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Spending Smart: Break the Spell of Spending Mindlessly

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By Gregory Karp

—Self-audit. What do you spend your money on? Until you know that, you won’t know whether you’re spending money mindfully. Jeff Yeager, author of four books on frugal living, including his latest “How to Retire the Cheapskate Way,” suggests performing a “What the heck was I thinking” audit. Twice a year, he examines his statements and receipts, then asks himself, “If I had it to do over again, would I still have spent that money on that thing?” It’s a great exercise to find money leaks and identify spending triggers. Ultimately, it will allow you to redirect dollars to things you care more about. The result for Yeager after several audits was “each time my list of spending regrets gets shorter and shorter.”

—Tuning out temptation. We’d like to think we’re immune to advertising pitches, but marketers know otherwise. Acknowledging purchasing pressures and limiting your exposure to them is key to spending your money your way, Philleo said. That might mean muting TV commercials during breaks in shows, staying out of the mall and unsubscribing to catalogs and retailer emails. Opt out of credit offers by calling 1-888-5-OPT-OUT. Get off junk mailing lists by going to DMAChoice.org. Mobile app PaperKarma receives generally good reviews for reducing unwanted junk mail. Adblock Plus is a popular Web browser add-on that blocks advertisements. The National Do Not Call registry is at DoNotCall.gov or 888-382-1222.

—Cooling it. When she desires new clothing she sees in catalogs, Philleo said she cuts out the page and places clippings in a folder. That alone seems to satisfy her urge to splurge. “It’s a nice delay strategy,” she says. One rule of thumb is to wait a day for every $100 an item costs, giving buying urges time to subside.

—Beginning with the end in mind. Setting spending goals sounds like an exercise in drudgery, but it can be fun and fundamental. The easiest way to say no to daily tempting purchases is to have a specific reason to. Your inner voice will say, “I’m not going to buy this new television because I would rather go on the Florida golfing trip with friends in February.”

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