers. Does stress, your mood, or boredom tempt you to spend? Do you see others with something and want to keep up? Do you mindlessly online shop from apps on your phone? Do you buy things just because they’re a good deal or on sale? (Pro tip: If you don’t need it, then it’s not a good deal. No matter what “percent off” it is.)

When you figure out your spending triggers, you can work to stop them. Maybe delete a couple of those apps off your phone. Find a healthier go-to for stress, like yoga, a good book, or a conversation with a friend.

And if you feel the need to keep up with others, remember that they’re probably looking at you and wishing they had something you own—like that bag of sour gummy worms or your awesome attitude or your money skills.

2. Avoid temptation: Don’t go shopping.

The best way to stop spending is to stay away from situations that make you want to spend—like the stores that carry your favorite things to buy. Spend less time in stores. Don’t go shopping without a reason. Stick to your list when you’re getting groceries. These tips are golden and will stop nonessential spending it its tracks.

3. Go on a short-term spending freeze.

If you want to challenge yourself, go on a spending freeze. This can mean taking a No Spending Day Challenge or jumping into a “nothing but the essentials” week—or month! If you decide to spend no money at all for an entire day, please check your gas tank first. (That’s another pro tip! No one wants you stranded on the side of the road.)

Spending freezes aren’t for everyone, but they’re a great way to literally stop spending money for a while. They can also help you become more mindful of how easy it is to spend so you’re more aware of your spending tendencies and more thankful for the stuff you already have.

4. Make your own coffee.

If you stop by the local coffee shop every morning for your cuppa joe, you’re spending a whole lot of money on your caffeine fix. We won’t suggest you stop drinking coffee. We wouldn’t wish that on anyone. But we do suggest you become your own barista. Making your own coffee means less time in the drive-thru and more time counting all the money you’ll save.

5. Focus on being content rather than trying to impress others.

Again—if you want to stop spending money on nonessentials, the place to start is in your heart. Spend time this week working on being more content—thinking more about what you have and less about what you don’t.

Remember: You don’t have anyone to impress but yourself. And what better way to impress yourself than by proving you can show restraint in your spending and get closer, every day, to your money goals—to the huge future dreams that mean a lot more than the little impressions you might make on social media to a bunch of people you may not even know.

You’re better than that. You’re bolder than that. And your dreams are bigger than that.

Check Mark Icon

A Budget Gives You Permission to Spend

As you can see, we aren’t saying you should stop spending completely. But if you want to get your spending under control and save more money each month, then you will need to make some changes.

The biggest and best change to make is to start budgeting. It not only reveals all those spending patterns—and helps you get those patterns to line up with your goals—it also gives you permission to spend!

How? When you’ve budgeted to spend set amounts on different purchases, bills, and items, you’re saying it’s okay to spend your money.

Create a free budget with EveryDollar today. It takes just 10 minutes to make your first budget.