When it comes to paying off debt, many of us feel compelled to cut our spending in any and every way possible.
But are there specific areas in our budget where spending more – even when paying off high-interest credit card debt – may benefit your finances in the long run?
5 Times Spending More May Benefit Your Finances Long Term
1. Savings & Emergency Fund
Even when paying off high-interest debt, it’s essential to continue setting aside money for your future. Without continuing to fund your savings account and/or an emergency fund, you’re making yourself vulnerable to falling into debt as soon as you experience the next unexpected expense.
Regularly contributing to your savings account and setting aside money for a rainy day creates a habit. So that when you pay off your debt, you are more likely to continue to save money and lessen the likelihood you fall into deep debt again.
Sometimes after paying off debt, people fall deeper into debt because they were overconfident about their financial status.
Take some time and think long and hard about what drives you to spend money and what caused you to incur debt the first time.
Where did things go wrong? Were you using the credit cards beyond limits and margins? Or was it that you bought too many depreciating goods and took out too many personal loans?
Whatever the case is, start practicing good habits to stay debt free forever! One of those healthy financial habits? Pay yourself first before paying any bill or debt.
“[Paying yourself first] is a tactic that’s been talked about and promoted for a long time, but the country’s savings rate doesn’t indicate enough people are doing it,” Chad Nehring, a Certified Financial Planner and partner with Conceptual Financial Advisors in Wisconsin, told Forbes.
2. Nutritious, Healthy Foods
After mortgage or rent, groceries are the second largest expense facing American consumers.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Cost of Food Report, in February 2022, a thrifty family of four (Male and Female, 20-50 years, and two children, 6-8 and 9-11 years) was spending around $204.90 per week on groceries, that’s about $887.80 per month, and close to $11,000 a year for groceries.
A more liberal grocery shopper or those living in higher cost-of-living areas should expect to spend closer to $1,370.40 per month on groceries, or around $343 per week, or $16,444 per year on groceries.
With these high prices, you may be tempted to buy the least expensive items available, but not eating healthy, nutritious foods could end up costing you more in the long run in the form of medical expenses.
How can you eat healthily and still save money?
Set a Grocery Budget BEFORE You Start Shopping Online or In-Store
This helps you stay focused on buying only what you need and reduces the likelihood of succumbing to the marketing strategies deployed throughout grocery stores.
When you can buy generic, do it! Store-brand labels can often save you anywhere between 30 to 50 percent off name-brand foods, according to Farnoosh Torabi, contributing editor at NextAdvisor.
Buy Frozen Fruits & Vegetables
Many of us have been convinced that fresh produce is better than frozen, but that’s not always the case. Studies show that fresh produce loses nutrient value after sitting on a store or refrigerator shelf for a couple of days, but frozen produce and vegetables are flash-frozen at peak ripeness, ensuring optimal nutrients when they’re defrosted.
Plus, it’s cheaper — especially if you opt for the generic or store-brand option. Stock your freezer with your favorite veggies and produce to whip up an inexpensive stir-fry, omelet, or smoothie.
Look Beyond What’s at Eye-Level
Most of the more expensive grocery items are strategically placed at eye level to entice you. Before you select an item, look for similar, comparable items that may be a fraction of the cost but are located either above or below these name-brand items on the shelves.
Read the Grocery Fliers
Even if you don’t get the physical grocery fliers in the mail, you can check out your local grocer’s weekly deals online. After you review the deals for the week, you can meal-plan and build a shopping list around those items that are on sale or in season.
3. Clothing & Shoes
For fashionistas, fashion is a non-verbal way we communicate who we are and what we value.
But what happens when you find yourself strapped for cash or are unable to pay off your credit card balance? Is there a way to maintain your style-icon status without fully compromising your financial freedom?
Yes, according to smart-shopping expert Trae Bodge of TrueTrae.
Wardrobes are built on top of solid, timeless basic pieces that can easily be mixed and matched with a variety of other pieces. Think little black dress, black pants, a white t-shirt, black ballet flats, etc. These items are the cornerstone of your wardrobe.
If you are missing any classics from your wardrobe, Trae says it is ok to spend a little more when adding these pieces to your closet.
“If you don’t have a little black dress in your closet, it is worth spending a little more to get a classic, straight-shaped dress,” Trae says.
However, that doesn’t mean Trae recommends paying full price at Neiman Marcus simply because it’s a closet staple.
Focus on classic silhouettes when it comes to shoes and handbags as well, Trae notes, adding that’s one area where people get into trouble with overspending.
“My overarching advice, in general, is to avoid overspending on trendy things,” Trae said.
“I highly recommend people take a look at thrift stores,” Trae said. “It’s a way to feel like you’re treating yourself.”
“You never know what you’ll find at a thrift store,” Trae says. “Someone else’s item from last season may become your favorite item next season.”
Auto payments often get a bad rap in the personal finance world. There are even some big names in the debt payoff world who recommend anyone with debt sell their car and only buy what they can afford to pay for in cash.
But that doesn’t exactly sound like the safest option for everyone – especially if you have kids or have a long commute. And truthfully, not all of us are better off without a vehicle, especially if public transportation is unavailable.
Many people with credit card debt consider selling their vehicle if it meant they could get out of debt quicker, but is selling your car to avoid car payments beneficial in the long run?
David Quilty at the personal finance site Money Crashers recommends asking yourself six questions before deciding to sell your car to pay off debt:
- How much do you spend each month on gas, insurance, and maintenance?
- Are you driving a hybrid or a gas guzzler? Does your car seem to require maintenance more frequently? Are repairs more costly for your type of vehicle?
- Do you still owe money on your car?
- Do you own your car outright?
- Do you even need a car?
- Do you work remotely? Is there public transportation nearby you can use instead? Would this be a good time to try and bike to work?
- If you still need a car, can you afford a cheaper one?
- Maybe a BMW on a $50,000 salary was too much. Would you be able to find a car that had a monthly payment no greater than 10-15 percent of your net pay?
- What about lifestyle considerations?
- Do you have kids? Take frequent weekend road trips? What would happen to your commute if you no longer had a car – would it double? Triple? Would you be able to keep your other expenses the same or lower such as groceries, transportation costs, etc.?
Read More: How the Average Car Payment is Keeping you in Debt
5. Treat Yourself Fund
When we begin to pay off high-interest credit card debt, we want to pay it off as fast as possible.
But getting out of debt takes time.
Those who throw every penny they have at their debt instead of going out with their friends or having any form of fun tend to burn out quickly on their debt payoff journey. As a result, the motivation to pay off your debt can pretty much disappear.
While you maybe don’t want to go wild and spend money out with friends every night on a debt payoff journey, it’s important to find a happy medium that allows you to get out of debt while allowing yourself to have some fun.
As we said, paying off debt doesn’t happen overnight. Finding a long-term plan you can stick to will go much further than trying to pay off your debt ASAP.
Have you found spending more in a particular category to be beneficial on your debt-free journey? Share your experience with us in the comments below!