11 People On The Money Mantras They Tell Themselves To Stay Sane & On-Budget

Peter and I are about to leave for the holiday weekend. We’re heading to Burlington, VT, where I went to college. I miss that town constantly and am so excited to go back to my old haunts, and to spend some much-needed time in nature. And not that I’m biased or anything, but Burlington has hands-down the best Independence Day fireworks in the country.

I don’t know about you, but my spending impulses are double what they usually are when I’m in vacation mode. That’s especially true going back to Burlington, where the “fancy” restaurants I used to go to once a year are now much more financially-accessible for me. The expensive farm-to-table steakhouse I only ever dreamed of patronizing? Those prices are run-of-the-mill for New York restaurants, so now that I am returning to this small town as a real-life ~adult~ who can actually afford them, I obviously must go.

But even with the vacation budget I’ve set aside for the long weekend, this mindset is dangerous — it’s every bit that trend of lifestyle inflation we always hear about. I have many mantras I turn to when I realize I’m about to give in to lifestyle inflation — and I’d be lying if I said writing for TFD didn’t play a role in most of my spending decisions. “Remember the blog” is something I legitimately tell myself whenever I’m about to spend any money. It doesn’t mean I never end up spending money I regret, but it is a good reminder that I’m likely going to write about it later on. I have no problem writing about my own spending mistakes, but it’s also a lot more fun to disclose my financial wins. (I’m not sure what this says about my personality — maybe I’m an Obliger?)

With that in mind, the rest of the TFD team and I started asking around to see what other people tell themselves to stay on budget (while also staying sane). Here’s what they had to say!

1. “I’m not sure if this is considered a mantra, but I’m constantly repeating this to myself: ‘You’re being impulsive!‘ I have to remind myself in every shop, at every checkout, whenever I’m buying something that is an impulsive or otherwise unnecessary purchase. Even if it is something I like and kind of really want, when I say ‘You’re being impulsive’ to myself, I just am like, ok, you’re right, put the thing back on the shelf and leave.” — Catherine

2. “‘The Highlands are waiting.’ Every time I go to buy something inconsequential and unnecessary, I tell myself the highlands are waiting. I’ve been planning the same trip to Scotland for about four years now and between grad school and constant moving, it hasn’t been a viable financial option. Now that I am employed and settled, the trip is a little easier to imagine, but only if I am smart about my non-essential spending.” — Laura

3. “So when I start to freak out about how much money I’m spending (usually due to unforeseen emergencies/everything wears out, of course at the same time), I remind myself that it is only money, and I can always make more. This is why I have an emergency and slush fund for these times. It’s just healthy to not stress out about it constantly.” — Brittany

4. “I’m one of those people that could walk into most stores and buy everything in site, and that instinct is 10 times worse in NYC. In order to survive, I just remind myself that the money I don’t spend now on impulse shopping is money I can spend intentionally later in life on something that I know I won’t regret. By saving now, I’m giving my future self a huge leg up. She better look back and thank me for not buying that specialty jam at Gristedes.” — Hailey

5. “‘Tell someone about this.’ It is so much easier for me to stay on-budget if I tell the people around me that I can’t be spending money right now. I feel much less like a burden if the people I’m hanging out with understand that I’m not saying no to a night out because I don’t want to go — I’m saying no because I can’t afford it. I also 100% believe that misery loves company, and it’s way easier to deal with paying off my debt and therefore not being able to spend money if I have someone to commiserate with.” — Hannah

6. “‘Don’t hate yourself for money you’ve already spent.’ The way some people can tend to overeat one night and their whole diet is now derailed, so they might as well eat whatever, my bad spending decisions used to trigger a serious sense of self-loathing (that would often just result in more spending). So I’ve become really conscious about not totally excusing my past money decisions, but feeling emotionally neutral about them — I can objectively dislike and work to correct a bad move without hating myself, and getting myself caught up in a cycle of negative emotion.” — Kelsey

7. “‘Do I really need this?’ If I have that thought before I buy something, it’s much easier for me to take a step back. If my gut reaction is “of course not,” I most likely won’t buy it. Usually, this works for new clothes or some snack I want to buy that’s probably not good for me anyways. Or another drink when I’m out. That moment of thinking about what I’m about to buy rather than just buying it is usually what saves me, and my money.” — Marissa

8. “‘I deserve this!’ if I want to treat myself or splurge on something, especially if it’s like a social outing or something else to help me stay sane. Otherwise, reminding myself to make a cheaper choice to offset the cost of the splurge, like not going out for coffee in the morning for a couple days, which is something I’d normally do.” — Nate

9. “My current money mantra is ‘You’re still building.’ I don’t necessarily love all of the things I’m doing to earn money right now, and I don’t have very much. Some of my accounts are near-empty, and it is discouraging to see how little I have in certain savings funds, especially when I feel like I’ve worked long days at jobs that felt really unfulfilling. But I remind myself that I’m just building, and I need to keep building. My boyfriend and I both work a lot, and it still feels like we don’t have a ton to show for it — but I know we will if we just keep working and building up our funds and managing our money in a mindful way. I think it is always hard when you’re young and just starting off, but we are definitely building to something bigger and better, and that motivates me to work hard even on the days it feels extra hard to get out of bed.” — Michelle

10. “‘No one is really going to notice but you.’ Every time I am tempted to spend money on some really obscure cosmetic item, I remind myself that literally no one in the world is going to care that I now have a slightly-fancier mascara and .0005 mm thicker eyelashes except my damn self. Somehow deluding myself that it is going to change how I am perceived or how I move around in the world is just another way to spend unnecessary money.” — Rachel

11. “‘Don’t spend money on something you wouldn’t want to broadcast to your mother.’ Growing up, I was terrible with learning to save my money and exercise control. I would stupidly spend entire paychecks on designer shoes and bags when I couldn’t even afford my phone bill. Luckily, my mom — who is a financial advisor — was there to bail me out a few times when I needed her most, and provide support and guidance along the way. She’s always been my biggest support and personal ‘money coach’ who helps get me back on track in terms of learning how to manage my money wisely. Nowadays, when I think about a dumb purchase I’m about to make, or if I’m buying something full price that I know I could get on sale if I waited, I think of her. I think of that sum of money appearing on a large billboard for her and all the world to see, and I’m reminded of how far I’ve come and how much I value my financial freedom from my past self (who made a lot of bad choices).” — Lindsay

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  • I try to remind myself that I want “fewer, better things” which is the tagline for Cuyana, a retailer I adore. I like #9, as I’m still building too, and remind myself that in this phase of building I can upgrade items, but not all at once and not everything. This has taken effect mostly in my wardrobe, where I’ve spent the last six months buying quality, classic pieces that I truly love.

    On that note, whenever I buy something online, I write myself a note in the gift message area that says “Dear Jenn, only keep this if you TRULY LOVE IT” — it’s helpful!

  • Rebecca Ann

    Love this post! I strive to remind myself that “I can have it all, just not all at once.” So even though my love for nice things is real, I don’t want to spend money I don’t have, yet. Once I pay off my credit card (ughhhh), I know that I can ramp up my savings for the big ~grown up stuff~ that I want, without the debt that I don’t want.

  • Devin Spence

    I have a rule, especially with clothing, that I try it on or carry it around the store, then before I leave I think “how much money is this worth to me?” I then, and only then check the price tag. If it is more than what I’d valued it, I don’t get it. It really works for me who understands how I can find the same top on a great sale for less than $20 in a few weeks, but it is $35 right now. When I don’t do this I almost always buy things that I later regret.

  • Susieq

    I love Lindsay’s comment about broadcasting purchases to her mother. I will say that works quite well for me too. I am in my 50’s and grateful that my Mom is still alive. She was born during the depression and she is fierce with saving her money. That taught me a lot and we are both financially secure because of her childhood experiences of making due with whatever she had and also patience in waiting to make big purchases. And at almost 80, she still sets her longer term financial goals and we discuss those together.

  • ecogordo

    I remind myself that a dollar that I spend on something useless or insignificant is a dollar that I don’t have to spend on something important and useful down the road.

  • Tracy Norstad

    I’m trying to pay off my debt, which is really important to me right now. So, the mantra I’ve been using lately is “what is your priority?”. Is my priority new sunglasses or putting that $50 toward my student loans? Is my priority eating out and figuratively flushing my money down the toilet or putting that money toward my VISA? As Dave Ramsey says, it’s not complicated, but it can be difficult when you have friends spending money, looking like they’re having fun with their social media posts, and your priority is cutting debt. But, I will say, by this month’s end, I will have put an extra $700 toward my loans by saying “what is your priority?”. Score!