How would you define your relationship with money? Are you a practical, frugal spender or do your spending habits change according to your mood? I recently ran a Money Club workshop for women where I picked up on a recurring theme - women base their spending habits on their emotions.
The majority of women admitted to often engaging in "pick-me-up" shopping. If they had a tough week at work, they would reward themselves with a trip to the shops. If they had a challenging week with their children, they would use shopping to cheer themselves up. This cycle can be destructive for a number of reasons. The spend-then-stress mentality may be satisfying in the short term, but continue on the path for too long, and your buyer's remorse could end up becoming permanent.
The payday frenzy
As a woman, I can understand this mindset. In the frantic hustle and bustle of our daily lives, we sometimes feel like we deserve a little reward. Added to that, we are constantly faced with brands and advertisers appealing to these very emotions, telling us that we need their product to enrich our lives. But do we really? Will that new Hermès handbag really add value and meaning to our lives?
To counter this end-of-the-month splurge, I suggest following a different tack. Instead of cruising the malls aimlessly, compile a list of clothing that you genuinely need. I have spoken before about try-on nights, a fun way to figure out new outfit combinations and ensembles. Draw up a list of what is lacking in your wardrobe so that when payday hits, you'll have only a few items that need updating.
Another trick is to create staple uniforms that work for the various parts of your lifestyle - work wear, evening wear, casual weekend wear and sports gear. These go-to uniforms will answer those common "I have nothing to wear" days and save your budget from end-of-the-month temptation.
Keeping up with the Joneses
Remember that no matter how much money you earn, it is still your money. You have the power to determine how and what you spend it on. The problem comes when we start comparing ourselves to others. My neighbour just bought a new sports car - is it time for me to upgrade to a newer, flashier model too? The danger with this kind of thinking is that nothing will ever feel like enough. Like a hamster running on a wheel, you can find yourself constantly chasing a never-ending goal - one that will ultimately bring no fulfilment as it's essentially a moving, unattainable target.
Instead of looking outside for validation, I encourage you to find your own goals and base your financial decisions on these personal values.
A false sense of security
Another pattern that I have picked up on is people who spend the entire month complaining that they have no money. Yet when payday arrives, they are the first ones out on the town spending their wages. Again, this kind of victim mentality all comes down to attitude.
Identify your long-term goals and discipline yourself into sticking to them. Write down a list of short and long-term goals that you would like to reach according to your priorities.
Short-term goals may include a family holiday, while a longer term aim may be your children's university fees. Having these goals as mental markers can help you to stick to your budget with enough left for savings.
On the topic of savings, this is one area that I feel many women today are not prioritising enough. By living on a month-to-month basis, many of us don't leave enough for savings.
The truth is that if you don't make a conscious decision to invest a portion of your income into a savings account, you could face poverty once you retire. This is even truer in a country like the UAE, where many people are living in serious debt, going from month to month on credit cards. If this sounds like you, make it a priority to settle your outstanding accounts.
Make the change today
The great thing about your finances is that it's never too late to change your habits. I recommend beginning with a budget.
Put pen to paper and list all of your income sources versus your expenses. Start simply until you can split these numbers into quarterly costs, making room for savings. You will soon find little loopholes where you can afford to splurge on those end-of-the-month sales.
Then comes the buffer account, a rainy day fund made up ideally of three months' salary to tide you over in case of an emergency. But don't confuse this amount with your life savings - it's simply a buffer and nothing else.
With these basic rules in place, you can comfortably help yourself adjust your spending habits and take the emotion out of your money.
Janelle Malone is a wealth commentator, writer and author. You can read her blog at www.womenmoneyandstyle.com