Do you find yourself buying things just because you always have? We all fall into spending habits and routines – some good, some less so – and every so often it’s good to have a think about which ones are worth keeping. Especially if you’re starting to feel that things are slipping out of control.

What I’ve been wondering most about lately is our media spend at home. Although we’ve skipped Sky for the moment and save that way, we still rack up the rental charges for movies and television series.

Just the other day my two boys, aged eight and six, had set their sights on a movie they hadn’t seen in a while, which was not for rent and only for sale online. So they pooled their pocket money – putting in $10 each – and were aiming to buy it outright. They needed to watch it immediately for some reason.

Luckily, I still control the iTunes account, so I put the brakes on.

Boy did they protest. As with many things we all buy, whether it’s clothes, food or gadgets, we’re chasing more than just the item – there’s the feeling we get when we buy it, too. The emotional hit that comes with it.

Nowhere is this more on display than with children. For the boys it seemed much more than just a movie; it was almost as if they needed to physically return to a world they had been to before and missed, complete with the Tooth Fairy, Sandman, Santa, Jack Frost and the Easter Bunny. (Put that way, what kid wouldn’t?)

If you’re looking to reduce your spending in a given area, the trick is to find a cheaper alternative that gives you a similar social or emotional hit.

Since we’re talking media spending, let’s say you end up out with friends to the movies a bit more than your money plan can handle, yet you’re afraid you’ll miss out on the good times. Instead of everyone meeting at the theatre, why not organise a movie marathon at home with the group? (Make sure the popcorn’s good.) You save money and avoid FOMO – fear of missing out.

To move into a new spending routine, you need to make sure you reward yourself. Without the reward, the cheaper alternatives make you feel like you’re being deprived.

If you’re aiming to reduce the money you spend on food, you could trade high-priced goods for cheaper items. But to make the new habit stick, though, try taking a bit of the money you saved and treating yourself right away to something else, like a stop at the café or a magazine you haven’t bought before. It’s important to reward yourself right then and there.

If you’d like to avoid upgrading to the latest gadget, treat yourself to some new music or e-books instead.

Now it may seem odd that to save you would spend on something else for yourself, but sometimes that’s exactly what it takes to reshape everyday spending patterns.

After you’ve replaced your previous routine a few times, you’ll find that you’re in control and may not need to treat yourself. Seeing how much you save, or the goal that you’re saving for, becomes a reward in itself. As does being in control.

I was eventually able to reroute my boys to a cheaper choice: a quick trip to the local video shop, where the very same movie was rentable for all of $4.50. Everyone was happy, and hopefully they learned that there are cheaper alternatives that can still transport them to those fantasy worlds they’re seeking. 

The trick to replace a sp​ending habit

1. When you’re ready for a change, choose something (media, food, gadgets) that you’d like to spend less on.

2. Find a similar but less costly alternative. Choose a replacement that gives you the same emotional payoff.

3. With some of the money saved, treat yourself right away so you don’t feel deprived. Reward yourself!

4. Keep doing it until you’ve moved on from your old spending pattern and you’re in control of your choices.

 

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Comments (5)

  • Tom

    11:27am | 30 Mar 2017

    Thanks Chloe, you're right: if we spend all the time rewarding ourselves, there'll be nothing left to save. But that wasn't the point here (see the third point at the end)... If all we have is that feeling of being deprived, we probably won't do it. Cheers

  • Chloe

    1:40pm | 29 Mar 2017

    Absolutely rubbish advice. This "reward yourself" mentality is exactly why so many kiwis are broke or in debt.

  • Jo

    9:41pm | 30 Jan 2017

    A quick trip doesn't always mean driving. If you aim at nothing you will always hit it.

  • Tom

    2:04pm | 5 Jul 2016

    Thanks for commenting, anonymous – we appreciate different takes on these "quandaries"... Cheers

  • anonymous

    9:40am | 3 Jul 2016

    I don't see your logic. You drove to the video store, at a time, vehicle wear and tear, and petrol cost, to rent something that could be owned for not much more, thus enjoyed multiple times, without any travel costs at all. When considering such a quandary one should always look at the total cost of ownership, rather than the initial fix. And the cost of repeating this cycle defeats your goal, IMO.