How to Stop Spending Money You Don’t Have on Things You Don’t Need

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Do your finances feel like a runaway train?

And even though you’re along for the ride, you don’t remember buying a ticket.

I’ve been there.

You get into a cycle of spending and spending, sometimes even spending money you don’t have.

You’re spending money on unnecessary things and before you know it, you’re stuck living paycheck to paycheck with no savings to speak of. And maybe now you’ve got a nice pile of credit card debt, too.

I have totally been there. 

I know what it’s like to always be thinking, “Now where the heck did all my money go?”

Making money is tough sometimes but spending it? That’s oh so easy. 

But if you can get your spending under control and stop spending money on things you don’t need you can completely change your financial life.

Once you learn how to stop spending money unnecessarily it becomes possible to:

  • Stop living paycheck to paycheck
  • Pay down debt
  • Save, save, save!
  • Treat yourself occasionally without being wracked with guilt
  • Work toward big and small financial goals
  • Enjoy a life that you love, instead of living a life that you’re stuck with

All of that sounds pretty good to me and I hope it does to you, too!

So if you’re struggling with how to stop spending money, you’ll want to read this post cover to cover.

How to Stop Spending Money You Don’t Have

hands holding cash

If you’re ready to stop spending all your money and take control of your finances, the tips I’m about to give you can definitely help.

They’re all money habits I’ve learned over the years that have helped me turn my financial situation around.

Ready to stop spending money on things you don’t need? Then let’s dive in!

1. Start with your money mindset

If you want to stop spending money all the time, the first thing you have to do is figure out what money means to you. 

For me, money is a tool.

It’s something I have to work for in my freelance writing business and in exchange, I can use the money I earn to create the lifestyle I want.

Money is also a symbol of security for me. Having grown up extremely poor, knowing that I have money in the bank is very reassuring.

So think about what money means to you.

Is money easy come, easy go?

Do you think of money as something only other people have?

Or do you think you’re not deserving of having money at all?

If you haven’t checked out this book yet, I recommend it. It offers some great insight into how we get stuck with poor money mindsets and how to ditch them.

Bottom line, you can’t change your money situation until you change your money mindset. 

2. Look at your spending patterns and triggers

The way you spend money can tell you a lot about why you spend.

And that’s super helpful if you’re trying to figure out how to stop spending money you don’t have or stop wasting money on unnecessary crap.

Think about what your spending triggers might be. For example, do you tend to spend money when you’re:

  • Tired
  • Hungry
  • Bored
  • Anxious
  • Sad or upset
  • Feeling stressed or angry

One thing that can really help when you’re trying to stop spending money on unnecessary things is to track your spending.

When you track your spending for a month or two, it becomes a lot easier to see where your money goes.

And if you also keep a journal where you jot down your feelings each time you spend, you can start to pick up on your spending triggers.

My favorite app for tracking spending is Personal Capital. But Mint is another great budgeting app you can use to keep tabs on your money.

how to stop spending money

3. Create some realistic and inspiring financial goals

I love setting goals for my money.

My big goal for a long time was paying off all my student loans and my credit cards. Now that I’ve done that, my money goals are all about saving and investing.

What big goals (or small ones) do you have for your money?

If you’re drawing a total blank right now, then it’s time to start financial goal-setting!

These don’t have to be earth-shaking goals; you can get to those later.

For now, try setting some small goals for how to stop spending money like:

  • Saving $50 a month on groceries
  • Paying off an extra $100 a month in credit card debt
  • Putting the credit cards away and only using cash
  • Growing a $1,000 baby emergency fund by the end of the year
  • Making a budget and sticking to it

The great thing about setting small financial goals is that when you combine them all together, they can add up to a big difference in your money situation.

So think about what you want your money goals to be. Then write them down. 

Writing them down can make you feel connected to your goals and more excited about achieving them!

4. Learn to love your budget

A budget is a must-have if you want to stop spending money on useless things and start saving it instead. 

If you haven’t become bffs with your budget yet, then it’s time to change that.

I promise budgeting isn’t scary. And it doesn’t mean you can’t have fun either.

It just means that you are using another tool to help take control of your finances.

If you don’t know how to budget or you just suck at it, be sure to read through these guides to building the perfect budget:

How to Make a Budget When You Hate the Idea of Budgeting

9 Terrible Budgeting Mistakes That Are Costing You Money

60+ Sinking Funds Categories That Can Help You Build a Better Budget

5. Pay in cash when possible

Study after study has shown that when you use a credit card to pay, you’re almost always going to spend more money than you’d planned.

Which means not only have you spent money you didn’t have you now have to pay interest on the debt.

And that is not how you want your financial life to go. So an easy fix is to ditch the cards and use cash instead.

Does that mean you have to toss your debit card out the window?

Not at all. You can still use your debit card and checking account to pay the bills.

But if you’re going to the grocery store or shopping, paying cash can help you keep from spending money you don’t have.

Because when you’ve only got $50, $100 or however much money to spend, you have to be more intentional about what you buy.

Even if you can’t or don’t want to commit to spending cash only all the time, give it a try for a week. You may be surprised at just how much less you spend when you’re handing over physical money versus swiping a card.

These five steps can help you rein in your spending. But if you’re looking for specific ways to cut spending, keep reading!

How to Stop Spending Money on Food

woman saving money on groceries

If you’ve got growing kids, food is probably eating up a big part of your budget. (Pun intended 🙂 ).

So here are some helpful ways to stop spending money on food (or at least spend less of it!)

1. Meal plan

Meal planning can save you time but it can also save you a ton of money.

When you sit down and plan out your meals for the week or the month, it becomes so much easier to stretch your grocery budget.

Meal planning can be a little time-consuming, at least when you’re just learning how to do it. But if you don’t have hours and hours to work on creating meals, then there’s a simple solution:

You can use a meal planning service like $5 Meal Plan to do the work for you.

$5 Meal Plan sends you preplanned meal ideas every month and it’s just five bucks.

You can take the monthly meal plans and use them to build your grocery shopping list. Easy peasy!

I love meal planning because it just makes getting dinner on the table so much easier. And it can also save you money when shopping, not to mention it cuts down drastically on food waste.

Check out $5 Meal Plan to get started with building your first meal plan for free!

2. Shop with a list

One of the easiest ways to blow your grocery budget is to go to the store or shop online without a list.

You end up with a cart full of things you didn’t intend to buy. Or you forget the things you did need to pick up.

Keeping a running grocery list on your phone or in a notebook is an easy way to stop overspending on groceries. And it’s a must for staying organized when meal planning.

Pro tip: Organize your meal plans and shopping list around what’s on sale at the grocery store each week for bonus savings.

how to stop overspending

3. Buy groceries online

Online grocery shopping is my favorite thing ever.

I can get the things I need without having to go into the grocery store. If you’ve ever been grocery shopping with kids then you know what a win-win that is.

You can use Instacart to shop online if you want to schedule a pickup or have groceries delivered. This is how we shop and it works great for us.

Walmart Grocery also allows you to shop online and pick up your order with no fee.

Either one can save you money and keep you from overspending on food if you’re not succumbing to impulse buys.

Just be sure to compare sales from different stores to see who has the best deals.

Bonus tip: Don’t forget to check Ibotta for deals before you shop!

You can link your Ibotta account to Instacart or use it to shop your favorite stores and earn cash back. That’s right, cash in your pocket just for buying groceries!

If you’re not using Ibotta to save money on groceries yet, sign up now to get $20 in bonuses!

4. Don’t let leftovers go to waste

Throwing food away is like throwing cash in the garbage.

That doesn’t make sense, right?

So when you’re making your meal plans, remember to plan out ways to use your leftovers. 

For example, I have a couple of tricks for repurposing ground beef.

So if I make tacos one night, I might use the leftover meat to make chili the next day.

Or if we have sloppy joes I use what’s left to make spaghetti with meat sauce.

Are these five-star gourmet meals? Nope.

But do they save me time and money and get my kids fed? Yep.

And if you’re focused on how to spending money, then these are the kinds of frugal hacks you should be trying.

You might also like:

53 Dirt Cheap Meals for Frugal Families on a Tight Food Budget

35 Cheapest Foods to Buy When You’re Living on a Tight Budget

5. Learn to make takeout meals at home

Going out to eat is a nice break from cooking but it can also be a huge waste of money.

But there’s a way to enjoy your favorite takeout foods without spending money: learn to make them at home.

Chances are, you could make the takeout foods you love at home for much less money than you’d pay to have them at a restaurant.

And with the right recipes, you could even make healthier versions!

If you need some inspo for what to make, check out the recipes from Copy Kat.

How to Stop Spending Money on Clothes

woman saving money on clothes shopping

You have to keep yourself and your kids clothed but dang if it’s not expensive when your kids outgrow things almost overnight.

So try these tips if clothes spending is straining your budget.

1. Clean out your closets

If you have a closet full of stuff or your kids do, chances are you have no clue what’s even in there.

So before you buy something new, go through what’s in your closet first to see if you already have something that might work.

Bonus tip: Make money from the extra clothes you don’t need!

If you have a ton of clothes that you just don’t wear, you can declutter them and make some extra cash in the process.

ThredUp, for example, is a great place to sell clothes you don’t wear.

2. Shop secondhand

Secondhand stores, thrift stores and consignment shops can all be money-saving options for buying clothes.

When my kids were little these were the only places I bought their clothes. And it didn’t hurt them one bit to have gently used instead of brand-new stuff.

3. Try a clothing swap

Do you know a family or two that has kids around your age? A clothing swap is an easy to pick up new to you clothes without spending a dime!

Each family contributes clothes they no longer want. Then other families take turns “shopping”.

This kind of swap also works for things like toys, books, DVDs and homeschooling materials if you homeschool like we do.

It’s a huge money-saver plus unlike shopping thrift stores, you know exactly where items are coming from and how they were taken care of.

4. Stick with a capsule wardrobe

Capsule wardrobes are the best.

They seriously make getting dressed so much easier because you have fewer items to choose from.

And you can save money because you’re not wasting money on trendy or cheap clothes.

Sticking with a few quality items that you can wear season after season is a simple fix for how to stop spending money on clothes. And by sticking with classic pieces you’ll never go out of style.

5. Shop for clothes off-season

If you have to buy new clothes, be strategic about when you shop.

For example, the best time to buy winter coats is at the end of winter, not the beginning. If your kids need swimsuits you can get them cheaper at the end of summer.

Shopping off-season takes a little more planning because you need to know when things go on sale. But it could mean spending a lot less if you’re able to scoop up deals.

Bonus tip: Use cashback apps to save on clothes shopping

If you’re not using cashback apps to shop for clothes or anything else online, you’re leaving money on the table. 

These apps pay you a percentage of what you spend back in cash on things you were planning to buy anyway.

That’s a pretty sweet deal! If you need some recommendations for cashback apps to try, here are three of my absolute favorites:


Rakuten pays you cash when you shop thousands of partner merchants. Depending on the deal, you can earn anywhere from 2% to 12% back!

You can use Rakuten to shop online or in-stores. Just make sure to compare deals, since sometimes you can get a better cashback rate by shopping one instead of the other.

Sign up for Rakuten now to earn $10 in cash back on your first purchase!


I already mentioned Ibotta for grocery shopping but the app also pays you cash back at places other than supermarkets.

You can use Ibotta to earn cash back at a slew of clothing stores and specialty stores. And remember, if you sign up now you can earn $20 in cash bonuses!


Dosh is another great cashback app for earning money back on travel, dining and shopping.

You create your Dosh account and link your debit card. As you spend with your card, Dosh pays you cash back automatically on qualifying purchases.

It’s super simple so sign up now to start earning cash back with Dosh!

How to Stop Spending Money on Unnecessary Things

woman saving money in a piggy bank

So far you’ve learned some ways to stop spending money on groceries and food. But what about everything else?

Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! Here are some tips for how to stop spending money you don’t have on things you don’t need.

1. Shop your house first

Similar to cleaning out your closet to save money on clothes, check around your house first before buying anything new.

It’s possible that you may have something you can repurpose or reuses so you don’t need to spend money.

For example, I wanted to buy a compost bin for my kitchen. But instead of spending $60 on one from Amazon, I repurposed an old cookie jar instead.

Works great and saved me sixty bucks!

2. Borrow what you need

Another way to save money and stop spending is to borrow things if you can.

For example, if your lawnmower conks out buying a new one could cost a few hundred bucks.

But if you’ve got a good relationship with your neighbor, they may be willing to lend you their mower in exchange for filling it up with gas.

It’s a simple fix for saving money instead of spending it.

3. Recognize the money wasters in your budget

Chances are you may have a few expenses in your budget that you just don’t need. And cutting them out can help put the brakes on too much spending.

So what do I mean by money wasters?

Some examples could be:

  • Streaming services you don’t use (totally guilty of this one)
  • Subscriptions to newspapers or magazines you don’t read
  • Anything disposable that you could buy in a reusable form instead (think swapping paper towels for cloth towels)
  • Excessive bank fees

That’s just a short list. Read this post on things to stop buying to save money for more ideas on things you can cut out.

Bonus tip: If you want to lower your bills even more, check out Billshark and Trim.

These financial tools help to lower your bills in different ways.

Billshark negotiates things like cable, internet and phone bills to help you get the lowest price possible. (You can read my full Billshark review here.)

Trim looks for unnecessary expenses like bank fees or subscriptions and cuts them out of your budget.

Together, they can help you find the leaks in your budget where money is slipping through.

Head here to find out how much money you could save with Billshark.

Sign up with Trim to start saving money!

4. Find ways to have fun for free

I’m all about having fun as a family but since I’m also a frugal mom, I like to find ways to have fun without spending money.

If entertainment or hobbies are causing you to spend too much money, it’s time to get creative about how you have fun as a family.

Check out these ideas for how to stop spending money but still have fun!

101 Frugal and Fun Things to Do With Kids at Home

43 Frugal And Fun Fall Activities to Do With Kids

Ultimate Summer Bucket List for Kids (and Parents, Too!)

5. Try a no-spend challenge or spending fast to save money

If you’re ready to take a break from the merry go round of spending, a spending fast could be just what you need.

Whether you call it a spending fast, spending diet or no spend challenge it all means the same thing.

You commit to not spending money for a set period of time.

This is a simple solution for how to stop spending money you don’t have even if it’s just for a weekend or a week.

That doesn’t mean you spend no money at all. You’d still have to pay your regular bills during a no spend week or month.

But you wouldn’t spend money on things you don’t need, like dining out or shopping.

If you need some tips on how to stop spending money with a spending fast, check out these posts!

10 Simple Rules for Crushing a No Spend Challenge

7 Secrets for a Successful No Spend November


woman holding an empty wallet

What ideas do you have for how to stop spending money?

Curbing your spending and taking control of your finances can seem overwhelming.

But once you start making the effort you can see such a difference in your money situation.

And that’s important if you want to work toward financial freedom and security, something we all want, right?

So tell me, do you have a great tip or hack to share for how to stop spending so much money?

Head to the comments and tell me about it. And don’t forget to pin and share this post!

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