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Alvin Hall's blog
Alvin Hall's blog
Blogs » Alvin Hall's blog

Ask Alvin: Avoiding a financial hangover...

Reader question:


I like to think I’m a balanced individual with no shortage of self-restraint. However, whenever I treat myself to a big night out I seem to wake up with hazy memories and an aching wallet. This financial hangover only worsens when I receive my credit card bill. How can I let my hair down whilst keeping my spending under control?

--Tom from London

Alvin's answer:


Here is a two-word answer: use cash. With cash you can set limits that let you to take control of yourself—and control of your spending.

Your problem is probably more psychological than financial. Like many people, you think having a good time means letting go of financial restraints. When you’re out with your mates you don’t want to appear mean or overly concerned with money. When it’s your turn to buy a round you want to do so with a no-problem nonchalance. You may worry about losing face with your mates, desire to keep up with the proverbial Joneses, and think that exercising financial restraint will result in your having a less-than-stellar time—although by your own admission you probably don’t really remember whether it was or not.

Instead of your debit or credit card, use cash when you go out. Before you leave decide how much you can realistically afford to spend. Be totally honest with yourself. (You’re still sober at this point.) Put only that amount of cash in your wallet and leave all of your debit or credit cards at home. You may feel terribly insecure and begin asking yourself lots of worst-case scenario “what if” questions to justify carrying a piece of plastic.

Don’t give in to this fear. Instead—and separate from the cash you put in your wallet—hide some extra cash in you clothes, at least enough to take a cab home if you have to.

Your objective is to have a good time with your friends while making your cash last as long as possible. At first you may chafe at your own restraints. You must exercise self-discipline. It may take you a few attempts before you get it right for yourself, but you will. I know because I have done this. Once your allocated cash is gone, simply say “goodnight” to everyone and leave. It’s really that easy. (Don’t fret. There will be no glaring sign over your head announcing to your friends that you’ve put yourself on a budget.)

Remember: keep your eyes on the ultimate prize you’re giving yourself: no financial hangover the next day and no larger-than-expected credit card bills the next month.

Thursday, 25th August 2011

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