Defeat the Post-Pandemic Urge to Overspend With These 5 Tips

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The weather is nice. Vaccinations are widely available. Now feels like the perfect time to go out and … spend money.

After a year of COVID-19 restrictions, the thought of returning to life as it used to be sounds wonderful. And for those who were able to keep working, cut expenses and save money during the pandemic, there’s a pent-up demand to spend.

With folks so ready to leisurely stroll through the aisles of their favorite stores, dine out in restaurants, attend live events and travel again, the potential for a wave of revenge spending lurks.

What Is Revenge Spending?

Revenge spending refers to an excess in spending in an attempt to make up for putting everything on hold in 2020. It’s overspending fueled by vengeance.

To make up for cancelled trips, you plan a lavish, overseas vacation. Since you had to celebrate your last birthday over Zoom, you decide to throw a catered bash at a fancy venue. The announcement to go back to the office triggers a shopping spree for a whole new wardrobe — even though you have work attire hanging in the back of your closet.

Airline travel and retail sales have seen increases in the first quarter of 2021 as restrictions drop, vaccinations roll out and stimulus checks hit bank accounts.

As nice as it is to return to some semblance of normalcy, blowing through all your savings as the result of unchecked revenge spending is not wise.

How to Prevent Revenge Spending From Derailing You Financially

First, let’s make one thing clear. There’s nothing wrong with treating yourself here and there — as long as you’re doing it responsibly.

If you’re current with all your bills, you have a solid emergency fund and you’re taking care of other financial priorities like paying down debt and saving for retirement, giving into an indulgence is perfectly fine.

However, if you’re struggling with excessive spending to the detriment of your financial health, here are a few things you can do.

1. Give Yourself a 7-Day Pause

When you think of something you want to buy, write it down instead of going out and purchasing it right away. If you still want that item after giving yourself a week to evaluate whether you can afford it, then you know it’s not just an impulse buy.

If it’s a big-ticket item, you may want to increase the time to a 30-day reflection period. As you add multiple items onto your wish list, rank them in order of what you truly want so you’re not spending money on the stuff that doesn’t matter as much.

Giving yourself time before you buy also will give you the opportunity to search for a better deal, which brings me to my next tip.

2. Be a Smart Shopper

Rather than splurging on something full price, try to find it for less.

Browser extensions such as Rakuten or Honey will help you find deals if you’re shopping online. Cash-back apps like Ibotta or Fetch Rewards can help you save money when shopping at stores. When shopping in person, also be on the lookout for store-wide promotions or item-specific deals.

If you don’t necessarily need the item to be brand new, consider second-hand stores or local buy-nothing groups.

Take advantage of credit card points when planning a vacation, and be smart about when you book your flights. If you’re looking to spend money on an experience, like a spa treatment or an evening at a nice restaurant, check out deals on sites like Groupon.

3. Find a Cheaper Alternative

Adjusting your expectations a bit may be the key to enjoying yourself post-pandemic — while staying on budget.

If you’re itching for a change of scenery, consider a vacation in a city within driving distance rather than going on a cross-country trip. Pack your own groceries to take to your Airbnb so you don’t have to eat out for every meal.

If you’ve been missing catching up with your friends in person, opt for free yoga in the park followed by a nice walk rather than paying $50 for brunch.

This list of free things to do can help you think of alternatives to do something fun without spending money.

4. Establish No-Spend Days

You don’t have to shed all of the habits you picked up over the pandemic.

Challenge yourself to reserve a handful of days out of the month when you don’t spend any money — outside of necessities like bills or groceries, of course.

Set your number of no-spend days so it’s not overly restrictive. Because you’ve gone without spending during coronavirus quarantines, you may find it’s not all that difficult to follow through.

5. Budget for Fun Money

Another way to prevent giving into revenge spending is to create room in your budget specifically for your wants.

This is automatically built into a 50/30/20 budget, but if you don’t follow that budgeting method, it’s still nice to carve out room in your budget for indulgences. That could mean setting aside money every payday to get a manicure or contributing to a sinking fund every month to save up for your next big trip.

Specifically budgeting for fun will allow you to satisfy your desires without wrecking you financially.

Rethink Your Spending Post-Pandemic

It might take some time to adjust to post-pandemic life, and that’s okay.

It’s also okay to come out of all that’s happened over the past year and want to treat yourself to a nice getaway or a splurge that makes you feel good.

As long as you’re being conscious of your spending and not making rash decisions based on a feeling of vengeance, you should be in good shape.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.