Have you eaten any food today, dear reader? Do you feel hungry, even hangry? No one likes feeling their empty stomach rumble!

How about a bowl of cereal?

Better yet, how about a nutritious, filling salad?

Not good enough? Come to my steakhouse and enjoy a nice filet mignon, with a side of broccoli and potatoes!

There are so many options to fulfill your needs that it can be confusing to know where to begin or what messages to listen to. You know you can’t go too long without eating (roughly three weeks) or you’ll eventually die. But you have your choice of what to eat to stay alive. Companies know this, and they create all manner of products to help meet your needs. They are also becoming increasingly adept at creating things you don’t need while simultaneously becoming more sophisticated at convincing you that you need it. That’s a huge problem, especially if you want long-term financial success.

Why it’s hard to control your spending

We live in a world that encourages us to spend on things we don’t really need. Our perceptions are shaped by companies concerned with profit. Marketers pay top dollar for advertising campaigns that get you to buy items that you may not even be able to afford or hurts you in the long run. They won’t care if their food makes you healthy or sick or broke, as long as they make money. Companies need to grow to make their shareholders happy. Your success is not their goal.

In order to protect yourself from falling into the spending trap, you’ll need to accept that the world doesn’t care if you succeed. Your success needs to be your number one priority, as their success (even at your expense) is their priority. It’s your responsibility to control your spending and meet your financial goals, not theirs. It’s unfortunate that companies’ goals are sometimes at odds with our own, but that is how it goes in the world we’ve built. Choose to break out of the mold. Know what you want and put yourself first.

The best way to control your spending

Now that you know you need to take responsibility for your success, how do you do it?

Spend on what you need

It’s up to you navigate the unlimited wants and to figure out what you actually need. Do you need to go for a steak dinner if you could use that same money to buy groceries for a week? Do you need the newest iPhone when an older model would work just as well? It’s up to you to decide.

Buy things you can afford

If you have a budget, you should already know what you can or can’t afford. Trust your budget and use it to buy what you need when you have the money to do so. I wouldn’t tell you not to buy that iPhone. I would, however, caution against buying an iPhone on credit, or buying it and then not being able to keep your lights on in your house or gas in your car. You can always save up for it if you really, really want it.

Stick to your financial goals

Your financial goals are your plans for your life. If what you want to buy negatively impacts or dramatically slows down your goals, then you should consider a cheaper alternative. It’s not worth buying a $700 phone now when it prevents you from funding your emergency fund. Wait to buy it, or choose another item that better serves your needs.

Put yourself first

Personal finances work for those who work at them. By keeping your goals in mind, sticking to your budget, and buying what you need, you can be successful at budgeting in spite of our consumer culture. Having an accountability partner or a coach can help as well. And remember to put yourself first. Make sure what you buy fits your needs and you’ll be well on your way to controlling your spending.

I’m rooting for you.