Personal finance

Congrats on that raise. Here’s how to resist a mindless spending culture

Wondering what to spend your fatter paycheck on?

The right answer is you.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to learn how to make your money work for you. Otherwise, you give in to the siren call of unplanned spending, aka lifestyle creep.

That’s spending more simply because you have more, a dangerous habit you want to avoid forming.

More money in your wallet shouldn’t be a signal to eat out every night or blow it all on an amazing vacation.

“If you can temper spending increases while your salary is going up, that will keep you in good shape over time,” said Roger Young, a senior financial planner at T. Rowe Price.

Here are five things to think about when you scout the spending possibilities.

Where does the money go?

Tracking spending is huge, says certified financial planner Sophia Bera, founder of millennial-focused financial advisory firm Gen Y Planning.

What was worth it, and what was wasted? If something didn’t bring you that much happiness, cut back in that area.

Peter Cade | The Image Bank | Getty Images

Check out your spending habits and their triggers. Money and spending are much more behavioral than we realize, Bera says.

Autopilot your savings

Are you walking away from cash?

“If you’re not taking full advantage of the company plan match, do that,” Young said, referring to company-sponsored 401(k) plans. Increase your contribution by however much it takes to snare that free money.

Behavioral change is great, says Bera, “but it’s hard to think about doing the right thing every month.” Automating savings is your best friend.

Reduce your spending speed

“We live in a mindless spending culture,” Bera said. Here’s how to resist.

Create some friction between you and your shopping. You might wait 24 hours to buy something you think you want, longer for more expensive items. “Wait a week to buy a big-ticket item,” Bera said. “Go back a week later.

“Do you still want it? Still need it?”

Try a zero-spend day. “Pick a day each week where you try not to spend any money,” Bera said.

Rethink clothes shopping with a capsule wardrobe – augmenting a few clothing essentials with seasonal pieces and accessories. It can be a powerful way to rein in expenses. “Also, you’re not spending as much time thinking about your clothes,” Bera said.

More from Invest in You:
Why a third of Americans decided to cut back on spending
This type of spending could be crushing your stability
These 30-somethings are doing a simple thing to get rich

Eating up cash

There are lots of levers you can pull with food, from eating out to grocery shopping. Bera says many millennials don’t realize how much they spend on going out, especially alcohol. It adds up fast.

It’s easy to find ways to cut back. “Go fewer times per week or go out for a happy hour instead of dinner,” Bera said.

Commit to bringing lunch more often and making dinner once or twice a week.

Knock down debt

People often graduate with a little credit card debt alongside their student loans. It’s so much easier to pay off $2,000 when you’re 22 or 23 than $20,000 in your 30s, Bera says.

The problem: paying the minimum on the card while continuing to use it, but not paying off the new amounts charged each month. On your statement, check the “minimum payment warning” to see how this plays out for you.

Even if you stop using the card, paying just the minimum means paying off the balance will still take years, Bera says. Throw some extra resources at paying it down. Your 30-year-old self will thank you.

“Be more mindful with money,” Bera said. Used the right way, it can bring joy instead of stress.

Check out What entrepreneurs like Daymond John and Ryan Serhant learned about money from summer jobs via Grow with Acorns+CNBC.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.

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