Humans are creatures of habit1. Many of us develop routines and enjoy the predictability and comfort of these daily actions.
However, you may need to make changes for the better from time to time. Sometimes this involves changing habits that apply to your money and personal finances.
Here are some tips to develop a good money habit and make it stick:
Identify one habit
The first step is to choose one habit you believe will improve your personal finances. You may have several in mind but your odds of success could be much higher by focusing on one at a time. After you master the first habit, you can always come back for the others.
Although your financial situation and needs may be unique, here are two types of good money habits to consider:
- Pay bills on time
- File your receipts
- Review bank and credit card activity every week
- Keep track of the cash in your wallet
- Brew coffee at home
- Comparison shop
- Walk instead of paying for transportation (when possible)
- Look for coupons or promotional codes before making a purchase
Start with small steps
When you’re ready to take action, break down your habit into small steps. The overall objective is to repeat the behavior until it becomes routine. It may be easier to build momentum if you start small and work your way up.
One benefit of breaking your habit into small steps is the satisfaction and confidence of achieving each phase. Doing so can help build your self-efficacy and improve your odds at making your new habit part of your everyday life2.
For instance, if your new habit involves reviewing your bank and credit card statements, start with every two weeks instead of one. Give yourself plenty of time to inspect each statement line by line to get familiar with the process. As the routine becomes more comfortable, you may be able to review the statements faster and more often.
Recognize and remove roadblocks
In order to set a clear path to your new habit, try to anticipate what could get in your way. For example, if you want to stop online shopping at night, stow your phone and computer away by 8:00PM and read a book instead. By knowing what your obstacles are in advance, you can take preventative measures to avoid them.
One approach to consider is a weekly habit sprint. This method consists of redeveloping your plan on a weekly basis. After seven days pass, you review the roadblocks that got in your way and adjust your plan for the upcoming week. Once this strategy is repeated over time, you may eliminate all lingering roadblocks and recognize potential roadblocks more clearly going forward.
In addition to helping you stay on course, creating accountability can be a motivational tool. Often referred to as the Hawthorne Effect, the idea is that people will modify their behavior if they think they’re being observed. In the case of developing a good money habit, it could benefit you to tell others about what you’re trying to accomplish.
The purpose of accountability is to create positive peer pressure. Whether you entrust a close friend or join an online forum, the moral support of others can be powerful and uplifting. The more positive reinforcement you receive, the easier it may be to engage in the behavior.
Here are a few ways you can add accountability to developing a new habit:
- Use a mobile app to track your progress and set reminders
- Partner with an Accountabuddy3 for support and encouragement
- Work with a mentor for opinions and advice
- Join an online group or community with the same objective
Giving yourself a small reward for a job well done can be productive in many ways. For example, each time you reward your habit-forming behavior, you may begin to associate a positive feeling with the behavior of your new habit. This could help you develop a sense of anticipation and desire to continue developing your habit to obtain the reward.
The type of reward is up to you but it doesn’t have to break the bank to offer a sense of achievement. Some examples include:
- Take a long bubble bath
- Treat yourself to your favorite dessert
- Schedule a relaxing day with no chores
Stick with it
Developing good money habits is a healthy way to better yourself and improve your personal finances. The more consistent your efforts, the higher chance your new behavior becomes automatic. Before you know it, the habit should become part of who you are.