how to avoid the temptation to spend when you’re broke

We’ve all been there. You pay all your bills, you’ve done everything right, and some unexpected expense comes up and wipes you out until the next payday. Or, you’re cutting way back on discretionary spending to achieve a goal, such as saving for a house downpayment or trying to pay off debt. Either way, you know that you have very limited funds to spend. In other words – you’re broke.

Nobody likes that feeling of being broke, although some are more used to it than others are. I have been in that position more times than I care to remember due to saving for a trip or due to an unexpected car emergency. It’s not fun to deal with. Fortunately, I have a few tricks up my sleeve that I can share with you to make being broke not be quite so miserable.

First of all, if possible, I work more. Working more is not always an option, and it’s not always fun – but it will give you extra cash and fill your empty time up. That extra money can give you a little spending money so that you don’t feel so deprived, or you can throw it at whatever goals you have. Either way, you are taking your unused time and utilizing it for cold, hard cash – not bad, right?

If I’m not able to work more, I still try to stay busy. I’ll tackle projects at my house that I have been putting off (cleaning gutters, anyone?) or I will cook a month’s worth of meals to freeze. I can use my downtime to be more efficient/maintain my house/clear my mind. If I don’t feel like getting down and dirty with cleaning and cooking, sometimes I will work out or tackle a more artsy DIY project to fill my time. The more hours I occupy with activities means that I have less time to sit and think about how broke I am!

Another way I distract myself is by finding free things to do. Local community events are oftentimes free, and although they may not be exactly what you want to do, it’s a cheap/free way to stay entertained. I know in my area during the warmer months there are plenty of free, outdoor activities: movies in the park, concerts in the park, more free concerts at an artists’ colony, nature hikes, etc. One great resource is your local library: not only can you check out all sorts of media for free (including ebooks in most libraries!), but they are often the hosts of a lot of free activities. It’s worth spending a few minutes chit-chatting with the local librarian to see what’s going on in your town. Volunteering is also a good option: it can fill your time and you will feel great about helping a cause you believe in.

A good way to pass the time is to spend time with your friends. This doesn’t necessarily mean having a big to-do. It can be as easy as having a potluck at your house and watching Netflix. Something that is popular with my group of friends is having game night – we are all competitive and love to play against each other! Spending time with your friends can boost your mood and distract you from your lack of cash, and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

Now, if you are having a truly hard time with resisting the urge to spend, here are two more tips:
Don’t put yourself in situations where you will be tempted. I know that this is a common-sense point, but it is important and bears repeating. If you avoid seeing things that tempt you to spend, it won’t be so hard to say no. I know that I can’t resist a good book. Therefore, when I don’t have the money to spend, I try to avoid the bookstore. Same thing with the clothing section of Target. Even though I’m there frequently, I try to avoid the clothing section – I know it’s a weakness of mine. I like to sign up for email lists so that I can get coupons – but if I’m really broke, I won’t even look at them! I don’t like to tempt myself with the fact that I could get a discount.

One last tip I use: If I’m really tempted, so tempted in fact that I am holding the item in my hand or hovering over the “Buy Now” button, I start thinking about how this will take away from things that I want. I try to think about how I could utilize my money in a better way – would this buy me a meal in another country? A night’s stay? An awesome skydiving experience?

Those are just some of my favorite tips. What do you do when you are broke/saving/paying debt hardcore to distract yourself from how broke you are?

iceland expenses

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You may be wondering how my Iceland trip was, since I have been pretty quiet about it. It was awesome! It is the first place I’ve ever been to and sincerely thought that I could live there.

However, since this is a personal finance blog, I won’t go too in depth on details of my adventures – but I do want to cover my budget!

Budgeting for this trip was difficult. Iceland is one of the more expensive countries to visit. If I wanted more bang for my buck, I would have been better off to visit a cheaper destination. However, my heart was set on Iceland, so Iceland it would be.

I started planning for this trip a year in advance, so that I would have plenty of time to save and find good deals. My preliminary research led me to believe that I could make the trip comfortably with a budget of $5,000, including airfare. That’s a hefty sum, but I wasn’t terribly surprised – after traveling through Europe, I knew that it wouldn’t be a cheap trip. So how did I do?

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I knew that airfare was going to eat up roughly 1/5 to ¼ of my budget to begin with. I started watching airline prices between the US and Reykjavik, and they were about $1400 round-trip. When I saw a deal for $905, I called my travel companion and we jumped on it.

I also knew that I wanted to do some pretty heavy-duty excursions. We ended up taking a tour of the Arctic Circle and taking a day trip to Greenland. Total cost: $1,420 (I paid for my friends’ Arctic Circle tour as her graduation present, which is why the cost is so high).

Lodging and transportation, while not cheap, were going to get split 3 ways. Hotels ended up being a total cost of $544.89 for me (not completely divided evenly, there were a lot of exceptions), and rental car was $318.80. I paid for all the fuel on the trip, which amounted to $331.42 (I kind of got screwed on this. The other girls were supposed to pay for the hotels that I couldn’t pay in advance, and I would pay for the gas. I ended up paying for 2/3 of one of the hotels and the gas. It wasn’t that big of a deal, it all came out in the wash, but it threw off my tracking game! I should have gotten them to chip in a little for gas, but like I said, it all worked out in the end. No big deal.)

Food was some place that I knew I didn’t want to skimp on. A whopping $529.85 was spent on food! Food in Iceland is crazy expensive, and so is alcohol. I tried not to go overboard on either, but I wasn’t going to stop myself from trying something different in another country. No regrets here!

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Other miscellaneous expenses: souveneirs, $210.58 (I normally never spend this much on gifts. I didn’t really bring much back for many people, either. That is just how expensive it is!). Transaction fees + taxes, tips, transportation in New York, etc, $78.87. Things for myself (New York shopping, etc), $205.76.

I ended up spending a total of $468.08 in New York (we had a nights’ layover there on the way back, so we decided to take in the city), $3,215.56 before leaving the country (flights, cars, accommodation arrangements, excursion fees), and then $1,143.89 in the country, on gas, food, and souveniers, as well as some accommodations.

Grand total for the whole trip, from door-to-door? $4,827.53!

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I was so proud that I stayed below my budget, because when I was in Iceland (especially towards the end of the trip) I just knew that I had blown my budget. Thankfully, by planning carefully, being willing to try something new (Air B&B! Review forthcoming!), and splitting expenses with my travel companions, I was able to do all the things I wanted to do on this trip and still stay under budget. Actually, there are a few things that I didn’t get to do, but that’s okay – it’s an incentive for me to return! 😉

Do you budget your trips and then compare when you get home? This is the first time I have ever tried it. In the past, I have set up budgets for my trip, but never look at where the bulk of my expenses go. I think from now on, I am going to try this. It’ll be neat to compare the difference between locations and expenses!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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september goals

#1) Set budget for Boston trip. I really want to go and have fun and explore, but I also want to keep my spending in check. It’s easy to go crazy on vacation spending money – I want to balance seeing the sites and eating delicious food with my budget!

#2) Run 2.75 miles in one go. On Wednesday, I ran 2 miles at one time. My goal is to make it to 2.75 miles by the end of the month, because I am due to run a 5k on October 19th!

#3) Begin saving to buy my parents a rad anniversary gift. Their anniversary is in November, and I’d like to get them something nice. I still have no idea what that something nice is, but I’m going to save for it!

#4) Decide whether or not to upgrade my Mac right now. I have the money put aside, and my laptop is painfully slow. However, I don’t use it very often so it’s not a gigantic problem at the moment. Also, I know that Apple is having their annual September release fest, and depending on what is announced at that meeting will affect the prices of other Apple products. Therefore, I want to wait until after that happens to make any hard and fast decisions. Otherwise, I might wait until closer to the holidays when retailers offer awesome incentives. Even though Apple prices are rarely affected, sometimes you are able to score a pretty nice gift card if you wait!

#5) Work on my photography side venture. I’ve been quiet about that, but I am pursuing a side hack of photography with another shutter-happy friend. Nothing will start until closer to the holidays (she has a current business partner and needs to tie up loose ends there), but I’m hoping to get some details set up now and start planning ways to make this profitable. I love having a little bit of side money to squirrel away.

What are your goals for September?

august goals recap

It’s been awhile.

No excuses. Life has been busy.

How did August go, goal-wise? Pretty well, I think!

1.)    Put all my unwanted books on Amazon. Partial Success.  I found out that I would be going to a HUGE used bookstore a few hours away in September. Instead of putting the books up on Amazon, which would mean that I had to keep track of it, I decided to use the books for credit at that used bookstore. I may have made more cash on Amazon, but a)it’s not certain and b) trading at the used bookstore is SO MUCH LESS HASSLE! Therefore, the books are pulled and waiting, but I changed my strategy a little bit.

2.)    Try a weird, foreign food in Iceland. SUCCESS! I tried horse meat, mussels, and whale. Mussels may not be that strange, but it was weird to me! I definitely stepped out of my comfort zone on this, which was pretty awesome!

3.)    Run for 10 minutes in one stretch. SUCCESS! I made it happen somehow! Believe it or not, I actually ran for 25 minutes in one stretch – totally blowing my goal out of the water! I was really excited.

4.)    Pay for wedding expenses from budget, don’t go overboard! SUCCESS! For the wedding I attended this last weekend, I managed to stay within my budget. I always seem to go overboard on gifts, and since it was a good friend getting married, I knew I might be swept up in the sentiment of the occasion. However, I resisted! They still got an awesome present (at least, I think it’s pretty awesome 😉 and I stayed within my budget. Win-win!

5.)    Decide on another trip to start planning. SUCCESS! I decided to take a short, solo trip to Boston in November. I’m excited/nervous about it. It will be the first time I am traveling all by my onesie – but I think I will enjoy it. I am a little nervous, but it’s the good sort of nervous, not the bad kind!

Sorry I am behind on my September goals – I am still trying to recover from this whirlwind weekend!

How did you do in August with your goals?