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How to stop spending money you’ll regret

Whether it’s Direct Debits, shopping, lunch or drinks with a friend, our spending can soon mount up.

Some of these will be obligations (bills), while others may be based on sound decisions (nice trainers at a nice price). Some of your spending may have even gone unnoticed. 

While you don’t want to be worrying every time you tap your card, you also don’t want to feel guilty whenever you check your bank balance.

Here are 7 steps on how to avoid overspending.

1. Understand what you’re spending money on

Looking at what you’re spending your money on can help you identify where you may be overspending. You can use tools like our budget planner to help. 

Are there any areas you could save money or any outgoings you could reduce? Make sure to look at any subscription services you have and whether you still use them. 

2. Set a savings goal

Set yourself achievable goals and give yourself some leeway. It can help to set a range for your savings goal, such as £100 to £300. If you aim for a specific amount each month, but don’t have enough – it may discourage you from saving. 

Remember, saving something each month is better than saving nothing.

And when you’re setting goals, try to budget for some ‘wants’ too. You’ll then have money set aside for guilt-free spending, so you’ll be less likely to raid your savings.

Explore: How to spend your income

3. Bring your goals to life

Setting tangible targets and keeping your financial goals front of mind can be a big motivator. Our savings goal calculator can help you see how long it would take you to achieve your goal, so you can work out a realistic timeline.

Naming your savings goals may also help you stay focused. For example, ‘Savings account’ is not the most inspiring name. What’s it actually for? If it’s for a holiday to Spain, try labelling your savings account ‘Spain holiday’.

If your goal is to clear your debts, set yourself milestones where you can celebrate the progress you’ve made. For example, once you’ve cleared 30% you could order a nice takeaway.

4. Automate your decisions

Deciding exactly when, where, and how you’ll make certain decisions can reduce the temptation to veer from the plan. 

For example, if you’ve decided to put money into a savings account or make a debt repayment each month, will you do it:

  • the same day you get paid or the first day of each month?
  • on your phone, laptop, or in branch?
  • at home, at work, or on the train to work?

You may want to set up a standing order, so your savings or debt repayments are automatically deducted from your income.

This can help you work out how much you have ‘free’ to spend each month and help you reach your goal faster. It may also remove any guilt you feel for spending money on things you enjoy.

If you’re an HSBC customer, you can also use tools like Balance After Bills on our mobile app. It accounts for your regular bills to let you know how much money you could have left over.

We have more mobile money management tools in our app to help you keep an eye on your spending and stay on top of your finances. Not only could they help you stick to your budget – they may also help you grow your money and achieve your financial goals.

5. Picture the alternative

A common source of regret can be realising after an event you could have done something differently. If you’re serious about reaching your goals, think about specific temptations and how you’ll avoid them.

For example, if you’re saving for a holiday but find yourself tempted to buy a new jacket, think about what your holiday will be like.

It also helps to be aware of your own triggers. For example, does browsing shopping sites tend to result in you buying something you don’t really need?   

These triggers will differ from person to person, but think about how you can avoid situations that might cause you to spend money you don’t want to spend.

Explore: What is mindful spending?

6. Pay off debts where possible

To help you take control of your spending, prioritise paying off any debt you may have and if you can, avoid adding to it. 

For example, if your friends are going out and you can’t afford it, it can be tempting to use your overdraft or credit card, so you don’t miss out. But doing this can eat into your income for the next month.

7. Set up alerts

Being aware of your spending is the first step to controlling it and spend alerts are a great way to keep track. 

Some apps will allow you to set a limit for your spending in different areas and then send you a notification if you’re approaching, or have gone over, your limit. 

Keep in mind – everyone spends a little more than they mean to sometimes and that’s okay. But taking steps to avoid spending money you'll regret is a good way to start making better decisions.