Searching for a pot of gold? You may be looking a while. As much as we’d like to believe otherwise, stumbling into a fortune – financial “luck,” so to speak – doesn’t just happen. It’s something you have to work at.
We’ve rounded up nine simple money habits to make your own financial luck. And while we can’t help you find any four-leaf clovers (or lucky pennies), these tips, when you stick to them, might just help you create your own pot of gold.
1. Make a budget (and stick to it!)
Better money habits start with budgeting. Yes, at first, a budget can feel constricting – just the word might make you sigh – but it’s the foundation of financial wellness. The good news is that creating a budget, even for the very first time, isn’t hard at all. And sticking to a budget doesn’t have to be difficult either. If you work in, say, $50 of savings every month, that adds up to $600 at the end of the year. That’s a little pot of gold right there!
2. Pay bills on time
This sounds like an easy one, but paying bills on time can be a challenge. And failure to do so can have a lasting negative impact on your credit. (You’ll also rack up late fees, which can snowball over time.) Nearly half of all Americans pay their bills late.1 If you’re one of them, you can turn over a new leaf with some simple advice about how to pay your bills on time.
3. Stop overspending
Dinners out. A couple pairs of shoes. Overspending creeps up on many of us. (Nearly half of all Americans admit to spending more than they make every month.)2 And it can take a major chunk out of your budget. But take heart: With a little planning and some self-control, you can improve your spending habits and stop overspending for good.
4. Use credit cards wisely
If you find yourself charging things more than you should, it’s likely indicative of a larger issue. Perhaps you’re using credit cards for emergencies because you don’t have savings or you’re treating them like free money (which you’ll wind up paying for, literally and figuratively, in the long run). Take a moment to examine your credit card habits, then model yourself after people with no credit card debt.
5. Cut costs
That gym membership you don’t use? The streaming service you’re not streaming? Those daily lattes? Even your landline and cable. They may be keeping you from meeting your financial goals – and you’re likely not even noticing it. Good money habits mean taking a good look at your daily, monthly and yearly expenses, then cutting out what you’re not using, what you don’t need and what you’re unnecessarily splurging on. Cutting even just $35 a month in “hidden” expenses, then funneling it into savings means you’ll bank over $400 a year.
6. Save (even if you think you can’t afford to)
We’ve already talked about cutting costs, but how about saving a little, too? Technology is making it easier than ever to save, especially “round up” apps that round up to the nearest dollar on debit or credit card purchases, then transfer the difference to your savings account. You probably won’t even notice until you see your savings account start to grow.
7. Cook at home
Did you know it’s nearly five times more expensive to order takeout than to cook at home? (Meal kit services aren’t much better, clocking in at almost three times more than buying ingredients on your own.)3 With the arrival of food delivery apps, it’s easier than ever to throw in the (kitchen) towel and just order in (or go out). But budget-friendly meals can be easy (and tasty) if you give them a try.
8. Shop strategically for food
Speaking of food, when you hit the grocery store to buy ingredients for all those delicious home-cooked meals, always be sure to bring a shopping list with you. Otherwise you’re likely to stray from your budget-friendly plan and arrive home with a bunch of one-off ingredients and, yes, snack food. Science also proves that food shopping when you’re hungry is never a good idea4, so be sure to fill your belly before you fill your cart.
9. Start saying no
Drinks with coworkers. Expensive vacations with your in-laws. Those shoes you just have to have right now (even though you can’t afford them). Financial wellness often comes down to sensible decisions. And, as much as it may pain you, part of that is saying no – even to yourself. It may hurt now, but it will hurt your budget more in the long run.
You should! Armed with better money habits, anyone can start building a pot of gold. We can’t promise any rainbows, but with some dedication, planning and small, incremental changes those lucky pennies may start rolling in after all.
1. MarketWatch. “Six Out of 10 Americans are Anxious About Bills and Nearly Half are Late on Paying Them, Study Shows.” MarketWatch.com. https://www.marketwatch.com/press-release/six-out-of-10-americans-are-anxious-about-bills-and-nearly-half-are-late-on-paying-them-study-shows-2018-11-29 (accessed February 19, 2020).
2. The Pew Charitable Trusts. “How Income Volatility Interacts With American Families’ Financial Security.” PewTrusts.org. https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/issue-briefs/2017/03/how-income-volatility-interacts-with-american-families-financial-security (accessed February 19, 2020).
3. Forbes Media, LLC. “Here's How Much Money You Save By Cooking At Home.” Forbes.com. https://www.forbes.com/sites/priceonomics/2018/07/10/heres-how-much-money-do-you-save-by-cooking-at-home/#558c0a3735e5 (accessed February 19, 2020).
4. Sussex Publishers, LLC. “The Neurobiology of "Don't Shop When You're Hungry." PsychologyToday.com. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-science-willpower/201107/the-neurobiology-dont-shop-when-youre-hungry (accessed February 19, 2020).