Credit Cards

Mindfulness Tip: Using Your Credit Card Statement to Save You Money

If you've ever been shocked by your credit card bill at the end of the month, you're not alone. Here is a surefire way to help get unnecessary credit card spending under control.

Most people know that they should review their credit card statement every month before they pay it, in order to check for errors and to understand any fees. But that’s not all you should do with your statement. To potentially save hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds a year, you’ll need your credit card statement, the benefit of hindsight and one question: Would I buy it again?

How Exactly Can My Credit Card Statement Help Me Save Money?

We all make purchases that, if we could go back in time, we wouldn’t repeat. A common example is clothing – you buy something and it sits in your closet unworn. You probably wouldn’t buy it again, if you had the chance.

Your credit card statement is, for better or worse, a record of most of your purchases. Our simple money-saving tip is to look through your statement every month, identifying your purchases as ones you’d make again, or not. Because an easy way to save money and help your household budget is to reduce purchases that don’t put a smile on your face and end up being a waste of money.

Identifying Purchases You’d Make Again

Hopefully, most of your purchases are things you would buy again, if you could go back in time. Certainly items like petrol for your car or new school shoes for your growing child fall into this category. There may also be “unnecessary” purchases that you would absolutely buy again.

Perhaps you sprang for a new pair of summer shoes that you’ve worn everywhere – you can walk miles in them and they go with everything in your closet. Maybe they weren’t “necessary” by traditional standards – you have other shoes – but you’ve gotten great value from them and they continue to put a smile on your face. You’d buy them again!

Basically, analysing your credit card statement by asking yourself, “Would I buy it again?” can help pinpoint which spending you can eliminate without feeling deprived. For example, say you bought a gadget at the DIY store that has sat for months, unused, in its box by the door. You think you’ll return it to the store if you get a chance, but that never seems to happen. This is a purchase that you wouldn’t buy again, if you could go back in time – and it helps to identify these truly unnecessary expenditures.

Steps to Start Saving

You’ll need a physical copy of your credit card statement(s) and a pen. Starting with the first charge and working your way down the list, take a good, hard look through the purchases you made throughout the month.

As you look through the charges, the point is not to criticize, feel guilty or make promises to yourself about future spending. This is very important! You see, this exercise benefits from the value of hindsight. Today, you know more about how your past purchases worked out for you. Use that information to answer the one key question about each line item: Would I buy it again? Next to each line item on your credit card statement, write a “Y” for yes, an “N” for no or an “M” for maybe. When you’re done, sit back and take a look at the results to get a general idea of the types, frequencies and sizes of purchases you make which, if you had the chance, you wouldn’t repeat.

By performing this exercise every month, your decision-making process when you shop will actually change over time. At first, you’ll only ask yourself this question—“Would I buy it again?”—when you’re looking at your monthly credit card statement. But over time, you’ll find the question popping into your head when you’re out shopping, perhaps pondering another pair of trainers in a shop. Mindful shopping.

The idea is not to eliminate all spending, it’s to eliminate purchases that end up being a waste, purchases that, when it comes down to it, don’t provide any value to you. Use your credit card statement as a tool to facilitate this process.

Steps to Save Money Using Credit Card Statement

  1. Gather all of your latest credit card statements, printing off copies if you need to.
  2. Sit down with the statements, a pen and a cup of tea.
  3. For each charge on your statements, ask yourself, “Would I buy it again?”
  4. Mark each charge on your statements with a “Y,” “N” or “M.”
  5. Sit back and digest the results – with no judgement. After all, you now have more knowledge of how each purchase worked out for you.
  6. Repeat every month until you get an idea of how wasteful spending creeps in. It can happen to anyone!

Buying What We Can’t Afford

Why is asking, “Would I buy that again?” so important? Credit card debt continues its steady climb so reducing wasteful spending is more important than ever. According to the Bank of England, credit card lending grew to £72.7 billion at the end of March 2019, up 2.9% from the year before. This figure equates to over £3,500 of credit card lending per UK household. Much of this borrowing is on 0% purchases cards, which can encourage unnecessary spending if not used carefully. Asking, “Would I buy it again?” can help reduce wasteful spending, keeping your credit card debt from piling up.

Erin Yurday

Erin Yurday is the Founder and Editor of NimbleFins. Prior to NimbleFins, she worked as an investment professional and as the finance expert in Stanford University's Graduate School of Business case writing team. Read more on LinkedIn.