How To Stop Overspending For Good

Hey guys! I’m Karina and I blog over at theoptimalistblog.com. If you’re reading Lexie’s blog, you’re probably a driven person looking for ways to get the flexible lifestyle you desire. Which is great because I’m passionate about helping YOU save money and time, based on the concepts I’ve learned as an Engineer. I find joy in simplifying complex concepts (I’m a nerd, I know :P) and sharing them with you! 

We all have the same 24 hours in a day and finite funds, there’s not much we can do about that.  But what we can do is optimize our time and money by finding ways to simplify our daily tasks. My goal is to give you extra time and money to do what you love: travel more, spend more time with family, or whatever your cup of tea is. 

I’m excited to guest post on Lexie’s blog. Her philosophy on living fully and being goal oriented has helped me focus on achieving my goals, such as blogging consistently. I started blogging in January, sporadically. Now, I do this almost daily because I’ve broken down my goal into smaller chunks or stepping stones as Lexie calls them.

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Today, I’m going to share the step by step method that helped my husband and I stop overspending and the one hack that’s made all the difference!

Have you ever reached the end of your paycheck and wondered where all your money went? Trust me, I know the feeling.  After a little digging, I discovered that we were overspending on groceries and eating out. I figured we might be surpassing our monthly budget by a few bucks, but I never imagined it was by $200 :O  Seeing that number was a wake up call to say the least. We didn’t feel like we spent nearly that much because we tend to make small purchases, but those do add up! The truth is numbers don’t lie. I analyzed our transactions and realized this overspending was consistently happening.

If you want to meet your financial goals, awareness of your current spending habits is vital. To prevent this from happening again, I created an action plan that has helped us stick to our budget. Below, I’m sharing the 7 steps you can take to finally stop overspending:

*Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. I simply love to use Mint to manage my personal finances since it’s been a time saver for me. Rest assured that Mint will keep your financial information safe by reading more here.

1. Create a free account on Mint  - Mint is an amazing personal finance website/app that lets you connect all of your accounts in one place. By all, I mean all (credit/debit cards, mortgage, student loans, 401K, stock, etc). It gives you a snapshot of your net worth. This is helpful because most people have different banks for different cards.

o Click Sign Up → fill in information.

2. Connect all of your accounts

o   Once you’ve logged in, click on Add Accounts on the top part of the ribbon.
o   Next, use the search bar to look for the bank that you’d like to add.
o   A screen will pop up asking you to login to your account (assuming you have a login and password set up for that bank). Simply log in.
o   Then, Mint may send you an email or text to verify your identity.
o   Repeat this for all accounts you have.

3. Categorize transactions - Click on the Transactions tab and review your transactions one by one for the past week to ensure the categories make sense. Thankfully, Mint already categorizes your transactions, but can sometimes add them into general buckets. For example, the gym we go to doesn’t have the word “Gym” in it so Mint categorized it as Business Services. You can update the category by clicking the drop-down next to “Groceries” (in the screenshot below) and choose another category when needed.

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 4. Analyze transactions to see average monthly spend per category – Click on the Trends tab. Next, choose “Last month” in the dropdown for during (#1 below) and “Previous month” for Compare to (#2 below). I also personally prefer bar graphs over pie charts so I selected the 3 bar icon (#3). This helps you see if your spending changes month over month and if it’s higher/lower than expected.

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*Note: The data shown in the screenshot is for example purposes only and does not reflect my actual spending

5. Come up with a realistic goal for the category you are overspending in – If you notice your spending in a particular category is much higher than expected, ask yourself if this is a necessary or optional category. If you are spending on medical bills, I would consider that essential. But if you’re getting too many Starbucks fraps, then be honest with yourself that this can be improved.

6. HACK! Take out cash for the categories you overspend in - Eating out is my opportunity area, but I also know that sometimes cash is inconvenient (like when you’re splitting a bill) so I opt to use cash for most of my eating out budget. Having a tangible limit makes it easier to manage (rather than mindlessly swiping a card) and acts as a good reminder that money is finite.

7. Reassess whenever you’d like - Repeat the steps above to see how you are improving. You can also see that maybe your first number was not realistic and you may need to adjust.

BONUS  - Set a goal – Let’s be goal getters! Mint helps you set goals and track progress on your goals, backed up by your real transactions. Click on the Goals tab on the ribbon and select “Add a Goal”. I suggest choosing one goal only to make it easier to stick with. Let’s say you choose “Pay Off Student Loans”. Mint will show you all the student loans you have and lets you choose which one(s) you want to focus on paying off. Once you’ve chosen, Mint will show you the minimum payment needed and you can add the new payment you plan to use to pay it off quicker. The one feature I love is that Mint shows you how much money in interest you’ll save by paying higher payments. Once you’re done, click “Save Goal”.

With these steps, you’ll be able to identify the categories you overspend in and be intentional moving forward. Overspending happens to all of us so don’t feel bad! The idea with this post is to help draw awareness on how this can be improved. Your life should be your own experiment, so with trial and error, you will find what’s best for you. Remember that budgets are flexible. If you decide that you value eating out, then just bump up that category, while lowering another category (like shopping). I’d love to hear ways you’ve found to save money in your daily life! Please comment below to share any tips/tricks.

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Stop Overspending for Good