Avoiding Temptation and Debt – How I Prioritize My Spending

If you’re like me, avoiding temptation and debt doesn’t come easy. With social media, expedited shipping, and unlimited credit cards, it’s hard to say no to some of the most unnecessary purchases. Like with almost every life lesson, I learned through failure, and am now an advocate for living a life you can afford.

If you’re currently living beyond your means, or are hoping to save some money, here are some top tips I follow to avoid debt.

List the Essentials

This goes beyond your water and electric bill. If childcare, transportation, and insurance are frequent and essential bills that need to be paid, list those too. You’d be surprised how fast these things add up. If you pay everything with a debit card like me, then actually going through your bank statement will give you a clearer view of your spending habits and list of essentials.

Separate Wants and Needs

Like many others, this tip can be easily taken out of context. While eating is a human need, eating out isn’t. I like to limit eating out to one meal per week. By setting limits, I subconsciously tell myself that I only have the money for one restaurant meal. Home cooked meals are usually healthier and can save you hundreds of dollars a month. Take a step back and decide whether specific lifestyle choices are wants or needs. Use a process of elimination to save you money.

Save for the Non-Essentials

One of my favorite non-essentials to prioritize is travel. Every year during Spring break, which happens to fall during my daughter’s birthday, my family and I travel to California for a week-long vacation to Disneyland. While this trip is a tradition and one of the activities my family looks forward to all year, it’s non-essential and costs a few thousand dollars.

We make this happen by planning at least six months in advance, making a budget, and saving the money. Most banks make it easy to set up a separate savings account and automatic transfers.

Only use credit cards when needed

There’s a negative stigma around them but using credit cards can also help. Whether it’s to boost your credit score, accumulate travel miles, or simply pull yourself out of a tough situation, they’re not always bad.

If credit cards are some of your preferred methods of payment, make sure that you’re using them for the right reasons, and that you can actually afford to pay them back. Using credit cards to pay for a lifestyle you can’t afford isn’t just unhealthy but can quickly accumulate debt. Take note of all your credit card spending and ask yourself whether they are wants or needs. You decide.

Let go of the shame

Social media has become one of the leading sources of comparison. I’m guilty of it. Comparing your life to that of a stranger isn’t just unhealthy, but you’re setting yourself up for failure. Watching bloggers, influencers, and celebrities in new cars, homes, and travel destinations can make you feel defeated, but remember that it’s usually not real.

Own your current circumstance and work with what you have. If you can’t afford to join your friend to her birthday celebration in Las Vegas, treat her to a modest dinner. Can’t afford the fancy workout classes all your friends are attending? Join a gym and be your own personal trainer. There are substitutes for almost anything, and pricier doesn’t always mean better.

Whatever your current circumstance is, make sure that your lifestyle choices and actions are done for you and not a stranger on social media.