Your spending habits can make or break your budget, leaving you jumping for joy or burying your head in the sand.

Here are a few ways in which you could re-evaluate your spending habits and change your life.

Need or want?

While many people say that you should look at things you are considering buying and categorise them as either a ‘need’ or a ‘want’, this isn’t an approach that can work in the longer term. In fact, this way of thinking could be detrimental.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
By Androidmarsexpress – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Looking at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (as pictured above), it is clear that there is some discrepancy as to the definition of needs. Most people judge people’s needs as the specific things they require to physically survive, neglecting things that will improve one’s mental wellbeing.

Of course, food, water, clothing, shelter and heating are vital, but there are extras, too. For example, if you have a household including youngsters who attend school or college, it is essential to have WiFi these days. Access to technology and transport are often imperative, too.

So, analysing whether your potential purchases are ‘needs’ or ‘wants’ is, in my opinion, not the way forward. You would likely end up in a bit of a pickle.

Don’t buy on impulse

How many times have you walked into a shop and seen the last item of something and been desperate to buy it? You were worried that it wouldn’t be there when you returned to the shops the next time. I understand that feeling, and I’m sure shops don’t put all the stock out at times to instil that sense of FOMO in people, creating or fuelling impulse buyers.

Buying on impulse often ends in regret. How many items do you have in your wardrobe that have never been worn and still have the price tags attached? Instead of purchasing something without thinking, take a photo of the item and go home, ponder the idea, perhaps speak to your partner or a friend who’s aware of your budget, and then return if the item genuinely is a must-have for you.

Will I use it?

A different way of looking at your spending habits is considering whether you will actually use whatever it is that you are set to purchase. And if the answer to that question is more than once. For example, after Christmas, you might realise how tricky it was keeping everything for the dinner warm. A hostess trolley might be on offer in your electrical store, and while the purchase would be useful for next Christmas, it is rare that you host quite so many people and it would likely gather dust somewhere. Where would you even store it? This is probably not a wise purchase, even if it is reduced in price.

Alternatively, you may see a sparkly handbag with diamantes arranged in a star and think “Wow! That’s amazing. It would be perfect for my Christmas ball.” You may well be right but take a little longer to think about it. If the handbag costs a large sum, and you might only use it once, this spending is frivolous when on a budget. If, however, you could buy it, use it and sell it on for a pretty decent amount, then it might be a different story.

Could you buy a non-branded version?

The media feed it into us that we desire a certain brand of ketchup, cereal, fizzy pop and so on. Do we really? Is there such a discernable difference that our lives will be marred by discontent if we don’t spend more and get the branded goods? It’s the same with clothing. If you are in need of a shirt for work, does it really need the tiny bit of embroidery that increases the price by around £50? When you have enough money to say yes to that question, go ahead and spend your money on more expensive food and clothing. However, when you are budgeting and trying to work on your spending habits, it is something you must bear in mind. Paying more doesn’t necessarily mean better quality, either.

Could you buy second-hand?

For such a long time, in recent years, most people preferred to buy new, especially when it comes to clothes. However, the mindset of many seems to be shifting in line with environmental goals, and folks are using charity shops, jumble sales and online auctions or marketplaces to buy older garments. Buying second-hand items means that you are going to be spending less than you would if you bought the item new directly from the shop.

If the item isn’t quite what you are looking for, you could alter it to make it suit your style or the occasion. Add embellishments, change the type of neck or dye it a different shade. There are so many things you can do to make that second-hand buy work for you.

For items like books, if you are just going to be reading it once, does it being in a pristine condition matter that much? A new fiction book can cost £10 or more these days, whereas you could buy the same item from a second-hand book sale for around 50p.

I don’t know about you, but I get a buzz from searching through the bargains in charity shops, car boot and jumble sales, and finding something that I know is just right (or will be!).

Second-hand books

Could you make it?

I’m as guilty as the next person for not thinking ahead when it comes to food. Some days, I have forgotten that I will need lunch, which is daft as my brain is always thinking about the next meal. As a result, I end up needing to buy something from the work’s canteen or buy something pre-packaged for convenience. Sometimes, I will do the same for our evening meal, and we end up ordering a takeaway.

Rather than relying on the easy option and paying a premium for doing so, try to plan ahead and make things instead. You could make five packed lunches for the price of one supermarket meal deal. Likewise, for the cost of a takeaway for two, you could probably make a week’s worth of evening meals. Convenience is great to take the pressure off your time but not your bank balance.

So, there are just a few ways in which you can re-evaluate your spending habits. They won’t all work for you, but it might be worth trying some of them and seeing if they make a difference. The key thing is to not spend what you don’t have. Good luck!