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Six ways to avoid overspending

Ever been confronted with something at the mall that you felt like you just had to buy? It takes practice, but there are ways to curb that feeling.

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    Shoppers carry their shopping bags as they leave the Aeropostale clothing store in New York's Times Square (Dec. 2, 2015).
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If you went into debt buying gifts for the holidays, the time has come to pay that money back. What's more insidious than that, is the fact that most of us get used to spending over the holidays. We buy special gifts, special meals, special tickets, and more. But come January, most of us need to stop these splurges. We can't live that way all the time, or we will run out of money to pay the bills and buy what we need.

It's hard, though, to see what we want and not buy it, especially when we've become lax with our self-control in that area. Here are some ideas to help you turn your spending around, and ultimately resist the urge to splurge.

1. Understand Your Feelings

Many of us overspend when something negative is going on in our lives. We want the instant gratification that comes with having something new because something else isn't working. Rather than making the purchase, we can stop and focus on what is making us feel bad, work that out, and then we won't need to buy anything in order to feel better.

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If you can't make yourself stop and think about your feelings after you've felt the urge to splurge, try sitting down and identifying the types of feelings that make you want to spend. Think over past splurges and see if something else was causing you the stress that buying something alleviated. Put some serious energy into this exercise, and you'll be better prepared to resist temptation the next time it rears its head.

2. Consider the Context

Before you make a spontaneous purchase, force yourself to consider the entire financial context in which you're making the purchase. If you buy this thing that you want, will you be able to pay your bills this month? Will it cause you to go into debt? Will it keep you from reaching your overall financial goals?

Often, considering the cumulative effects that a purchase can have will help you stave off the spending spree. When you see the ways that spending now could impact you negatively later, it's a lot easier to walk away without putting your money down.

3. Think About Anything Else

Sometimes, we splurge because we can't stop thinking about something we saw, wanted, and almost bought. After you make yourself walk away initially, think about something else. Go back to work, call a friend, make plans for the weekend — whatever! Just get your mind off of whatever it was you considered spending your money on.

If this is hard for you, make a deal with a friend that you'll help each other. When one of you wants to buy something, you can call or text the other and know that there's someone to help you redirect your thoughts. That way, you won't be alone in your quest to avoid the splurge.

4. Calm Yourself Down

Buying something often makes us feel better because it stimulates us. We get excited. Unfortunately, we don't always make the best decisions when we are following our excitement.

If you're in the middle of the store or out with friends, try taking a few deep breaths. If you can escape to a bathroom — even better. Close your eyes and breathe in for a count of four, hold for a count of four, breathe out for a count of four, and leave your lungs empty for a count of four. Do this several times and you will find your mind clearer. You'll probably make a better decision about what to buy, too. (See also: 5 Things Yoga Can Teach You About Money)

5. Wait Before You Buy

Make an agreement with yourself, before you buy another thing, that you have to wait a certain amount of time before you spend money impulsively. This might be 24 hours, two days, or even a week. The point is that you give yourself time to consider your purchase, decide how it fits into your budget, and deal with your feelings before any money leaves your wallet.

Some people only do this with purchases over a certain amount of money. For instance, you may decide that it is the purchases over $50 that are really hurting you. In that case, you can decide that you have to wait a week before you spend anything over that amount. It helps to have someone to keep you accountable here, so you don't override the decision on a whim.

6. List the Things You Want (Rather Than Buying Them)

When you want to buy something, add it to a list of wants, rather than making the purchase now. Sometimes, this satisfies the urge entirely. And even if it doesn't, it often settles the feeling that you have to buy it now or you will never find/see/encounter it again. If you're buying online, save a picture of the item and a link somewhere. If you're in a store, snap a photo of the item and another of the price and store those.

This can sound crazy, but it definitely works. I have a friend who "fake buys" things all the time, and another who keeps a Pinterest board of all the stuff she'd like to get. Capturing an item in this way can satisfy the urge to possess something, without spending all of your money on actually getting it.

This article first appeared at WiseBread.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best personal finance bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link in the blog description box above.

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