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Reset Your Money Habits With a Spending Cleanse

By Erica Gellerman
June 18, 2019

Bad habits have a way of creeping into your life when you’re not paying attention. Maybe you have a screen addiction that you just can’t quit, or you have a habit of procrastinating that leaves you scrambling all the time.

Or maybe you have spending habits that leave your bank account in bad shape at the end of each month. Whereas fixing bad financial habits can take focus and willpower, sometimes you need to take a more extreme approach. This is where a spending cleanse comes into play.

A spending cleanse is designed to help you get a handle on your spending habits. During your spending cleanse you’ll set a period of time when you give yourself a spending limit or curb your spending altogether. It can last for any amount of time and you can decide your spending rules. For example, you might decide to stop eating out during your cleanse. Or you may decide to completely forgo all unnecessary spending. While you’re at it, you’ll become more aware of your spending habits and where you currently spend too much. As a bonus, you’ll probably save money.

If you’re ready to save extra cash and kick your bad financial habits to the curb, here are six steps to set you up for success. Take a look:

1. Decide why you want to cleanse

A spending cleanse is going to be difficult. But a great way to keep you motivated is to remind yourself why you’re doing it. Maybe you want to escape the paycheck to paycheck cycle and start building up your savings. Or, maybe you want to finally understand where your money is disappearing to each month. If you can get clear on why you want to cleanse, you can more readily stay the course.

2. Set a length of time

Next, it’s time to decide how long you want your cleanse to last. Ideally, it will last at least a few days. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, try a few weeks or a full month. Choose the length and the timing that works for you. Don’t plan to start this cleanse when it’s going to be really hard to complete. You’ll want to steer clear of any obligations that you’ve already committed to like travel or attending a wedding. For example, if you’re going on a weekend trip, that’s clearly not the right time to stop spending money.

Take out your calendar, pick your start and end dates, and set yourself up for success.

3. What are you giving up?

You can choose what you want to give up during your spending cleanse. You may decide that you really want to get your eating out habit under control, so you’ll stop dining out. Maybe you want to ditch your car and taxis and ride your bike for the entire cleanse. Or, you may want to go all in and only spend money on things that you truly need, like food, transportation to work, and your bills.

Whatever you choose, set rules for yourself. If you’ve decided to only spend money on the things you truly need, make sure you define what that looks like. For example, you need to eat so spending on groceries counts as a need. But buying lunch out? You may want to skip that.

4. Spend cash only

Once you’ve set your cleanse timeline and decided what you can and can’t spend money on, you’re ready to dive in! A good tip here: Use cash. Why? Spending money is easier to do when you’re just swiping your card and studies show that people spend more when using a credit card. Because you’re trying to be more aware of your money habits, using cash will help you be even more in tune with your spending during the cleanse.

So, head to the ATM, pull out some cash, and get started.

5. Track what you spend…and what you don’t spend

Tracking your spending will help you see exactly how much you spend on things like gas, groceries, and non-essential things. You may realize that some of your small expenses really add up over time.

For example, if you’re pulling out a sandwich you’ve packed for lunch when you’d usually spend seven dollars at the deli down the street, make a note of that. If your friend asks you to meet for drinks but you suggest a hike instead, write that down. These are all instances where you could be spending money, but you’re not. Once your cleanse is over, you may find that it’s easy to stay with these alternatives rather than go back to your old ways.

6. Pay attention to how you feel

As you stop spending money, pay attention to whether you really miss the things that you’ve cut out. How do you feel about making coffee at home rather than stopping for your daily lattes? Does it make you feel good to sock away extra money towards bigger things, like a vacation, paying off debt, or funding your emergency savings?

Decide what to add back in

Congratulations! You’ve just made it through your spending cleanse. But don’t rush right back to your old habits just yet.

Now that you’re more aware of your spending habits, it’s time to determine how you can continue saving money.

Maybe you’ve kicked your coffee habit and you have no intention of going back to dropping $25 a week at Starbucks. Or, maybe taking the bus instead of an Uber really isn’t so bad. Remember: The goal of a spending cleanse is to help you make some long-term changes. So, maybe it’s time to break up with your bad financial habits for once and for all!

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