Managing our finances can feel like trying to tame a wild animal—it can be unpredictable and overwhelming. (‘Why did we ever bring home this ocelot?’) The variable spending in our budgets can be a little unruly, too—sometimes manageable, other times off the charts. Variable spending means all those expenses that aren’t fixed, such as eating out, shopping, and entertainment. The good news? Just like taming that ocelot, there are strategies to calm and rein in variable spending.

1. Embrace the art of budgeting

Yeah, the (other) B word. Budgeting is like GPS for your finances; without it, you might get lost in the wilderness of overspending. (And maybe mauled by ocelots.) Start by tracking your expenses to see where your money is going. Once you identify your spending habits, set realistic limits for each category. Tools like Brigit’s free Finance Helper can be very useful for this. Remember that the goal isn’t to deprive yourself of all fun or enjoyable things—it’s making sure you’re only spending money on things that truly matter to you. Think of it as financial mindfulness!

2. Adopt a “Wait, do I really need this?” mindset

Impulse buys can play a big part in increasing your variable spending. That device or outfit might seem irresistible now, but in a week it might not matter that much to you. Before you buy something, stop and ask yourself, “Do I really need this?” If the answer is a quick “No,” or if you hesitate, put it back. If you can’t stop thinking about it, give yourself a cooling-off period to think about it, maybe a week or two. After that, if you still want it and it fits within your budget, then it’s probably a purchase you should make.

3. Master the art of meal prepping and cooking at home

Eating out is a significant variable expense for many. While treating yourself to a meal out is one of life’s pleasures, doing it too often can eat up your budget faster than you can say “check, please.” Enter meal prepping and cooking at home, one of the best budget hacks in existence. Prepping your meals for the week and cooking your own meals can drastically reduce what you spend on food. Plus, it’s healthier and can be a fun activity. Not a chef? Don’t let that stop you—there are plenty of simple and quick recipes that even the most culinarily-challenged of us can master!

4. Become a sale and discount ninja

Paying full price? That’s so last season. In the era of endless sales and discounts, there’s rarely a need to pay full price for anything. Whether it’s clothes, electronics, or groceries, deals are out there waiting to be snagged. Sign up for newsletters from your favorite stores to get alerts on sales, and don’t forget about coupon codes for online shopping. Apps and websites that track sales and offer cash back or discounts can also be game-changers. Just remember to stick to your budget, even when a deal seems too good to pass up.

5. Re-evaluate your subscriptions and memberships

In the age of subscription services, it’s easy to sign up for multiple platforms and forget about them. Do you really watch shows on all those streaming services? Is that gym membership gathering dust? Take some time to think about which subscriptions you actually use and enjoy. Cutting out the ones that aren’t important to you can free up a surprising amount of money in your budget.