Seven ways to trick yourself into saving

Girl with credit cards and piggy bank

Are you a spender or a saver? Most of us are a bit of both, but wish we could manage to put a bit more money by for a rainy day.

New research from Leeds Building Society has revealed that three quarters of Brits have an overdraft, with more than half of these people going into the red every month.

This is despite the fact that millions of us would, in theory, like to be saving up a deposit on a house or flat or putting money by for retirement.

However, if you find that you keep having shopping sprees that you can't really afford, there are ways to boost your self-control. Here are seven tips from consultant psychologist and author of Willpower for Dummies, Dr Frank Ryan, to help spenders become savers.

Stop and wait
If you come across a spending opportunity, whether online or while out shopping, aim to distract yourself. The impulse to buy something is usually short lived, and can dissipate after five or ten minutes.

Know your triggers
Think about the last time you bought something you didn't really need or spent more than you could afford. Note the time, place and how you were feeling. Were you tired and stressed, or happy and excited? These are your 'high risk' situations. Think ahead and anticipate when you might be in a high-risk situation, and make a plan for it.

See also: How your personality affects the way you save

See also: Do we need to be stressed into saving for the future?

Ask 'is it worth it?'

Think about all those times you've bought non-essential items and ask yourself how long does that good feeling last? It will make you feel good now, but later, you are just paying an extra monthly bill or larger credit card payment.

Plan ahead
A simple and effective way of buying only what you need and nothing else, is by making decisions in advance. Always make a list before you go shopping, whether it's for food or clothes. This way you'll remember the items you actually need, and will be less likely to make the wrong decisions and buy things you don't need. In turn this will preserve your willpower.

Avoid temptation
Removing yourself completely from the tempting environment is often necessary to simply avoid spending at all! Over a four-week period, limit yourself to only one shopping trip. When you do go shopping plan ahead and know exactly what you're going for. Avoid browsing as you'll only end up being tempted to spend more than you budgeted for.

Don't borrow
If what you're buying is adding to your credit card bill, that's borrowing, not spending. If you have a credit card, try leaving it at home and just withdraw cash when you arrive at the shop, or use cash you already have. If you really do need to buy something on your credit card, always pay it off in full every month.

Reward yourself
Every time you make a conscious effort to save, give yourself a small (non-financial) short-term reward. This will give you even more of an incentive to keep saving. You could unwind with a lovely bubble bath, have a movie night in or just enjoy a lovely lie-in on Sunday morning.

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Save money on shopping: ten great tricks
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Save money on shopping: ten great tricks

The more work you are prepared to put in, the more you stand to save. If you put your shopping list into mysupermarket.com, you can identify where each individual items is cheapest, and can technically buy every single item at its lowest possible price.

If that sounds a bit too much like hard work, a reasonable compromise is to shop at two supermarkets: once at the weekend and once mid-week. You can buy each item at the cheapest of the two shops, and save money without devoting hours to shopping.

There are several deal-sharing sites, including hotukdeals.com and latestdeals.co.uk. Most of them have a ‘freebies’ section, where you can get items completely free, and all have a section where they post fantastic deals that are well worth taking advantage of.

They will often point the way to coupons for brilliant discounts too.

The more time you have spare to spend looking for these, the more you can save.

It’s worth following your favourite brands on Facebook or Twitter. It’s also important to pick up in-house magazines, try your free local paper, and check any letters from supermarket loyalty schemes for your vouchers. If you have a Nectar card, visit the website before you shop, so you can upload the latest deals to your card.

While you’re in-store, keep your eyes peeled for promotions on packets, and on receipts. Often the deal-hunting websites will offer a short cut to many of these, but if you have the opportunity to do some legwork, you will find plenty of others.

Compare the price of your branded goods (after you use the coupon) with the cheapest supermarket alternative. If the discount makes it the cheapest option, then feel free to use it immediately.

However, if it doesn’t bring the price down below the own brand price, then don't throw it away. Hang onto the coupon, and check Mysuupermarket.com every few days to see if there’s an offer running on the brand at any time before the coupon expires. A deal plus a coupon is often the cheapest option.

Prices change all the time, but it pays to have a shopping list annotated with the usual price - or an old receipt - on hand when you are shopping. When something is on sale, compare it to the usual selling price from your list, to decide if it’s really as good value as it purports to be.
The frugal experts have decent storage areas at home, so if there’s a very special deal on washing powder or toilet paper, tins or toiletries, they can stock up for a few months at a knock-down price. It’s not generally worth doing on fresh produce, or packets with a short shelf life though, because throwing something away that’s out of date will undo all of your good work.
There can be some incredible bargains in the ‘yellow sticker’ sections of the supermarket. Most stores will have a spot for fruit and vegetable reductions, somewhere for chilled food price cuts, one for bakery products, and a final one for those with a longer shelf life that may be a bit battered, or separated from the outer packaging. Check them all for a possible discount.

The ’yellow sticker’ items will usually be reduced at least twice a day: once in the afternoon and once later in the evening. If you can wait to shop at around 7.30pm or 8pm you can get astonishing discounts.

If you want to time your shop exactly, then your best bet is to ask in store when they do their final reductions - don't be shy!

Get to know the rules around freezing ‘yellow sticker’ items, so you can buy when they are cheapest and use over the following weeks and months.

Don't assume something is perishable without checking. Everything from cheese to beansprouts is fine to freeze as long as you treat them correctly (beansprouts need blanching, chilling in ice water, and freezing immediately).

It’s never worth buying something just because it’s cheap: you also have to be able to factor it into your life. If you can't immediately think how you would use that over-ripe avocado, a pack of cut-price tongue or kippers, then don't buy them.
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