7 Ways to Curb Your Shopping Habits While Receiving Government Assistance

It seems most people live on a limited income, but when the primary, or sole, source of that income is government assistance, it is also a fixed income. Government assistance is not designed to meet all of a household’s monthly expenses, but rather only the major portion of them. The remaining, smaller, portion is left to be filled by you, the recipient. It therefore becomes all the more critical for you, when receiving government assistance, to manage that money carefully. Certain expenditures, like rent, food, utilities and clothing, are essential for survival, while others are, if not more frivolous, then, at least, less essential. One way to maximize the funds you do receive from government assistance is to rein in unnecessary shopping. Below are some suggestions on ways to curb your shopping habits while receiving government assistance so that your money can last to cover those more essential expenditures.

1. Make a Budget

While the obvious benefit of making a budget is that, if you stick to it, you can better control spending, there is also the fact that in the act of creating a budget, you gain a broad and detailed view of your financial situation. With this awareness, you are more likely to curb spending in general. To create this budget, list your monthly income and expenses in separate columns, add in costs that do not occur monthly as well as recurring events, like utility bills, to your expenses column, track your spending over a month to find expenditures not accounted for in your initial list, and then reconcile the totals. Add up each column at the end of the month and compare one to the other. Hopefully, your income column will be larger than your expenses column, but either way, the picture empowers you to make smarter decisions regarding how and when you spend your money. For bonus points, add financial goals to the top of your budget. Financial goals give you more positive and proactive motivating incentives for better curbing your shopping habits and controlling your spending than fear and panic.

2. Use a List

Always go shopping with a list. Shopping without a list is one of the easiest ways to spend more than you planned to, and come home with purchases you do not really need. Moreover, when you go to the store without a list because you are only planning on picking up one or two items, you are far more likely to wind up with impulse purchases than if you wrote a list, even if a small one. Making a shopping list is not just for groceries. It is as important and beneficial to make a shopping list before venturing out to buy items like clothing as it is for groceries.

3. Pay Cash Only

When you only pay for purchases with cash, you only shop when you have cash to spend. You will also be inclined to consider each purchase more carefully when you see actual cash leaving your hand instead of a credit card.

4. Compromise

Certain expenses may lean more toward the frivolous or, at least, nonessential, yet this does not mean you need to do without them completely. Consider finding ways to make those expenditures less frequently, such as going clothes shopping once per season, rather than once per month. Alternatively, find ways to make the same purchase for less money. For example, shop at discount stores and thrift stores instead of department stores and single brand retail stores.

5. Empty Your Wallet Before You Leave The House

Along with only paying with cash for purchases instead of using your credit cards, carry less cash on your person whenever you leave the house. This habit limits the amount of money that you can spend on shopping anytime you are out of the house because you are only spending cash, and you have less cash to spend. Plus, the funds that you save could be put to better use, whether that is to pay for groceries, rent, utilities, transportation or to save for your child’s education.

6. Rent Instead of Buy

When it comes to higher ticket or rarely used items, like those used for lawn care, snow removal and heavy housecleaning equipment, there is no need to purchase the product when you can rent it for much cheaper. If you add up all the times you will use a particular item, and then divide the price to purchase that item by this amount, you can see how much you are paying for that item each time that you use it. If this number is higher than the cost to simply rent the item, this is the alternative to buying the item.

7. Buy Only What You Need

You may be surprised how much less you shop and spend when you focus only on your needs. Consider clothing, as an example. Only buy the clothing that you need, and only buy it when you need it. Consider the size of your wardrobe and only have enough clothes to keep it full, but not overflowing. When you do buy clothes, put practicality first. There are plenty of options for fashionable clothing that is also durable and easy to clean.