The Absolute Easiest Way to Trick Yourself into Spending Less

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You want to spend less—to build up savings, climb out of credit card debt, or be able to afford that splurgey vacation. The only hitch? It’s so easy to forget about your goal when you’re swiping plastic at the register.

“Each purchase doesn’t seem like a big deal. You think ‘What’s $45? I might as well buy it,'” says Jeremy Shapiro, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist with a specialty in money. “The credit card statement at the end of the month isn’t usually enough to change a habit. People have to find a way to connect everyday spending back to their grand plan.”

To overcome that tendency to discount lofty, future goals, try making them tangible and immediate. Shapiro recommends finding a photo of that vacation spot or that new car you’re saving for and wrapping it around your credit card with a rubber band, so every time you want to spend money, you’re physically reminded of your bigger goals. Having to remove the rubber band also buys you an extra second or two to consider if that purchase is really worth it.

What if your goal is more abstract, like climbing out of debt? On an index card, write down what it would feel like to have accomplished that goal, says Shapiro. “For most people, having no credit card debt would feel like a huge weight lifted off their shoulders. They’d feel powerful or they’d feel freedom.” Seeing those emotions staring back at you every time you open your wallet can make it easier to resist the immediate temptation to make another purchase. “It makes it easier to say, yeah, that’s a nice pair of earrings. But I have a bunch of earrings at home already. I’ll skip it.”