Back to the Frugal Basics: Controlling Your Spending

by Kelly · 9 comments

in Money & Spending

Last week’s topic was building a budget. I know that I finished the post by telling you not to worry about controlling your spending- that it was more important instead to get the hang of recording your spending and setting up your budget correctly.

Well the other shoe has dropped! Now is the time to start thinking about controlling your spending, in an effort to make all the budget numbers balance correctly. (You might be wondering if this post is applicable for you, even if you spend less than you earn. And the answer is congratulations! But don’t you want to save more?)

It’s not easy to control your spending, especially when you’re not a naturally frugal person, like myself. So a few years, I developed a series of several different systems, or tricks, to help me not spend quite so much.

No Spend days.

I try to have one, two or three no spend days a week, where I spend no money. Obviously the more no spend days I have, the less money I spend, but I find that by telling myself that I won’t spend money on Wednesdays, for example, I develop a different mindset in regards to spending.


I only go grocery shopping twice a month, on Thursdays. I am forced to spend less money than if I went shopping more often. And there’s the added benefit of getting €5 in store credit for every €50 I spend. Schedules are really key in making no spend days work, as I can always tell myself that I can stretch things a little further, a little longer.

Buying only from shopping lists.

This one is an oldie but goodie. I know I spend a lot less when I have a list than when I don’t.

A little mad money.

Give yourself a little slush fund. A little bit of spendable money can go a long way towards scratching that spending itch. If you keep it in cash, you’ll probably even find that you’re that much more reluctant to spend it, and watch it disappear out of your wallet. My husband and I have designated sums every month, and we’re not responsible to each other for how we spend it. Since implementing this system I feel like I spend a lot less on ‘little stuff’. Just make sure to keep it reasonable- we each get €20 a month.

Shop online.

Don’t buy anything though! I love shopping online. I go to Old Navy, or J. Crew or any number of my favorite stores. I fill my shopping basket, and spend hours (it seems) filling my basket with fun finds! But then I click on the big red X at the top of the screen, and close the browser window. I have had a vicarious shopping thrill… without spending any money!

How do you control your spending?


1 Miko's Girl April 8, 2009

I’m glad I’m not the only one fantasy shopping online.

2 Coco April 8, 2009

I sometimes do fantasy shopping online, but not on purpose. I fill my shopping basket with my wish items, planning to sort them out later. Then, I completely forget about it a minute later. I guess having scattered-mind is not always a bad thing 🙂

All of your advices are really great. I would love to do twice-a-month grocery shopping. But how do you keep fresh vegetables last two weeks in your fridge? Do you have any tips?

<abbr>Coco´s last blog post..Buy Organic? – WFMW</abbr>

3 Denise April 9, 2009

Hi Kelly,

I *LOVE, LOVE, LOVE* the idea of NO SPEND DAYS! I have a goal to have a NO SPEND MONTH sometime this year, and with a husband, two kids, and a dog, I'll admit I am a bit daunted by it. However, starting out small with a few no spend days, I can then try no spend weeks, and finally do my no spend month!

4 Andy April 9, 2009

Hi Kelly, great idea to break down outgoings into smaller managable chunks! I will let you know how i get on with no spending days…just need to find 7-in-a-row continuosly:)!!

On the topic of saving money, i have found this UK site that provides a free online wervice ( <a href="” target=”_blank”> to share items with each other rather than going out a buying them….seems a quite novel idea and might be something of interest to save money. Just a thought :)!

5 Francois Bondiguel April 9, 2009

Great post Kelly!

To control my spending, I generally set a daily budget (as tight as possible) and I force myself not to go over. That encourages me to prioritize my spending and it makes me more responsible 🙂

I have selected your article to be included in my "Personal Finances & Budgeting Feed" on Facebook (;… )

6 Rick card April 9, 2009

Right. It’s all about control. Most people spend on things that they don’t really need. They purchase it just because they seem to like it and not because they need it. This is what needs to be eliminated.

7 Kristin April 9, 2009

I agree with Denise above…I LOVE the idea of no spend days! It is a great way to save money and just enjoy a good day, free of money drama or worry. I feel as if these days would help me be more thankful for what I have and teach me control and patience with my spending! Thanks Kelly!!

Kristin´s last blog post..Austin City-Wide Garage Sale

8 Kristy @ Master Your April 9, 2009

I definitely need to get into the 'no spend days' habit! I hadn't thought of the fantasy shopping online, but I think that might actually be a bit dangerous for me, so I'm not sure I want to try that one.

Currently I do the shopping list, though occasionally I cheat with this one as well. I also do the mad money per month. Something else I do is look for the cheaper option. I love movies and I'm a big movie collector. I spend way too much on DVDs every month and, usually, when I go over budget, it's in this category here. So, the cheaper option for me is Netflix. Rather than buying the DVDs, I add them to my queue and watch them that way, saving A LOT of money on buying DVDs. Alternatively, a few of my friends like to go sing karaoke. They were going to this one place where you had to pay to get in, which seemed silly to me. Upon researching, there are plenty of other places you can go for free to sing karaoke. I've converted them to this free option.

<abbr>Kristy @ Master Your Card´s last blog post..IRA Basics – Part 1</abbr>

9 Craig April 9, 2009

Shopping online can def save money. I have been buying more books online, and some used and good quality and saves a few bucks.

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