More than 80% of Americans say they overspend and exceed their budget at least some of the time. Part of the reason why we overspend is because we’re very good at justifying purchases in our heads. When something is on sale, we convince ourselves that we’re saving money by purchasing it even if we don’t really need it.
Phrases like “YOLO” and “treat yourself” are often used as excuses to buy things we can’t really afford. And the wide availability of credit makes it all too easy to swipe our credit cards without thinking our purchases through fully.
If you frequently blow your budget, it may be time to reevaluate how you think and talk about your purchases and money. Here are 3 common excuses for overspending that you may be using to justify poor spending habits.
It’s On Sale So I’m Saving Money
Sales and discounts can make you feel like you’re saving money even if you aren’t. When you buy something unnecessary and overspend, it doesn’t matter if you got 50% off the purchase. I’ve been guilty of falling into this trap before and recently stopped myself from doing it again.
I was looking into buying some Ugg-style boots for the upcoming winter season and saw that Bearpaw was having a Labor Day sale. You could get 25% off your purchase if you bought two pairs of shoes. Even though I only need one pair, I was tempted by the 25% discount and added two pairs to my cart to see how much the total would be (around $80).
Luckily I have a mandatory cooling off period in place before I buy anything, so I didn’t overspend on this deal. I quickly realized that it wasn’t a good idea to buy shoes without trying them on first. But I have to admit that the limited-time nature of the deal almost made me pull the trigger. That’s how companies get you to spend more money than you were planning on—they put time limits on sales so you feel pressured to make a decision right away, which leads to impulse buying.
If sales often make you spend more than you budgeted for, it may be helpful to write down a list of things you truly need. List the quantities as well so BOGO deals don’t convince you to buy more than you planned on. Only allow yourself to purchase items that are actually on your list during big sales holidays like Labor Day. That way you’ll still be able to save money on things you really need while avoiding sale-induced impulse purchases.
I Deserve It Because I Work Hard
Another common justification for overspending is that you deserve a treat because you work hard. I’d argue that because you work hard, you deserve financial security and savings to fall back on. Nothing is worse than working long, hard hours and having nothing to show for it but useless stuff!
My parents ended up in that situation because they always lived beyond their means despite having a six-figure household income. Overspending on vacations and gadgets may be fun while you’re young and healthy. But when you start getting closer to retirement and realize you don’t have enough money saved, you may feel regret that you didn’t save more and have to keep working.
Although treats provide immediate gratification, saving money for the future is the ultimate gift to yourself. So the next time you’re tempted to go on a self-care shopping spree, try to figure out how to get the rest and relaxation you need for free. Making a homemade oatmeal face mask or reading a book in the bath is much more soothing than going to a crowded shopping mall anyway.
I’ve Always Wanted One
The fact that you’ve wanted something for a long time can make it easier to justify overspending. After all, you’ve delayed gratification for years by resisting the purchase. Isn’t it time to finally reward yourself?
But since this item has been on your wishlist for a while, you probably should’ve been more intentional about saving up for it. Pulling money from your savings to pay for a purchase you weren’t planning on is never a great idea. It’s even worse if you put the unplanned expense on a credit card and end up paying interest.
It’s better to save up for a long-coveted item and set aside a small amount every month until you can buy it in cash. If you can only stash $35 per month, it may be a long time before you can finally purchase something on your wishlist. But in my experience, it feels even sweeter to get something you’ve always wanted when you can afford it. That way you won’t experience any financial stress when you buy it, which will prevent you from getting buyer’s remorse.
Do you have any tips on how to prevent overspending? Share your strategies in the comments!
Vicky Monroe is a freelance personal finance and lifestyle writer. When she’s not busy writing about her favorite money saving hacks or tinkering with her budget spreadsheets, she likes to travel, garden, and cook healthy vegetarian meals.