If there’s a lesson to be learned from the zombie apocalypse TV show “The Walking Dead,” it’s that mindless actions—like those taken by the shows dreaded “Walkers” who gobble up fan-favorite characters one by one—are scary. And while you probably don’t need to worry about being eaten up by the undead, you might act like a zombie from time to time.

Especially when it comes to spending.

“Zombie spending” can deplete your account balances, much like the Walkers deplete the ranks of the survivors on the Television series “The Walking Dead.”

What is “zombie spending”?

Zombie spending is something government officials often use to describe wasteful spending on projects or programs that are no longer useful.

But when it comes to personal finance, “zombie spending” is a term recently explained by author Erin Lowry in an episode of Stash’s “Teach Me How to Money” podcast.

Zombie spending refers to a tendency to spend money with little or no thought—the act of buying things as if you were a zombie, according to Lowry. Most people have bought something without putting much thought into it. Here are some examples of zombie spending:

  • Mindlessly grabbing a Milky Way while waiting to check out at the grocery store.
  • Buying a coffee every day without a second thought.
  • Buying something online using “one-click” ordering, only to completely forget and receive a surprise package a few days later.

So, the essence of zombie spending is that you’re not really aware that you’re frittering away what’s in your checking account balance by making small, sometimes impulsive purchases.

Conversely, you probably have to give some sort of thought to paying your rent, or buying a car, or doing your weekly grocery shopping—you probably go in with a shopping list. It’s premeditated. And premeditation is the financial equivalent to ramming a lead pipe through a zombie’s brain stem.

In other words, thinking out your purchases is how you defeat your zombie inclinations.

Zombie-proof your finances

To disarm the zombie spender inside you, the most effective weapon is not Daryl Dixon’s crossbow, it’s actually a budget. Of course, simply having a budget doesn’t mean your spending won’t go off the rails from time to time or that you won’t make unplanned or impulsive purchases from time to time. But a budget is a way to get, and hopefully stay, on track with your finances.

Get started: The Easiest Budget You’ll Ever Make

The key to not being a zombie spender is to be mindful of when you’re becoming one, or what outside forces may be triggering you to turn into one. If you’re stressed, for example, you may be inclined to buy something to make yourself feel better—certain types of food, perhaps, or a new item of clothing.

And if you need a last-ditch effort to kill the zombie inside you, you can always try the cash diet, which involves only using cash to make purchases. By ruling out plastic or digital cash, it will force you to physically take money out of your wallet and fork it over to a cashier, giving you a chance to think through whether you really want to make a purchase.

There is one type of zombie behavior that may actually be a positive, financially, and that’s stashing money away in a savings or investment account—you can do that automatically without thinking about it with Auto Stash.  And you can get started with Stash for only $5.

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