Overspending is an easy trap to fall into, especially with online shopping and the endless stream of ads and emails to remind us of everything we’ve ever looked at online. Even if we don’t really need it—or even want it—there are just a couple of clicks standing between us and that impulse buy. But don’t let the overspending spiral get you down. There are a few simple things you can do to avoid unnecessary purchases.

1. Create a realistic budget

The first rule of controlling your spending is don’t talk about controlling your spending… no wait, that’s Fight Club. For controlling spending that rule is understanding exactly what you’re spending on, and then making a plan from there. Create a realistic budget that covers the essentials—things like rent or mortgage, utilities, food, and savings. Include a portion for discretionary spending (fun and unnecessary stuff), but be sure to stick to the limits you set. Use a tool like Brigit’s Finance Helper to track your expenses and adjust your budget as needed.

2. Identify and cut out impulse buys

Impulse purchases can derail the best-laid financial plans very quickly. To combat them, set a 30-day rule: If you see something you absolutely must have, wait 30 days before you actually buy it. That cooling-off period gives you time to make sure you really, really have to have it, and that it’s not just a passing thing. More often than not, you’ll probably find the urge to buy has passed after that waiting period, saving you from unnecessary spending.

3. Use cash for discretionary spending

Credit and debit cards can make it all too easy to spend money without realizing it—it just doesn’t feel like real money. It can be helpful to use cash for your discretionary spending. Withdraw a set amount at the beginning of each week or month, and once it’s gone, it’s gone. Which prevents overspending. 

This tangible approach can help you stick to your budget and make more mindful purchasing decisions. But it of course won’t work for online buying; as a workaround for that, try transferring that set amount of cash to a Paypal account, and only using that for discretionary spending, until it runs out.

4. Unsubscribe from marketing emails

Retailers use email marketing to send you a barrage of sales and promotions, which is a great way to push you into an impulse buy. Unsubscribing from these emails will reduce that temptation and help you rein in overspending. If there are stores you really want to keep tabs on for deals, set up a separate email account just for those emails. That way, they’re there if you need them, but not constantly tempting you in your primary inbox.

5. Plan your meals and shop for groceries wisely

Eating out and ordering takeout or delivery can be serious budget busters. Plan your meals for the week and make a detailed grocery list before you shop. Stick to the list to avoid buying things you don’t need. Buying in bulk, shopping sales, and choosing generic brands over name brands can also save you money. Making your meals at home is not only cheaper, it’s also usually healthier.

6. Review subscriptions and memberships

Monthly subscriptions and memberships can add up quickly. Review all of your recurring charges and cancel any services you no longer use or can live without. This includes streaming services, magazine subscriptions, gym memberships, and more. Consolidate services where you can, like using a family plan for music streaming or sharing accounts with roommates.

7. Set financial goals

Having clear financial goals can give you motivation to curb your spending. Whether it’s saving for a vacation, building an emergency fund, or paying off debt, having a specific goal in mind makes it easier to cut back. Visualize your goals and track your progress regularly to stay focused on your financial goals.

8. Practice mindful spending

Mindful spending means being conscious of every financial move you make, and how it aligns with your overall values and goals. Before you make a purchase, ask yourself if it’s something you truly need or if it’s just something you want. Think about the long-term impact of your spending decisions on your financial health. By cultivating this kind of mindfulness around spending, you’ll probably find it easier to resist unnecessary purchases and focus on your bigger-picture goals.