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Spending Too Much? Learn How to Want Less and Find Enough

spending too muchIf you feel like you’re spending too much, there’s probably a good reason for it. Maybe you’ve just started to change your financial life, and you regularly face the temptation to grab takeout rather than eat at home. Perhaps you’ve been gazelle intense at cutting spending and slaying debt, but you still can’t resist the urge to spend more than you think you should. If you constantly face the urge to spend, it’s going to be tough to stay on track for your financial goals for the long haul.

My sister and I talk every Saturday, and we recently spent the entire morning discussing exactly this. She’s a year into an impressive debt pay down (over $30,000 in 12 months!), and yet, it’s still really tempting to buy that fancy kitchen gadget. I’m over three years into my pursuit of financial independence, and I, too, feel the urge to grab lunch with coworkers rather than eat my packed lunch. We’ve both made enormous progress in changing many aspects of our financial lives, but we still have areas to improve.

When you know your own struggle of spending too much, it can be easy to look at fantastic savers in the PF Blogosphere like Mr. Money Mustache and the Frugalwoods, and wonder how they do it. From the outside, it looks like they’ve completely mastered their desire to spend. How do they do it? I’m not perfect by any means, but in the past few years, I’ve learned a thing or two about tackling one spending urge at a time. Here’s how I help myself spend less and save more:

spending too muchThe Pitfall of “I Can’t Afford It”

Just recently, my husband and I have been saving for new-to-us furniture, and it’s going to take some time to save up for it while meeting all of our other goals. I’ve said to my husband: We can’t afford it.

Have you ever heard yourself say the same?

Technically, it’s not true. We could reduce our 401(k) contributions, or send less to savings. While the current me would really like a nice rug and other home furnishings, the future me wants that money to go to savings.

A mindset of “I can’t afford it” is one where lifestyle inflation is a natural next step. It’s a mindset where you say, “If I make more money in the future, I could buy it.” If anything, this mindset increases the desire to spend, even when making financial progress.

To counteract this sentiment, I tell myself that I can afford it if I wanted to, but that I want my other goals more.

What do you say to yourself to encourage helpful behaviors?

Avoid the Trigger

One way I avoid spending too much is to avoid spending triggers in the first place. Recently, I signed up for an email newsletter to get a coupon. After I printed the coupon, I promptly unsubscribed so  I won’t end up obsessing over pretty things that cost more than I want to spend.

When you look at your spending behavior, what triggers the action of spending too much in the first place? What can you do to avoid it? By eliminating the triggers that bring up your urge to spend one at a time, you’ll find yourself wanting less over time.

spending too muchSlow the Purchasing Process Down

In the moment, it can be tough to say no to myself. When I’ve just read a really interesting article, and then clicked over to the author’s book on Amazon, it’s tempting to buy the book for my Kindle instead of figuring out how to get it from the library. (In fact, books are my #1 thing I spend my fun money on!)

I try to put the book on my wish list instead of sending a sample to my Kindle. With 1-click ordering on the Kindle, it’s too easy to buy. (I’m sure Amazon designed it this way on purpose!) I spend less by slowing the purchasing process down. I’ll usually go back to my wish list in a month or so, and sometimes, I find I don’t even want to read the book anymore.

What can you do to make it more difficult to spend? Can you pay in cash, put more in an online savings account, or take your payment information out of your favorite websites?

Determine What You Desire

Sometimes, the urge to spend isn’t really about what I’m tempted to buy. It’s about the desire for something else entirely. It takes looking inwards to find out what I really want, and the process isn’t easy.

I’ve talked myself into going to an expensive restaurant to hang out with friends more than once, when a game night at home is just as good.  It was tough to own up to the fact that I wanted more time out with friends, but that I didn’t know how to make it happen in my current situation. (There’s a happy ending here. Moving to a bigger city and making new frugal friends helps!)

If you have a strong feeling of tension between the desire of spending too much and your long term goals, that’s a great clue of when to look inwards. These are the habits and urges that can take a long time to conquer, but it’s worth it.

spending too muchGet What You Really Want

Ultimately, the real solution to spending too much and wanting less is to … get what you really want. Sounds obvious, right?

In some cases, your desire to spend on an item is completely valid. It’s probably just a matter of finding an acceptable substitute at the right price. For example, we left our couch behind in our most recent move. Ultimately, our solution was just to buy a couch from a local used furniture store. There are endless examples of frugal tactics to help you spend less.

Other times, when you figure out that your urge to spend is about something else, the solution will probably take more work.  But problems like wanting love, friendship, or security can all be solved.

If you’ve chosen between two incompatible things, say paying off debt vs. buying a bigger house, be content with your choice. You evaluated the situation, and you made what you thought was the best choice. In time, you’ll be able to reconsider other options.

If you are content with your current life, it’s much easier to be happy now and to quit wishing to buy more. Many things can be bought at the right price. But buying more isn’t a solution to every problem in life, and you’ll never meet your financial goals if you try to do exactly that.

What would make you say, “I have enough”?

This post has been written by Jenna, our staff writer who hails from

Battle of the Mind Money


My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.


  1. These are great tips. I know a trigger of mine used to be going to the mall when I was bored to walk around. Almost every time I walked out with something. Now I avoid doing that and just go for a walk around my neighborhood.

    • Thanks Jon! That’s a great frugal substitute.

  2. Awesome post. Its thought provoking for sure. Its very hard to stop yourself of spending money on the little things that pile up.I have been good on not buying clothing and making due with what I have but it would be nice to be treated to a massage or manicure. Lol! I won’t fall for that trap though.

    What a goal your sister has for the $30,000 pay debt goal. I thought my 20,000 debt goal for 1 year was massive! I need to up my game for sure.

    • Hey, $20k in one year is no joke! Best of luck on your debt pay down.

  3. One thing that I say to myself when I find myself really wanting something is so cheesy, but it works. I say, “Right now, I have the opportunity to be grateful.”

    This doesn’t diminish my desires, but it helps me to remember that contentment is greater than anything I could ever want.

    • “Like” 😉

    • That’s another great mental trick to put into the vault. 🙂

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