Help! How can I rein in my impulse spending?

It’s easy to fall into the spending habit at university, especially with a student loan and generous overdraft burning a hole in your pocket. With so much temptation all around you, it’s not uncommon to get trapped in a spiralling spending cycle.

We’ve spoken to Keir, a first-year university student who works part-time. Keir has expensive tastes and impulsive buying habits. He’s aware that his spending is spinning out of control and eating into his overdraft, but his love of luxury is preventing him from saving a single penny.

We’ve enlisted money expert Iona Bain to show Keir some tough love and help him rein in his extravagant spending.

Guitars are one of Keir's spending weaknesses.
Keir asks for advice on reining in his spending habits.

Iona's top tips

  • Know your triggers. If you can understand why and how you spend, it will help you to avoid impulse purchases. Do you buy when you’re bored or feeling down, for example?

  • Once you know your triggers, have a process in place to tackle them. For example, you could ask yourself: is this really going to enhance my life and am I going to use this a year from now?

  • Think about setting up a direct debit for your essential bills so you won’t be tempted to spend money that you need later on in the month.

  • Once you’ve budgeted for the essentials, try setting sensible spending limits for the remaining cash.

  • Consider using online banking apps so you can keep track of what you’re spending in real time.

  • Consider keeping a spending diary and make a physical note of everything you buy. Seeing things in black and white can really help you to take stock.

So what did Keir make of Iona's advice?

"Using an app to track my spending had never occurred to me, but I think it will help a lot since one of my main issues was losing track of how much I had already spent. Also, making sure I stop making such impulsive decisions is a big change I'll have to make (even if it does mean missing out on guitars!).

Hopefully this will solve my issues and I might actually be able to start saving. Thanks for the help Iona!"

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