Curbing the Splurging

Chances are you spend more than you need to. But how do you cut back? All it takes is a little thinking beforehand.

Given today’s economy, consumers need to go on a financial diet, says Laurie Campbell, executive director of Toronto-based Credit Canada, a nonprofit credit-counselling service.

As with overeating, people overspend by habit, she says. The living-within-your-means diet is a matter of both making targeted cuts and adjusting your attitude towards spending.

Start by thinking of easy substitutes for everyday expenses. Rent a DVD instead of going to the movies. Use public transit sometimes, instead of your car. Have a potluck dinner with friends instead of going out to a restaurant. It all adds up.

Instead of creating a formal budget, says Campbell, focus on breaking bad patterns, such as going to the mall every weekend. And think of purchases differently: That $50 sweater for 20 percent off doesn’t save you $10, it costs you $40.

Yes, at times it makes sense to spend—buying a new TV for little more than it would cost to fix the old one, or purchasing a home to take advantage of falling prices, for instance.

“But a deal isn’t a deal,” says Campbell, “if you can’t afford it, haven’t saved for it and don’t need it. Those are the three questions you need to ask yourself.”

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