[hab-it]: a usual way of behaving; something that a person does often in a regular and repeated way.
Your life is filled with habits: what you eat, how and when you exercise and how you handle your financial life.
If your habits 100% support your efforts to live a healthy, productive and secure money life, then stop reading now.
But if you worry about your money, are dissatisfied with your money life or struggle to keep your spending in check, then you'll want to take a good hard look at your money habits.
The idea of changing your habits doesn't have to seem like climbing Mt. Everest naked in January.
Think of it like this: your habits come from your mindset—your beliefs about something. For example, let's say you believe that by exercising regularly your body becomes healthier and stronger. If you take this belief and create a set of action steps—that you repeat over and over—those actions eventually become a habit. You go from barely making it down the block to running your first marathon.
It's no different with your money habits. If your money life is in shambles, a quick look backward can uncover the reasons why and you can adjust your mindset to better serve you.
If you're ready to start shedding destructive money habits in favor of those that will bring greater security and happiness into your life, here's how to start.
- Consider your current system for managing money. If it's not working—it's time to find a new system.
- Think incrementally. Just like beginning an exercise or weight loss program, results are unlikely to be measurable immediately. Focus on the knowledge that making small changes will lead to meaningful results.
- Your mindset determines your success. If you believe you can make changes and continuously apply your incremental tactics to your mindset, you are moving in the right direction.
- Keep it simple. You do not need to hire a Big 4 accounting firm to oversee your process. Make a small shift such as setting a savings goal—and then make that your first allocation from your income instead of waiting until you see how much is left after you've paid all your bills.
- Acknowledge that willpower is not a constant companion. Just as there are times of the day when you feel stronger or fresher to make decisions, so it is with your willpower. Avoid making financial decisions during the periods when your willpower is not in full force.
- New habits do not take hold overnight. The research indicates that it can take three weeks to eight months to build a new habit, with an average of 66 days. You've got to give those new habits a chance to stick.
- Use your motivation to keep you on target. Write down your reasons for making a change and keep them close. Read them seven or eight times a day to remind yourself why it's so important to develop your new habit. If your goal is to get out of debt, then consider how wonderful it will feel to have zero balances, no harassing phone calls and no huge interest charges. Focus on the peace and security you will achieve.
Sound daunting? Try looking back in your life and I'll be willing to bet you can find an example of a habit you changed to improve your life. So yes, you have the ability and the power to do this. Shifting your money habits to work for you (and not against you) is an act of love for you and your family.