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It’s becoming almost too easy to spend money. No cash? No problem. Credit cards will do just fine. No wallet? That’s okay. Simply tap your phone and be on your merry way. Pretty soon you’ll be able to “buy” something at a store without ever having to stop at the checkout counter. How convenient is that!

The problem with all of this convenience is the mental disconnect it creates with your finances. You can easily develop spending habits that are way above and beyond the actual amount of money at your disposal. It should come as no surprise that American consumer debt is at a historic high. People are far too accustomed to swiping now and worrying about paying the money back later.

I often talk with people about how dissatisfied and stressed they are with their current financial situation. Even though many have a steady stream of dependable income coming in the door, they still feel like they’re buried in a mountain of debt. They can’t seem to make meaningful headway toward paying it down and wind up feeling like they’re barely keeping it all together.

We spend so much mental energy processing loads of information about what’s trendy, new, better, bigger, and more valuable, and we want to buy more things because of it. When hyper-consumerism takes over, we often neglect to consider what really matters to us, on a personal level. What’s essential to one individual may be completely trivial to another. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

That’s where the practice of intentional spending can help. Intentional spending is using the money you work so hard for to live how you would like. It’s putting your personal aspirations first and letting all that noise about what other people find important fade into the background. Think of it as touching base with your financial self and taking back the reins on what happens to your income.

Here’s how to get started:

Step 1: Get a lay of the land: Glance at your financial accounts (banking, investments, credit cards) to get a handle on your current financial situation. Make a list of your current debts. Figure out exactly where your money goes every month.

Step 2: Analyze impulse buys vs. thoughtful purchases: Have a heart-to-heart with yourself about why you spend money. Do you buy “stuff” or “experiences”? What purchases bring you happiness? What have you regretted paying for lately? How often do you buy things simply out of habit? How frequently do you “treat” yourself?

Step 3: Identify your financial objectives: Figure out what you’d like to accomplish in the next 1…5…10 years. What do you want your financial future to look like? What actionable steps can you take to reach those goals?

Step 4: Decide on the tradeoffs: Look toward what habits you’re prepared to change to make financial progress. What routine spending are you willing to put an end to? What are you absolutely unwilling to live without?

Step 5: Hold yourself accountable: Pick a day every month to reassess how you’re coming along. Did you slip back into a few old swiping habits? Where were you successful in spending more thoughtfully? Even small improvements are definitely worth giving yourself a pat on the back.

Being responsible with your money doesn’t mean you have to pinch pennies. You can fully enjoy life now and work toward building your financial future. The key is finding a balance that works for you. If we can be of any assistance along the way, don’t hesitate to reach out.

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