Tuesday, September 13, 2011

After Debt: Spending Pitfalls

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Last month when we switched from debt payoff mode to a more relaxed expense budget, we were careful to continue creating a monthly budget that limited our discretionary purchases. Despite paying off $60,000 in debt, we only increased our monthly expense budget by $500 and continued to budget each and every dollar of our paycheck. Our fear was that if we opened the spending floodgates too quickly, we would end up right back where we started - spending more than we bring in each month. Make sure you are aware of potential pitfalls that can throw you back into old - and unhealthy - spending habits. Here are a few I have experienced in the last month and how I have attempted to overcome them.

Remain Aware of Those Suppressed Spending Urges. Even before we made our final $60K Project debt payment, I noticed myself pre-spending in my head the extra money we would soon have.  I hadn't gone shopping for anything other than necessities for the longest time, and I felt a strong urge to head to the mall and purchase all kinds of clothing, jewelry, house trinkets, spa treatments, candles, body sprays.....I could go on.

Although you may have a little extra wiggle room in your budget after paying off a lot of debt, ease yourself back into your spending habits. Think about how your habits should differ compared to how you spent when you were racking up debt. Try to remain aware of those urges and cater to them in moderation, if necessary. And continue to stick to your budgeting plan!! If you all of the sudden have a free for all with your spending dollars, you may end up in a bad situation very fast.

Remember All Those Purchases You Put Off for the Last Year or Two? Well, those have now come back to haunt you. When you are in debt payoff mode, you typically tend to put off any expenses that aren't absolutely necessary. But over time your list of "not necessary" will continue to grow. Once you find yourself with some extra money and breathing room, you may also find yourself with a long list of things to fix, buy or upgrade. Included on our list of less necessary expenses that we can now afford to take care of are clothing purchases, car maintenance (the big 60,000 mile tune up), overdue wedding gifts, fixing the light in the kitchen (more work than just a lightbulb change), carpet cleaning and a brake job.

These delayed expenses can easily equal thousands of dollars and can quickly turn your feeling of achievement into that familiar feeling of being behind. Most important: don't panic. You aren't behind - you are just opening yourself up to the option that you can afford a few more things in your budget. What you need to realize, though, is that you won't be able to afford ALL of these items in the first month. Make a list of these expenses you delayed and prioritize them in terms of importance and sense of urgency. Then work these items into your monthly budgeting process.

Stay tuned,

Have you experienced any spending pitfalls after paying off a large amount of debt? What tips can you share to help prevent readers from falling back into their old spending habits?

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