How to Save Money When You Really Want to Spend

Tame your budget and direct your money to what really matters.

Have you been spending a little bit more money than usual? If so, you’re not alone. Despite inflation woes and signs of a possible recession, consumer spending has surged back in some non-essential spending categories, such as travel, entertainment and luxury products.

“During the pandemic, many people isolated from loved ones, gave up experiences that they enjoyed or they didn’t have the financial flexibility to make comfort purchases,” says Sarah Young, Next Step Team Program Manager at Regions in Indianapolis. “It changed the way that people view money management.”

Making up for lost time is an understandable reflex. “It’s an acceptable human tendency to occasionally want to treat yourself,” Young says. But there’s a fine line between enjoying the life you missed and derailing your finances. After all, one thing that became quite clear for many people who lost jobs, businesses or savings during the economic upheaval of the last few years is that nothing is certain. More than ever, building an emergency plan, prioritizing retirement savings and paying everyday bills are vitally important financial moves—even when you want to give in to the feeling of YOLO, common slang for you only live once.

Here’s how to gauge if you’re overspending—and rein it in if you are.

Get Back to Basics

Remember budgeting? If your spending seems a little freestyle these days—or you never had a budget in the first place—it’s time to revisit what is a “want” and what is a “need” and divide your current expenses into those two categories. “If your wants are outweighing your needs, it’s time to reevaluate your spending habits,” Young says.

Check Your Expenses Over Time

Another great way to judge if you’re overspending is by looking back at how you used to spend money. “Pull up a few old credit card or bank statements,” Young recommends. “What did your spending habits look like pre-pandemic?” This exercise can also help you factor inflation into your budget, especially if your income is the same yet the things you spend money on are costing more.

Circle Back to Your Goals

Young suggests that every saver have multiple goals that they chip away at over time. Those can be short- and medium-term goals as well as long-term goals like retirement. And yes, your goals can include a vacation to a far-flung locale or a new vehicle—just as long as those nice-to-haves are balanced against the must-haves. Eventually, watching your pennies pile up may feel just as good as giving in to an impulse purchase. “It’s just as gratifying, if not more gratifying, to see your money building in a savings account,” Young says.

Reframe Each Purchase

When you have a budget and goals in place, try a simple exercise every time you’re tempted to spend. Instead of asking yourself if you want the item or experience, ask yourself if it’s more important than your goal. By reframing the question, you’ll see that saving isn’t about deprivation, it’s about putting your money where it matters most.

Build a Team

An excellent way to get perspective on your spending and savings and your progress toward your goals is to bring in outside help. “I would recommend that everyone start the conversation with their banker,” says Young. “They have the experience to put you on a better financial path.”

At Regions, your banker can help you build a Greenprint plan —a financial planning tool that helps you ensure you’re well on your way to reaching your goals.

Three Things to Do

  1. Define your financial goals with our worksheet, and then take our 52-week savings challenge.
  2. Start saving for your next vacation today.
  3. Consider opening a new savings account just for your specific short- or long-term goal.