How do I reduce my spending?

Setting goals and being thoughtful about your expenses are the first steps. Here’s how to get started.


It’s the little things in life that make us happy.

Like renting a movie or buying a treat that you enjoy.

We would never suggest you stop buying the things you love. That’s why we suggest being mindful about what you spend, and aligning your purchases to your goals, so that what you buy never surprises you by busting your budget. Fewer surprises means you’ll have more confidence in your financial picture.

How you spend is based on how you feel

We should acknowledge up front that a lot of people feel anxiety about money. That anxiety can itself lead to poor money decisions. To feel better, some people resort to impulsive shopping, affectionately known as “retail therapy”.

If you feel anxious about your money and your spending, that’s ok. It takes courage to admit your challenges and decide to make a change. Let’s look at ways to reduce your anxiety and your spend.

Be mindful about what you buy

Being mindful with your money means bringing intention to what you spend. It means staying aware of how you think, feel, and act with money for all of your spending. Mindful spending uses your emotions to create sustainable, satisfying money management.

Here at Upwise, we ask you to practice mindful spending by asking how does this purchase make you feel? How does it serve you? How does it not? Only you have the answers. But the more often you challenge yourself to find those answers, the more confidence you’ll have in your money decisions.

Track down your expenses

Ok, so: to begin reducing your spend, make a list of your past month’s expenses. Use your bank’s web site, or make a spreadsheet. With your expenses laid out, do you see where you spent the most on little things? Are those tiny expenses adding up?

Identify the culprits

Sometimes we can create financial anxiety by allowing small pleasures to turn into large habits.

For example, spending $10 on a tasty take-out lunch on one day might not be a big expense. But, if you have a habit of eating that meal five days a week you’re spending $200 a month.

Ask yourself: What are the little things I buy that add up to big expenses? Do these things still serve me?

Look closely at regular expenses

Beyond those little treats, there are plenty of regular expenses that may be ripe for reduction. Let’s look at two of the biggest.


Don’t let eating eat away at your budget. The average household spends about 12 percent of their total budget on groceries. That comes to about $8,000 a year, or $153 per week.1 There are many powerful ways to reduce your spending, including:

  • Planning meals and shopping for the week, which removes the need to “just order delivery” or make other expensive in-the-moment decisions
  • Redefine what dinner means for you and your family, cutting back to smaller meals on some nights of the week
  • Reduce bulk purchases, shop sales, and freeze and store meals


Don’t just spin your wheels. At 18 percent of their budget, transportation costs are the average household’s biggest expense after rent and mortgage. If you drive, a powerful way to reduce your costs is to lower your auto insurance costs by shopping providers, or refinancing to get a lower rate. You’ll also want to keep up with preventative maintenance (get that oil changed) to avoid unexpected repair bills in the future.

Pay with cash

To reduce costs across categories, consider the plastic in your pocket. Credit cards can provide great perks like airline miles and cash back. On the other hand, research suggests you might spend more when shopping with a credit card than with cash.2 That can be dangerous, especially if you don’t pay your balance in full every month.

Paying with cash may make you happier, too: one study found that people who pay with cash derive more pleasure from the products they purchase.3

Replace bad habits with good habits

Reducing your spending is all about replacing bad habits with good habits

When you practice mindful spending, you’ll begin to start feeling more confident in your ability to control your overall finances.

Start small, create a habit, and keep practicing. You’ve got this.

Go to the Upwise app

Download the app to see how Upwise can help you make financial progress you can see and feel.

1 American Psychological Association. “Stress in America 2020.”

2 Seounmi Youn and Ronald J. Faber. "Impulse Buying: Its Relation to Personality Traits and Cues.”

3 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Consumer Expenditures 2019.”