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?

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