man frustrated with his finances

How to train yourself to become a better saver

by Leeds Building Society

How to become a good saver: Dr. Frank Ryan's tips

Dr. Frank Ryan

To become a saver, you must master the unique art of ‘willpower’.

Dr. Frank Ryan, author of Willpower for Dummies, shares his tips.

How to stop yourself spending

1. Become a ‘willpower miser’ – spend willpower (and your money) wisely!

"Making too many decisions in a short time scale leads to “willpower depletion”, a kind of brain fade where you make poor choices due to reduced control over impulses.

"After repeated decision-making your willpower can be reduced and you can make the wrong choices - those that seem ok in the short term but less so in the long term.

"For example, think of the last time you were shopping in a supermarket. In most shops, vegetables and salads are the first items you will encounter and select. 

"But as you approach the checkout you’ll encounter temptation! The sweets, treats and glossy magazines are right there as you queue. You probably didn’t plan to buy these items but they often end up in your shopping trolley, and on your shopping bill."

2. Make decisions in advance

"A simple and effective way of buying only what you need and nothing else, is by making decisions in advance. Always make a list before you go shopping, whether it’s for food or clothes.

This way you’ll remember the items you actually need, and will be less likely to make the wrong decisions and buy things you don’t need. In turn this will preserve your willpower."

3. Self-assessment spending exercise

"Think about the last time you bought something you didn’t really need or spent more than you could afford. Note the time, place and how you were feeling. Were you tired and stressed, or happy and excited?

"These are your ‘high risk’ situations. Think ahead over the coming weeks, and anticipate when you might be in a high-risk situation, and make a plan for it.

"For example, if you know you’re getting paid on a Friday, this could be a high-risk situation. Make a plan to meet friends after work rather than going into town and shopping on your own."

Dr. Frank’s advice

If you do find yourself in a situation where you’re likely to spend, what should you do?

Distract yourself

If you’re at the shops you could…

  • Simply walk away – take yourself away from the situation and think about the purchase you were about to make. Do you need it? Can you afford it? Will your life be enhanced if you buy it? These are all questions you should ask yourself first  

If you’re tempted by an online purchase you could…

  • Take your mind off it – pick up an adult colouring book or crossword. You’ll soon forget about those shoes that ended up in your basket
  • Clean – step away from the laptop and pick up a duster instead

Avoid temptation!

High risk tips

You could...

  • Meet with friends in a location away from the shops. How about a walk around your local park instead?
  • If visiting the supermarket is your downfall, why not consider ordering your food shopping online? Stick to a shopping list and you’ll avoid all those tempting non-essentials that end up in your trolley
  • When you do go shopping plan ahead and know exactly what you’re going for. Avoid browsing as you’ll only end up being tempted to spend more than you budgeted for


Non-essential items

You could…

  • Take a look at previous statements and try to determine all those non-essential purchases. How much could you have saved if you’d avoided unnecessary spending? Confront those impulse buys of the past and use them as a wakeup call for the future

Differentiate between spending and borrowing

"If what you’re buying is adding to your credit card bill, that’s borrowing, not spending!"

You could…

  • If you have a credit card, try leaving it at home and just withdraw cash when you arrive at the shop, or use cash you already have
  • If you really do need to buy something on your credit card, always pay it off in full every month


"Exercising regularly boosts physical and mental health and creates a context that promotes willpower."

You could…

  • Go for a run
  • Make the most of your gym membership. Going to the gym also offers a distraction from spending

Avoid shopping when feeling emotional

"Emotions distort decision making, because they deplete willpower."

You could…

  • Phone a friend - catch up with an old friend. You'll soon forget about spending money
  • Make plans - think about your weekend or holiday plans. Plan for those dates in your calendar which you're really looking forward to

Reward yourself for saving money

"Every time you make a conscious effort to save, give yourself a small (non-financial) short-term reward. This will give you even more of an incentive to keep saving."

You could...

  • Relax - unwind with a lovely bubble bath
  • Home entertainment - have a movie night in
  • Lazy Sunday - enjoy a lie-in

Don't be self-critical when you spend money

"This sounds simple, but actually saying to yourself every morning ‘I can do this’ will give you tonnes of motivation, and will have a surprising impact on your positive attitude towards saving."

Ready to change your spending habits? To begin, have a think about how you can use Dr. Frank's advice. Write a list of practical but small lifestyle 'tweaks' and challenge yourself to stick to these for 4 weeks. You may be surprised at just how much you can save if you make a few small changes.