How to Spend Smart

For most people, the act of spending money is pretty easy—but spending smart can be trickier; that requires a combination of motivation, information and willpower.
Sounds boring, right? Well the reality is that when you make the effort to learn how to spend smart, you will be able to make your money work smarter for you, the way you want, instead of being at the mercy of your money (or lack of it).

Risks of Overspending

Why do you want to avoid overspending? When you overspend, you run out of money to do other things you were hoping to use it for (or supposed to do, like pay your cell phone bill). And no, you should probably not blow your paycheck on a new PS4 or Xbox One if it means you’ll be going without lunch for a month.

Overspending can make you feel out of control, guilty because you know you should be more careful with your money and worried about how you’ll pay the important things now that you have no money.  

Knowledge is Power

The key to smart spending is knowledge. How well do you know your money self? Are your current spending habits helping or hindering you in reaching your financial goals?  Staying continually on top of your financial state will arm you against unexpected money surprises, and help you meet your financial obligations.

Defining a spending plan and recording your spending is the foundation of good money management, and is essential in making smart money decisions for the rest of your life. If you don’t already use one, start by tracking your spending for a few weeks, saving all your receipts and making a daily record of everything you buy. Add these up to find out exactly how much you are spending per week.

Identify which of your expenses are fixed (rent, car insurance, phone) and are usually the same every month, and which are variable (food, entertainment, shopping) that change from month to month. How much money do you need in order to cover your bills? In addition, what are your short and long term money goals, like going on spring break or saving for a car? Are there any upcoming expenses that you need to set aside money for, such as an art class starting next month that requires spending for materials? Defining and prioritizing your financial goals is vital, so that you know exactly how much you have to spend.

Take Control of Your Spending

Before you spend, get in the habit of doing a quick check in with yourself every time, even for the small stuff (which adds up). Is what you are about to buy something you really need or already planned for? Great! Or have you already gone through your fun/entertainment money for the month, but just found out your favorite band is coming to town and you have to buy tickets today? Think it over carefully—unexpected expenses will throw you off your plan.

The fact is, every time you spend money that wasn’t already accounted for, you are taking away from something else. By practicing smart spending habits, you will find a great deal of satisfaction comes in knowing you have enough to cover your expenses and meet or exceed your particular financial goals.

Smart Spending Tips

  • Use smart tools. Use a prepaid card to help manage your daily spending. The right card will help you track transactions, allowing you to make spending adjustments based on historical proof of how you spend your money. And, you can only spend the money you have!
  • Control yourself. Once you set your spending limit, deposit your monthly living expense money onto a prepaid card and use it as your primary spending vehicle, so you can keep your spending history in one convenient place.
  • Stay in the know. It’s not enough to check your balance once in a while—you should always know your balance. Blind, uninformed spending will swiftly deplete your available funds, possibly leaving you in a difficult bind down the road.
  • Change it up. Need gas money for a long road trip? Look through your transactions to see where you can cut back in another area of your everyday spending (Do you really need huge mochas twice a day?) or get your friends to chip in for the trip.
  • Shop thoughtfully. Don’t go shopping when you’re feeling bored or emotional. You are especially susceptible to making poor spending decisions you will regret later.
  • Take your time. Wait a week before buying anything over $100. Even if this item is technically within your budget, it’s a good idea to step back for a bit, think it over, let the shopping rush wear off and give yourself a chance to comparison shop.
  • Comparison shop. Prices can really vary between stores and online retailers—just make sure to note any shipping costs, as they can sometimes offset the savings.
  • Frugal can still be fun. Get a snack with friends instead of dinner, go hiking in the park, make a meal for friends at home, or put together a game or movie night for an inexpensive get together.

Practicing these smart spending tips will help you take control of your finances and meet your personal financial goals. Remember, while we could all ‘use’ more income, it’s the way you actually spend your money that will define your financial prosperity.

Wondering how can you stay on top of your daily spending and ensure you never overspend? Remember, it is difficult to track cash versus paying for things with a prepaid card that tracks all your transactions as you use it. Sign up today for the SpendSmart™ Prepaid MasterCard®*, which can text** your purchase info every time you spend, and helps you identify important spending trends.  Friends and family members can easily contribute to your card, and you can also set up direct deposit, while the companion smartphone app lets you manage things on the go. For more info, visit

The SpendSmart™ Prepaid MasterCard® helps users practice responsible and smart spending habits. The SpendSmart Card is a reloadable prepaid card designed with financial education components for teens, and is a convenient and safe way to manage spending. The company’s financial education resource center provides valuable personal finance tips, and the card can be used anywhere in the world that MasterCard debit is accepted.

*The SpendSmart Prepaid MasterCard is issued by Republic Bank, member FDIC, pursuant to a license by MasterCard International Incorporated. The SpendSmart Prepaid MasterCard cannot be used at merchants deemed inappropriate for teens, such as liquor stores, online gambling, etc. Go to for more information.

**Message and data rates may apply from your wireless carrier.