Creating a Life Free From Chaos

7 Tips for Getting Spending Back on Track

Do you ever feel like your spending is completely out of control, and you just don’t know where you’re going to get enough money to cover the month? Do you ever wonder where all that money went when you have nothing to show for it? It’s time to stop frittering away your pennies on lattes and junk from the dollar bin. Let’s talk about seven easy ways to get spending back on track.


  1. Create a budget. Make a simple budget that lists out your total expected income and all of your fixed expenses for the month. Then, estimate the amount you spend on utilities, groceries, household supplies, and other non-fixed expenses. The final total for all of your expenses should be less than your income. This simple list of expenses is the jumping off point for your new budget. As the month goes on, you can update the totals, adjusting categories as needed so the total expenditures stay less than your income. At the beginning of the next month, you’ll create a new budget using your updated totals from last month’s budget, and you’ll keep updating and adjusting until you come up with a working budget that you can stick to. This is a simplified explanation of creating a budget. For more information, check out the Tools section of
  2. Keep a spending log. At the end of each day, write down in a notebook how much you spent and what you spent it on. Write down every coffee, every trip through the drive-thru, every trip to Target. Keep a running total of how much you’re spending so that you know where all the money is going. You’ll use this running total to make sure that you’re staying within your budget. If your running total starts getting too high, you’ll know it’s time to rein in the spending!
  3. Use cash. It’s a lot harder mentally for most people to spend cash than it is to whip out a credit card or debit card every time a purchase comes up. Keep cash on hand when you’re shopping, and if you can’t buy it with cash, don’t buy it at all.
  4. Set aside an errand day one or two days per week. Only on those errands days can you go to the store to buy groceries, get gas for the car, mail packages at the post office, and anything else you may need to do. Knowing that you only have those one or two days to do all of your errands will force you to be more efficient. It will save you gas and other transportation fees, you’ll save money not buying impulse items running to the store each day, you’ll save time by consolidating trips so you can take an efficient route, and you’ll have to make a list so that you don’t forget anything before errand day. It may take a few weeks to get the hang of errand days, but they are a must for saving both money and time.
  5. Shop only with a list. Make a list before you go to the store of what you intend to buy and only write down the things you asked actually need. I keep a running list on the side of my fridge to jot down items needed for the next errand day. Once you’re at the store, you must stick to the list! The list is going to keep you on budget so that you don’t waste extra money buying stuff you don’t really need.
  6. Try a no-spending month (or less). Set aside a month, a week, or even a weekend for a no-spend challenge. For whatever amount of time you choose, commit to not spending anything above and beyond your absolute necessities: gas, groceries, and bills. That means no eating out, no Starbucks, no extra little fun things at the store, nothing at the grocery store that wasn’t on your list. You’ll be amazed at how much money you save, and you won’t even miss the extras. If there something you truly want that’s not a necessity, write it down, and then reevaluate that purchase once your no-spending challenge is over. If you still want it, then you’re free to go get it!
  7. Use it up, make do or do without. Instead of running to the store every time you think you need something, take a few moments to look around your home, and see if you can make do or do without. Instead of running to the store to buy more shampoo, use up those extra bottles of shampoo in the cabinet, the little travel sizes that you brought home from the hotel, even the stuff you set aside because you didn’t really love it. Use it up now instead of going out to buy more. It may not be your favorite, but it’ll save you a few bucks until you use it up, and then you can go buy something new. Likewise, if something breaks during the month, check to see if you have something else around your home that could work instead. Before running to the store to buy new, always check to see if you have some leftovers you can use up, something else you can make do with, or whether you really needed it all or can do without.

What are your best tips for getting spending back on track? Share your tips in the comments!

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2 Replies

  1. Great advice! I have found using cash and tracking my spending particularly helpful. This is how I got out of my suffocatingly deep overdraft. I tracked every penny I was spending, to the point of going through my bank statements and receipts with highlighters to make sure every single item was accounted for, and spent cash exclusively for about 3-4 months. It completely changed my relationship with money.

    For some reason I cannot work with a budget. Even the smell of one makes me rebel and go crazy buying everything I want, “But I *need* it! What do you mean I can’t spend my own money?! ” so instead I keep a running shared list with my wife (using Wunderlist) of everything we need, whether household purchases or personal ones.

    We prioritise this list by what is most important to us, whether through necessity or desire, and we are only allowed to buy things in the day or two after one of us gets paid. Even if the items are few, small or practical, going on a regular mini “shopping spree” like this feels wonderfully extravagant and satisfying, and of course it helps me keep track of what is coming out of our account.

    1. Hi Eva! Great tips! I love how you prioritize your list so you know what’s most important to purchase — fantastic idea! On the subject of budget, I used to be the same way, until I started thinking of it more as my dollars needing to work FOR me, and a budget being the way I give those dollars their work orders. Instead of the budget saying I can’t spend the money, the budget is telling my dollars where I want them to go to work!

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