How to Stop Spending Money [In-Depth Guide]

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Overspending could be considered a disorder to some extent.

And you know what, chances are, everyone has fallen victim to overspending in one way or another. I know I sure have overspent on useless items.

But you know what? I’m not the only one that has fallen victim to overspending in this country. 

Check out these crazy overspending facts, below:

  • 79% of consumers fail to stick to their budget
  • Consumers typically overspend by $7,400 per year
  • Consumers carry close to $1.1 trillion in credit card debt
  • Online shopping increases the average consumer’s risk of overspending by 40%
the millennial money woman blog post "united states spending facts"

Source: CBNC

As you can see, creating a budget is much easier than actually sticking to a budget. 

So what are some of the budget breakers that cause people to spend north of $140 per week – over what they should be spending, based on their budget requirements? 

  • Online shopping
  • Grocery shopping
  • Subscription services
  • Tech gadgets
  • Eating out (lunch) daily
the millennial money woman blog post "budget breakers"

Of course, it’s also important to make sure your budget numbers are realistic.

Let’s say that your budget is realistic but you simply find yourself overspending on multiple occasions.

How can you battle your overspending habits?

Well, in order to battle your overspending habits, let’s first take a deeper dive and look into why you might be overspending in the first place.

Why People Overspend

There are several reasons why people overspend – and typically every reason has an emotional tie behind it.

As I mentioned before, you need to figure out your “why” before you start to stop spending money. 

It’s so much easier to stop spending money when you know the root cause of your poor financial habits.

So, let’s figure out some reasons why you overspend in the first place.

Why people overspend:

  1. Relieve Bad Feelings
  2. Celebrations
  3. Empowerment
  4. Show Love
  5. Keeping up with the Joneses
  6. Addiction
  7. Instant Gratification
Let’s go into further depth below.
common reasons why people overspend

Reason #1: Relieve Bad Feelings

How many of you have found yourself at the mall or another place to shop just because you had a bad day?

Sometimes we decide to overspend as a cathartic release in order to relieve bad feelings.

  • We tend to go shopping after a break-up to ease the feeling of pain
  • We may go shopping after a bad day at work to relieve feelings of shame or uselessness
  • We may go shopping to relieve feelings of guilt

And I’m not going to lie: I’ve been there and done that.

How to stop spending money if you spend to relieve bad feelings:

There are 2 easy ways to stop spending money if you’re overspending to relieve bad feelings. 

These methods include:

  • Take time off and revisit your shopping urge the following day
  • Go do something else – other than shopping – such as visiting a friend
the millennial money woman blog post "how to stop spending money if you spend to relieve bad feelings"

The goal here is to stop spending money by taking your time before you go out and buy stuff.

By the time you hit the mall, the hope is that the urge to spend might recede.

Reason #2: Celebrations

We’ve all been there – spending money on celebratory items. 

For me, the single largest celebratory purchase I made was for a girlfriend’s wedding. 

Of course, everyone wants to make and present beautiful presents to newlyweds – who wouldn’t!?

However, not everyone has the budget to spend money on wedding presents.

Although your ego may come into play – as you might have to let your friends know that you don’t have the money right now to purchase luxury gifts – your bank accounts will thank you later.

You simply have to do what’s in your wallet’s favor: And in this case, it’s simply going to be to stop spending money on celebrations.

How to stop spending money if you spend to celebrate:

  • Consider celebrating with experiences and not costly objects
  • Consider celebrating simply by being with loved loved ones
  • Consider making home-made gifts
the millennial money woman blog post "how to stop spending money if you spend to celebrate"

I learned from my massive wedding gift spending spree.

[Hint: I spent over $250 for a wedding gift… 2 engraved champagne glasses].

Now, I consider my budget (and my bank accounts) first before I simply swipe my credit card.

Share your thoughts about home-made wedding gift ideas in the comments box, below!

Reason #3: Empowerment

This point refers to a relationship, where the power distribution is somewhat uneven between the 2 partners.

I haven’t had this happen to me (thankfully) but I did have a very good friend who had a “power struggle” in her relationship. 

[Hint: The relationship was toxic and didn’t work out… which wasn’t a surprise]. 

The power struggle is this: Typically, a “power struggle” comes into play when 1 partner earns more money than the other partner. 

The lower-earning partner feels as if their voice is not heard and as if they are being controlled (which could very well be the case).

The bottom line is this: 1 partner may feel disrespected and underappreciated, which is why they decide to get even or empower themselves through big-ticket purchases.

These larger item purchases could include anything such as the following:

  • Big screen TV’s
  • Puppies
  • Cars
  • Vacations

How to stop spending money if you spend to make yourself feel better:

  • Talk to your partner – don’t hold back your feelings
  • Consider hiring a financial planner 
  • Consider counseling
the millennial money woman blog post "how to stop spending money if you spend to make yourself feel better"

In the end, I would suggest to avoid bottling up your emotions.

Make sure to share how you feel with your partner, friend, family member, etc.

Overspending is not worth the risk to you and your bank accounts.

Reason #4: Show Love

Often times, we subject ourselves to spending behavior in an effort to show or prove our love to someone else.

Overspending to show love could be based on 2 reasons:

  • Replicating behavior that you (or your partner) saw as a child
  • Making up for an observed deficiency elsewhere

The fact of the matter is this: You don’t need to spend money to show your partner (or child) that you love them.

How to stop spending money if you spend to show love:

  • Focus on spending quality time with your partner
  • Consider home-made gifts
  • Consider experiences and not material objects
  • Consider setting a strict budget 
  • Consider counseling
how to stop spending money if you spend to show love

If you feel like your partner is pushing you to spend money on things because they believe the amount of money you spend on them is representative of your love and appreciation of them… then stop spending money immediately.

This is the time where you need to employ a counselor or have a serious heart-to-heart conversation with your partner.

Reason #5: Keeping up with the Joneses

We’ve heard of this phrase so often before: Keeping up with the Joneses (or in some cases, Keeping up with the Kardashians).

What does this mean?

You see the Keeping up with the Joneses phenomenon all the time.

For simplicity’s sake – let’s call this phenomenon KUWTJ.

If you want to KUWTJ, it could drain your bank accounts – and quite quickly at that.

If you don’t have the money to keep up with the material purchases of your “neighbors” but continue to spend, your finances will be ailing likely very fast.

“Most of the Joneses are ailing in debt. They are just smoke in mirrors.”

Let’s take a look at how many Americans are in debt:

Americans in Debt
Baby Boomers (born: 1946 – 1964)
Gen Xers (born: 1965 – 1980)
Millennials (born: 1981 – 1996)

Source: TSR


That’s a lot of debt out there – so don’t be fooled by the rocks that these “Joneses” have. 

Chances are, the rocks are either fake or the rocks are real and the Joneses are head-over-heels in debt.

How to stop spending money if you spend to keep up with the Joneses:

  • Discuss your values (especially social status) with a trusted individual
  • Pursue new activities that may draw you away from overspending
  • Hang out with a different group of people – not so focused on materialistic things
  • Consider counseling to help you
the millennial money woman blog post "how to stop spending money if you spend to keep up with the joneses"

Just remember the next time you see someone driving a fancy Bentley or Lamborghini: 

  • They may actually be drowning in debt
  • They could have just rented that car for the day
  • The car is not theirs

The point is this: You shouldn’t have to purchase things just to show off your standing in society. 

People should like you for who you are – and not for what you drive or what you wear. 

Take this advice to heart.

Reason #6: Addiction

Some of us decide to shop for the thrill of shopping.

In other words, we shop because we are addicted to shopping – or demonstrate compulsive shopping habits.

And trust me, shopping can provide a short-term injection of adrenaline and feel-good power. 

However, the lasting effects typically don’t make you feel too good. 

That’s mainly because you realize:

  • You spent over your budget
  • You bought stuff you don’t need
  • You bought stuff that’s simply clutter

It’s a heart-wrenching feeling when you realize that you just spent hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars on your shopping binge. 


You might as well have thrown that money in a trashcan and set that trashcan on fire.

Below are some shocking compulsive shopping statistics that made my jaw drop!

  • 5% of the American population suffers from shopping addiction
  • 58% of addicted shoppers have large debts
  • Clothing is the most common purchase for compulsive shoppers
  • Distress, guilt, and remorse are just 3 negative feelings compulsive shoppers feel after spending money
the millennial money woman blog post "compulsive shopping statistics"

Image: The Millennial Money Woman | Source: The Recovery Village

As you can see, you might receive a euphoric thrill while shopping in the moment – but after that euphoria has worn off, chances are you’ll feel even worse than before you started your shopping spree.

How to stop spending money if you spend because of addiction:

  • Consider counseling
  • Consider talking to a trusted family member or friend
  • Unsubscribe from your favorite store newsletters
  • Delay your purchase for 30 days
  • Volunteer or donate money to a charity instead
how to stop spending money if you spend because of addiction

Honestly, I think the best treatment in a compulsive shopping situation is volunteering for a charity or donating the money that you would have spent on clothes or other stuff to charity.

If you donate your talent, treasure, or time to a charity – you are doing a good thing and helping other people in need.

Helping a charity or others in need is a great way to feel better about yourself – and likely without having to spend so much or buy so much useless stuff.

Reason #7: Instant Gratification

Many times we also decide to go shopping because we want that feeling of satisfaction as fast as possible.

We want to feel happy – and we want to feel it now. 

Although it’s always nice to be rewarded with material things (and experiences) from your hard work, it’s important to consider your long term goals – especially your long term financial goals.

Don’t succumb to YOLO or FOMO.

Check out some tips below on how to battle the fear of missing out (FOMO) and the saying you only live once (YOLO).

How to stop spending money if you spend for instant gratification:

  • Think about your long-term financial goals
  • Consider whether your current spending habits help you reach those long-term financial goals
  • Track your spending and consider which purchases you can slash
  • Consider how much time you had to work at your job to pay the bills for your shopping spree
the millennial money woman blog post "how to stop spending money if you spend for instant gratification"

I practiced the 3rd point above with a friend of mine who spent everything she owned (and then some) because she wanted to be “in the moment.”

We tracked everything she spent from a 5 cent piece of chewing gum to a $300 fur coat she decided to purchase one day at a luxury department store. 

[Note: The coat was only worn once].

When we reviewed her actual expenses – she was mind-blown at how much money she spent on useless stuff – just because she wanted to be “in the moment.”

Here are 3 other methods to stop spending money:

  • Outsource
  • Create “hot state” rules
  • Commit to Cash
Let’s go into further depth about these strategies below.

How to Stop Spending Money [3 Proven Strategies]

the millennial money woman blog post "strategies to reduce overspending"

Strategy #1: Outsource

I love this point because it sounds super business-y. 

But in reality, by outsource I mean simply giving a third party a phone call to ask them for their advice and opinion when it comes to battling a shopping urge.

When I feel the urge to go shopping (typically for business clothes – because that’s my guilty pleasure), I always snap pictures of myself in my outfits and send them to my mom for last-minute approval.

And I’m really lucky about that, because my mom is my go-to outsourced resource when I feel like I need to go business-clothing shopping. 

Outsourcing actually does work to stop spending money.

Help is all around you – you just have to ask for it.

Strategy #2: Create “Hot State” Rules

Let’s say you tried my outsourcing technique but didn’t see any success.

Although you called your family and friends for their opinion, because they were not physically present with you, you still decided to purchase whatever it was that tempted you.

Ok. That happens.

Here’s what you do next to stop spending money: Create spending rules for yourself.

Specifically, you create “hot state” rules.

The point is, we’re trying to keep you from making any rash or “in the moment” decisions that could later have a bad impact on your wallet.

Strategy #3: Commit to Cash

Finally, another trick that I found extremely helpful when facing a shopping dilemma is to commit to cash.

What does this mean?

Every month you designate a specific amount of spending money – like “fun money” for your shopping urges.

Let’s call your “fun money” budget to be $200 a month.

Here’s the trick to stop spending money: Instead of simply spending $200 using a credit card or using the click of your mouse to buy something online – physically withdraw the cash from your ATM.

Trust me – seeing those crisp, fresh-smelling dollar bills (to all of you who smell their dollar bills) leave their hands – it’s actually a little painful. 

What about if you spend money online?

In this case, I suggest for mentees to consider purchasing 2 see-through jars. 

Jar No. 1 is labeled as “not spent”.

And jar No. 2 is labeled as “spent.”

Every time you use your computer for purchases, you physically move your money from the “not spent” jar to the “spent” jar. 

Believe it or not, physically moving the money to the “not spent” jar makes online spending just a little harder, because, in the end, you do see your crisp, clean dollar bills leaving your accounts.

Closing Thoughts

Overspending can truly impact anyone – young or old, budgeters, or non-budgeters. 

Spending money can help us feel good in the moment, it can give us a feeling of power, it can help us mollify an addiction or pain.

And although overspending can help us better live in the moment – overspending may not always be in our best interest, especially because overspending can take away from building a better financial future.

Ultimately, the first stop to overspending is this: Understand why you’re overspending in the first place.

Once you know your “why,” you can start figuring out how to stop overspending.

“The easiest method that stopped me from overspending was simply relying on my trusted network.”

They were my accountability buddies and helped me stay on track with my spending patterns – and within my budget

Please don’t get discouraged if you don’t see results within a short amount of time. 

It’s ok to not be a winner right away – in fact, it’s part of the process. 

Remember the following:

  • Give yourself time
  • Accept the errors you made – and will make
  • Ask for help if you need it

And remember this: You’re never alone.

Go out there, take that first step (often times the hardest step), and start to battle your overspending habit.

Your bank accounts will thank me later!

How have you battled overspending habits?

Related: 5 ways to save money on a tight budget
Related: 7 best money saving apps

Fiona Smith
Fiona Smith
Fiona Smith is the founder of The Millennial Money Woman. She holds her Master of Science Degree in Personal Financial Planning, has advised decamillionaires for 6 years in the corporate wealth management sector and has co-founded a local non-profit community teaching financial literacy. She is the author of the personal finance book How to Get Rich from Nothing and her work is featured on Forbes and FinCon.

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