Our lives are full of actions that we’re almost unaware of. Many of them just help us get little things done more efficiently. But some habits can have a huge impact on our lives in either a positive or negative way. Here’s a quick breakdown of how habits work and ways to “trick yourself” into better behavior patterns.
We’ve looked at why the brain likes habits in a previous article, but it’s worth reviewing again!
Your brain craves efficiency. It looks for the path of least resistance when it comes to using energy. Making decisions takes a lot of brain power. Too many choices in a day can leave you feeling mentally exhausted, so your brain looks for ways to cut corners. It starts automating little decisions that you make repeatedly. Brushing your teeth, tying your shoes, and checking your social media are choices you’ve made so often that your brain stops consciously weighing in and seems to just spontaneously make you do them.
So that’s why your brain likes forming habits. But the mechanics of how a habit forms is essential if you’re trying to upgrade your unconscious behaviors!
A habit can be broken down into three basic components. It starts with a cue. That’s any kind of trigger that makes you want to do something. Actually performing the action suggested by the cue is called a routine. Following the routine usually results in some kind of reward, either physical or psychological.
So let’s say you’ve developed a habit of eating a cookie with your morning coffee. You wake up, put on the pot, and brew a delicious cup of joe. You instantly start craving the cookie when you smell that medium roast goodness. That’s the cue. You reach into the jar, grab the biggest chocolate chip cookie you can get your hands on, and take a bite. That’s the routine. And the tingling joy and comfort you feel when that life-giving treat hits your tongue? That’s the reward that brings you back morning after morning. But the consequence might be that you’ve put on a few unwanted pounds in the last couple of months.
It’s easy to see how certain habits can lead to some undesirable outcomes. We tend to form habits around anything that rewards our brains, whether it’s junk food, caffeine, or dangerous substances. But our brains also like things such as observing progress and accomplishing goals.
How can we use this to encourage good habits? Here are a few ideas: Start really small: Break your desired habit down into pieces and try to regularly perform each one. You might be surprised by how good it feels to accomplish something, which can prompt you to make more and more progress. Reward yourself: Some activities are very rewarding in the moment. But not everything that’s good for you leaves you feeling accomplished right away. Try something like only playing video games after 30 minutes of reading! Be patient: Habits don’t form overnight. You’ll probably mess up before it sticks. Don’t sweat the little failures and keep trying until that habit becomes second nature!
You can also use this knowledge to break bad habits. Try to identify the cues associated with the habit and avoid or eliminate them. Also, consider ways that you might actually be rewarding yourself for bad behavior. It’s worth asking friends and sometimes professionals for insights into your habits!
Even though it’s not always obvious, we carry lots of assumptions and attitudes about money that might not be grounded in reality. How we perceive wealth and finances can impact how we make decisions, prioritize, and handle the money that we have. Here are a few common money mindsets that might be holding you back from reaching your full potential!
It’s simple, right? The rich are swimming in cash, so they’re able to save. They get to build businesses and live out their dreams. The rest of us have to live paycheck to paycheck, shelling out our hard earned money on rent, groceries, and other essentials.
That couldn’t be further from the truth! Sure, you might not be able to save half your income. But you might be surprised by how much you can actually stash away if you put your mind to it. And however much you can save right now, little as it might be, is much better than putting away nothing at all!
On the other side of the coin (get it?) is the notion that you have to save every last penny and dime that comes your way. There are definitely people in difficult financial situations who go to incredible lengths to make ends meet. Just ask someone who survived the Great Depression! But most of us don’t need to haggle down the price of an apple or forage around for firewood. And sometimes, the corners we cut to save a buck can come back to bite us. Set spending rules and boundaries for yourself, but make sure you’re not just eating ramen noodles and ketchup soup!
There are definitely times when you might not feel like you need to be proactive with your finances. You don’t feel like you’re spending too much, debt collectors aren’t pounding down your door, and everything seems comfortable. Budgeting is for folks with a spending problem, right?
The fact of the matter is that everyone should have a budget. It might not feel important now, but a budget is your most powerful tool for understanding where your money goes, areas where you can cut back, and how much you can put away for the future. It gives you the knowledge you need to take control of your finances!
Breaking mediocre money mindsets can be difficult. But it’s an important step on your journey towards financial independence. Once you understand money and how it works, you’re on the path to take control of your future and make your dreams a reality.
Have you considered the role your surroundings play in your everyday life? It turns out that one of the easiest ways to bring about change in our lives is actually to change our environments. What if the layout of your bedroom or the distance from your desk to the kitchen was impacting your productivity and decision making? There’s plenty of room for each of us to improve. Here’s how and why making some changes to your environment works.
Making decisions is draining. (Heard of “decision fatigue”? It’s real!) We can only make so many choices per day before we start to run out of steam and need a rest. But we’re faced with countless choices every time we wake up! Should I go back to sleep? Should I shower or brush my teeth first? What will I wear to work? Should I try out that new shortcut to the office? It can become stressful for your brain to struggle with a choice every time one of these little prompts presents itself. That’s why we rely on decision shortcuts called habits.
A habit is just a routine that you regularly perform. Most of the time we don’t even notice that we’re engaging in a habit because it’s second nature to us. And there’s a reason for that. It’s your brain saving energy by going on autopilot to perform an action without having to make a decision. That way you can use the bulk of your mental power on unique and important problems that might pop up during the day, not on thinking about when you should brush your teeth!
What does your brain’s love of shortcuts have to do with your environment? Let’s look at an example.
Your alarm clock is right next to your bed. It goes off every morning at 7:30am. It doesn’t take you long to figure out that you can smack the snooze button and go straight back to sleep with hardly any effort. Before long you’re hitting the snooze button every time the alarm goes off without even thinking about it. You’ve trained yourself to sleep in later by making your alarm easier to turn off. But what if your alarm was on the other side of your room? What if to silence it you had to stand up, walk over, and hit a button? That simple change could give you the jolt that you need to wake up and get your day started on time!
Take a look at your surroundings and ask yourself what kind of behavior it encourages. Is it more convenient for you to grab a soda from the fridge or fill up your water bottle? When you work at home, are you in the middle of distractions like the kids playing or too close to the TV? At work, does your office layout lend itself to productivity or socializing with your co-workers?
It might take some legwork to get started, but try to arrange your life in a way that makes wise decisions easier. You might be surprised by the results!
Maybe you used the credit card to buy something you didn’t really need, even though you’ve sworn it off time and time again.
Maybe you found yourself clicking checkout, even though you promised to stop online shopping.
Or maybe you just found yourself discouraged by the number in your bank account… again.
Either way, you’ve had a financial relapse—you did something to set back progress with your goals, even though you knew better.
It sucks. It’s enough to make you throw up your hands and quit.
But here’s the truth—it’s part of the process.
Research suggests that there are six steps to changing behavior…
Pre-contemplation Contemplation Preparation Action Maintenance Relapse
Why is relapse the final step? Because it’s an opportunity. It reveals the limitations in your strategy, unnoticed behavior triggers, and above all, new areas for growth.
This is good to acknowledge, but it’s a far cry from how relapses make you feel. They feel like proof positive that you’ll never change, that you didn’t change. You fell back into your old behaviors.
But nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that relapses merely point you to deeper truths about yourself… and what you’re capable of.
So next time you feel down about a hard-to-break financial habit, give yourself some grace. Examine what happened, and integrate what you learn into your strategy.
Consider meeting with a financial professional to chat things through. They can help you process what happened, refocus on your goals, and create a strategy to prevent future relapses.
And if you feel like you’re stuck in harmful financial habits that you can’t break, book a meeting with a licensed and qualified mental health professional. They can help you identify patterns, understand their origins, and develop steps for change.
¹ “Prochaska and DiClemente’s Stages of Change Model for Social Workers,” Yeshiva University, May 11, 2021, https://online.yu.edu/wurzweiler/blog/prochaska-and-diclementes-stages-of-change-model-for-social-workers
It’s linked to lung cancer and heart disease, and is associated with nearly 1 in 5 deaths in the United States.(1) But smoking damages more than your body. It can also seriously hamper your financial health in ways that might surprise you.
Cigarettes aren’t cheap. Prices per pack vary from $$6.11 in Missouri to $11.96 in New York, but the national average comes out to around $8.(2, 3) Smoking a pack per day will run you $56 per week, $224 per month, and $2,912 per year. Over 20 years you’ll have spent $58,240 on cigarettes. That’s a lot of money to light up!
But smoking carries more subtle costs. Hospital bills, medication, and treatment all cost money, and smoking bumps up your chances of needing those at some point in your future. In total, smoking-related illness costs the United States over $300 billion per year.(4) Smokers also have to face higher insurance costs because of the health risks presented by their habit. All told, smoking one pack per day costs around $15,000 a year, or $40 per pack.(5)
What would you do with $15,000? If you’re smoking a pack per day, your answer is to spend it on a highly addictive chemical that feels great in the moment but will damage your health long-term. But what would happen if you put that $15,000 to work? Could that be the cash you need to start building a business? Maybe that could be the foundation of your child’s college fund or inheritance. That nicotine hit might be what you think you need to destress or get out of bed in the morning, but it’s costing you more than short-term cash. It’s denying you the potential to live on your terms and start building your future.
Quitting cigarettes can feel daunting. They’re an easy coping mechanism that you might depend on. Imagining a day without lighting up with your morning coffee could be downright terrifying. But smoking costs you more than just 6 bucks per pack. It costs you more than your future health. The price of a quick nicotine fix could be stopping you from reaching your full potential and stealing life-changing opportunities.
Trying to quit? Check out these resources from the CDC.
¹ “Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking” CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/health_effects/effects_cig_smoking/index.htm
² “Cigarette Prices by State 2022,” World Population Review, https://worldpopulationreview.com/states/cigarette-prices-by-state/
³ “Economic Trends in Tobacco,” CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/economics/econ_facts/index.htm#
⁴ “ Hidden Costs of Smoking,” American Cancer Society, https://www.washington.edu/admin/hr/benefits/events/flyers/tobacco-free/hidden-cost-of-smoking.pdf
Is racking up credit card debt or taking out payday loans financially dangerous? Of course! But they’re obvious. Hard to miss. They’re like a voice yelling into a megaphone “Hey! Don’t do it!”
But what about money mistakes that aren’t so obvious? Or even worse, money mistakes disguised as money wisdom?
Those may not devastate your bank account in one swoop. But they often go unaddressed. And over time, they add up.
So here are some money mistakes you might not have noticed.
Penny pinching. Sure, it sounds like a great idea in theory. But when you’re constantly scrimping and saving, it’s tough to enjoy life. What’s the point of working so hard if you can’t enjoy a reasonable treat now and then?
Plus, penny pinching may stop you from taking calculated risks that could save your money from stagnation.
So instead of extreme thriftiness, try moderation instead. You may find yourself far more inspired to budget and save than if you commit to complete frugality.
Under or over filling your emergency fund. A lot of people make the mistake of not having an emergency fund at all. It leaves them vulnerable to unexpected expenses and financial emergencies.
But when you have too much money in your emergency fund, it might be tough to make any real progress on your long-term financial goals. A good chunk of your net worth could be sunk into an account that’s not growing.
The solution? Save up 3 to 6 months of income in an easily accessible account, but no more. Use that money to cover emergencies ONLY. If it runs low, refill it.
Once your emergency fund is fully stocked, you can devote the rest of your income to building wealth.
Leaving goals undefined. It’s tough to achieve a goal you don’t have. Do you know where you’ll be financially in 5 years? 10? What are some things you’d like to save towards? A nicer home? An awesome vacation? A comfortable retirement? Not sure?
That uncertainty makes it easy to fudge good financial habits. It’s hard to see how lapses in your overall strategy can impact your big picture because you don’t have one.
So when it comes to your money, be specific. Very specific. Write out your goals and make sure they’re measurable. That way, you can monitor your progress and ensure you’re on the right track.
Be on the lookout for these dangerous money mistakes. They may seem innocuous, but they can add up over time and stop you from reaching your financial goals. Stay vigilant and steer clear of these traps!
It makes sense. Life is hectic. Schedules are full. Sometimes, you feel like you hardly have a second to brush your teeth, much less have time to sit down and enjoy a heart-to-heart conversation with a friend. And so important decisions get pushed further and further into the future.
That’s fine in some cases. Do you need to decide how to organize your garage right now, at this very moment? No, probably not.
But with something like your finances, procrastination can cause disaster. Why? Because time is the secret ingredient for building wealth. The sooner you start saving, the greater your money’s growth potential. Likewise, the sooner you get your debt under control, the more manageable it becomes.
And with your money, the stakes couldn’t be higher. After all, it’s your future prosperity and well-being that could be at risk. Procrastination is downright dangerous.
That urgency, however, doesn’t make it easier to start saving. In fact, you may have noticed that finances suffer more from procrastination than anything else.
There’s a very good reason for that. Procrastination is driven, above all else, by perfectionism. Failing feels awful, especially when you know the stakes are high. Your brain sees the discomfort of trying to master your finances and failing, and decides that it would feel safer to not try at all.
It’s a critical miscalculation. Making an attempt to master your finances can at least help move you closer to your goals. Procrastinating never does.
Think of it like this—50% success is better than 0% success.
The key to beating procrastinating, then, is to conquer the perfectionist mindset and fear of failure. It’s no small feat. Those habits of mind are often deeply ingrained. They won’t vanish overnight. But there are some simple steps you can take, like…
Break big goals down into small steps. This relieves the overwhelm that many feel when facing important tasks. As you knock out those small steps, you’ll feel empowered to keep moving forward.
Don’t go it alone. Procrastination thrives in isolation. Seek out a friend, loved one, or co-worker to help hold you accountable and share the load—even if it’s just a weekly check-in to see how each other are doing.
Work in short, uninterrupted bursts. Set a timer. Put down the phone. Work. After about 15 minutes, you’ll notice something strange happening. Time starts to either speed up or slow down. Distracting thoughts vanish. The lines between you, your focus, and the task at hand start to evaporate. You feel awesome. This is called a flow state, and it’s the key to productivity. Make it your friend, and you’ll probably notice that procrastination becomes rarer and rarer.
Now that you know the cause of procrastination, try these tips for yourself. Set a 30 minute timer. Then, break your finances into tiny action steps like checking your bank account, automating saving, and budgeting. Work on each item in a quick burst until you’ve made some progress. Then, talk to a friend about your results!
Just like that, you’ve made serious headway towards beating procrastination and building wealth. Look at you go!
If you’re a parent, you have the power to influence your kids more than anyone or anything else. Your child’s response to conflict, their career, their relationships, their hobbies, their values, their politics, the core of who they are can all be shaped by you, the parent.
The same is true of your mindset towards money. The way you deal with your finances can have a profound impact on how your children deal with theirs.
Research has shown that most people start learning about money by age 3. By age 7, their attitudes about money are set.¹
What do you remember between ages 3 and 7? Probably very little on the conscious level. But you may carry some of their habits around with you…
You probably remember if your parents had frugal or flippant attitudes about money.
You probably remember if your parents fought about money.
You probably remember trying to persuade your parents to buy you things… or if your words fell on deaf ears.
On some level, you probably feel all those things now when money comes up in conversation. When your stress vanishes after buying a new toy. Or your heart sinks when you check your bank account. Or you get a head rush of discomfort when your coworker starts talking about the size of their investment portfolio.
Here’s another fact—almost no one is happy with the financial education they got growing up. 83% of parents wish they had learned more about money when they were kids.²They’re eager to avoid mistakes from their own childhood. But there’s just one problem…
Do they actually know how money works?
It’s unlikely. A 2020 global survey revealed that only 15% of young adults were financially literate.1 Translation—85% of adults, through no fault of their own, are poised to repeat their own parents’ mistakes.
That’s why reaching families with financial education is foundational to our mission. If parents get a financial education, their children are far better positioned to build wealth. And if families can learn how money works together, they can remove emotional obstacles and grow closer together, as well.
That’s why financial education is central to my mission. Because once families know how money works, they’re far less likely to be taken advantage of. They start making decisions that favor their futures, not someone else’s.
And when that happens to enough families, the financial industry will never be the same.
And best of all (for them), they use YOUR money to make it happen.
Here’s how it works…
You deposit money at a bank. In return, they pay you interest. It’s just above nothing—the average bank account interest rate is currently 0.06%.¹
But your money doesn’t just sit in the vault. The bank takes your money and loans it out in the form of mortgages, auto loans, credit cards, etc..
And make no mistake, they charge far greater interest than they give. The average interest rate for a mortgage is 3.56%.² That’s a 5,833% increase from what they give you for banking with them! And that’s nothing compared to what they charge for credit cards and personal loans.
So it should be no surprise that financial institutions are doing everything they can to convince you to borrow more money than perhaps you can afford.
First, they’re counting on the fact that you never learned how money works. Why? Because if you know something like the Rule of 72, you realize that banks are taking advantage of you. They use your money to build their fortunes and give you almost nothing in return.
Second, they manipulate your insecurities. They show you images and advertisements of bigger houses, faster cars, better vacations. And they strongly imply that if you don’t have these, you’re falling behind. You’re a failure. And you may hear it so much that you start to believe it.
Third, they lock you in a cycle of debt. Those hefty car loan and mortgage payments dry up your cash flow, making it harder to make ends meet. And that forces you to turn to other loans like credit cards. It’s just a matter of time before you’re spending all your money servicing debt rather than saving for the future.
So if you feel stuck or burdened by your debt, show yourself some grace. Chances are you’ve been groomed into this position by an industry that sees you as a source of income, not a human.
And take heart. Countless people have stuck it to the financial industry and achieved debt freedom. It just takes a willingness to learn and the courage to change your habits.
¹ “What is the average interest rate for savings accounts?” Matthew Goldberg, Bankrate, Feb 3, 2022 https://www.bankrate.com/banking/savings/average-savings-interest-rates/#:~:text=The%20national%20average%20interest%20rate,higher%20than%20the%20national%20average.
² “Mortgage rates hit 22-month high — here’s how you can get a low rate,” Brett Holzhauer, CNBC Select, Jan 24 2022, https://www.cnbc.com/select/mortgage-rates-hit-high-how-to-lock-a-low-rate/
And it’s true. Knowledge is power because it shows you how to act. The more informed your actions, the more likely they are to be fruitful and effective.
Here’s another quote you’ve probably heard a few times—“Know thyself.”
Why? Because there’s no greater power than power over yourself. The more you know yourself, the more capable you’ll be to shape your actions, your habits, and your destiny.
This couldn’t be more relevant than when it comes to money matters. The more you know about your financial habits and tendencies, the better equipped you’ll be to control your financial future.
Here are some ways to know thy financial self.
Notice your emotions. Like any other part of your life, emotions can affect money. They’re especially important to be aware of because they can cause you to act in ways that are counterproductive financially.
For example, have you ever felt anxious about checking your bank account?
Or felt a craving to blow some money to de-stress?
Or swelled with pride when you see how much you’ve saved?
Those are all emotions, and they’re all related to money.
So the next time you’re spending money, or checking your bank account, or pinching pennies, take a moment. Breathe. Notice how you’re feeling. Those emotions can give you valuable information that can help you make better financial decisions in the future.
Notice your thoughts. Feelings almost always lead to thoughts. For instance, anxiety about looking at your bank account could lead to an internal conversation like this…
“Can I afford that? Oh, I bet I can’t. I WAY overspent the other day at… whatever, I never have enough money. I keep meaning to spend less, but I just can’t stop myself. Why do I even bother?”
See what happened? A feeling of anxiety led to a negative thought—that you can’t control your finances.
So what do you think about money? And that doesn’t mean your “opinions” about the economy, your take on billionaires going into space, or the NFTs are the fine art of the future] you share when you’re chatting with friends. It means the thoughts that flow through your mind whenever you encounter money in daily life.
Take a few moments right now and notice those thoughts. Are they positive? Are they negative? Are they neutral?
Notice your actions. Just like a feeling almost always leads to a thought, so does a thought almost always lead to an action.
Those actions might be to ignore, or repress, or give in. But one way or another, thoughts will result in actions.
This is where budgeting helps. It’s like creating a journal of your actions, which are a window into your thoughts, your feelings, and who you are.
Notice lots of new shoes, designer handbags, or suddenly having more blingy watches than days of the week? These can reveal a facet of your financial self—maybe you think that taking advantage of every sale at the mall (i.e., buying things you don’t really need) will relieve feelings of anxiety.
Or maybe you’re penny-pinching so much that you’re surviving on peanut butter sandwiches and hating every bite. That could reveal either a hearty resourcefulness in lean times, or an unfounded worry about going without.
Or maybe you’re mindlessly wasting your dollars with nothing to show for it. Think hundreds spent on games on your phone, getting food delivered every night, or joining that fancy wine club all your friends are in. Perhaps this reveals that you are actually afraid of your finances, so afraid, in fact, that you can’t face reality.
The more you know about your financial self, the better equipped you’ll be to control your finances. You’ll see habits that you need to curb, and habits you need to cultivate.
Simple advice, but it goes a long way. Knowledge is power!
If you want to maintain a budget and save money, then you need a plan. The first step is understanding the basics—what is a budget? How does it work? What are the benefits of having one?
To effectively manage your monthly budget, you must take certain steps from day one. This article will provide some helpful tips and tricks on how to get started and keep going strong until payday rolls around!
What is a budget?
A budget is a plan. It helps you set limits for your spending, so that you can track your income and expenses. Maintaining a budget keeps you aware of when you are spending too much or if there are areas where your money could be saved.
It can also help you understand your spending habits as well as identify problems, such as giving in to too many sales or buying expensive lattes every day. With a clear understanding of how you spend money every month, you may be able to reduce expenses and even start saving for luxuries or emergencies. You can’t have a goal of saving for your next summer vacation if you don’t know how much money you’re spending now.
How to create your budget
The first step is to set goals for yourself for income and spending. When it comes to income, you need to consider all the ways you get paid. What is your salary—after taxes and any other contributions you make, like to a 401(k)? Is your employer cutting back your hours? Do you have another source of income such as a side job or freelance work?
Be completely honest with yourself about how much money you have coming in. Once this figure is known, you can assess your spending and determine how much of your income goes towards them every month.
Next, make a list of all fixed monthly bills, such as rent or loan repayments. Then make a list of variable expenses, such as groceries or gas. Lastly, make a list of all your monthly discretionary spending, or ‘fun money’.
If you struggle with this last step, look at your bank statements. It’s the easiest way to find a complete record of your spending. This will help you pinpoint the areas that you could cut down on or even eliminate.
Leverage your budget
Now that you have your budget, you can take action. You can save money by leveraging your budget to meet your monthly goals.
The first way is to leverage your income. If you have a job, talk to your employer about working extra hours, or ask for a raise. This will give you more money right out of the gate.
Beyond the extra income from a job, there are many other ways to add to your budget.
You can start small and pick up some side work—babysitting, dog walking, delivering pizzas, etc. If you can turn your free time into money, go for it! This all depends on your financial situation and what you feel comfortable with, so take the time to plan accordingly.
You can also think about reducing your expenses. Cutting back on luxury items can save money every month without having to work an extra job. Just think of all the things you could do with the money that’s currently going towards cable TV or eating out every day for lunch!
Don’t forget to have some fun every once in a while. Just find creative ways to have it on a budget. Plan more outings with friends like playing tennis or frisbee in the park, rather than going to the club every evening. Your community is bound to have some free local events going on, especially in warmer weather.
A budget is a way for you to track your expenses and income each month. You can leverage your budget in a number of ways, by increasing income or decreasing expenses—or both! With this knowledge, you’ll be able to save more and plan for the future.
In some cases, the warnings might have been heeded but in other cases, we may have learned the cost of credit the hard way.
Using credit isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it may be a costly thing – and sometimes even a risky thing. The interest from credit card balances can be like a ball and chain that might never seem to go away. And your financial strategy for the future may seem like a distant horizon that’s always out of reach.
It is possible to live without credit cards if you choose to do so, but it can take discipline if you’ve developed the credit habit.
It’s budgeting time. Here’s some tough love. If you don’t have one already, you should hunker down and create a budget. In the beginning it doesn’t have to be complicated. First just try to determine how much you’re spending on food, utilities, transportation, and other essentials. Next, consider what you’re spending on the non-essentials – be honest with yourself!
In making a budget, you should become acutely aware of your spending habits and you’ll give yourself a chance to think about what your priorities really are. Is it really more important to spend $5-6 per day on coffee at the corner shop, or would you rather put that money towards some new clothes?
Try to set up a budget that has as strict allowances as you can handle for non-essential purchases until you can get your existing balances under control. Always keep in mind that an item you bought with credit “because it was on sale” might not end up being such a great deal if you have to pay interest on it for months (or even years).
Hide the plastic. Part of the reason we use credit cards is because they are right there in our wallets or automatically stored on our favorite shopping websites, making them easy to use. (That’s the point, right?) Fortunately, this is also easy to help fix. Put your credit cards away in a safe place at home and save them for a real emergency. Don’t save them on websites you use.
Don’t worry about actually canceling them or cutting them up. Unless there’s an annual fee for owning the card, canceling the card might not help you financially or help boost your credit score.¹
Pay down your credit card debt. When you’re working on your budget, decide how much extra money you can afford to pay toward your credit card balances. If you just pay the minimum payment, even small balances may not get paid off for years. Try to prioritize extra payments to help the balances go down and eventually get paid off.
Save for things you want to purchase. Make some room in your budget for some of the purchases you used to make with a credit card. If an item you’re eyeing costs $100, ask yourself if you can save $50 per month and purchase it in two months rather than immediately. Also, consider using the 30-day rule. If you see something you want – or even something you think you’ll need – wait 30 days. If the 30 days go by and you still need or want it, make sure it makes sense within your budget.
Save one card for occasional use. Having a solid credit history is important, so once your credit balances are under control, you may want to use one card in a disciplined way within your budget. In this case, you would just use the card for routine expenses that you are able to pay off in full at the end of the month.
Living without credit cards completely, or at least for the most part, is possible. Sticking to a budget, paying down debt, and having a solid savings strategy for the future will help make your discipline worth it!
¹ “How to repair your credit and improve your FICO® Scores,” myFico, https://www.myfico.com/credit-education/improve-your-credit-score
Much like physical health, financial health can be affected by binging, carelessness, or simply not knowing what can cause harm. But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel – as with physical health, it’s possible to reverse the downward trend if you can break your harmful habits.
Not budgeting A household without a budget is like a ship without a rudder, drifting aimlessly and – sooner or later – it might sink or run aground in shallow waters. Small expenses and indulgences can add up to big money over the course of a month or a year.
In nearly every household, it might be possible to find some extra money just by cutting back on non-essential spending. A budget is your way of telling yourself that you may be able to have nice things if you’re disciplined about your finances.
Frequent use of credit cards. Credit cards always seem to get picked on when discussing personal finances, and often, they deserve the flack they get. Not having a budget can be a common reason for using credit, contributing to an average credit card debt of $6,913 for balance-carrying households.¹ At an average interest rate of over 16%, credit card debt is usually the highest interest expense in a household, several times higher than auto loans, home loans, and student loans.²
The good news is that with a little discipline, you can start to pay down your credit card debt and help reduce your interest expense.
Mum’s the word. No matter how much income you have, money can be a stressful topic in families. This can lead to one of two potentially harmful habits.
First, talking about the family finances is often simply avoided. Conversations about kids and work and what movie you want to watch happen, but conversations about money can get swept under the rug.
Are you a “saver” and your partner a “spender”? Is it the opposite? Maybe you’re both spenders or both savers. Talking (and listening) about yourself and your significant other’s tendencies can be insightful and help avoid conflicts about your finances.
If you’re like most households, having an occasional chat about the budget may help keep your family on track with your goals – or help you identify new goals – or maybe set some goals if you don’t have any.
Second, financial matters can be confusing – which may cause stress – especially once you get past the basics. This may tempt you to ignore the subject or to think “I’ll get around to it one day”.
But getting a budget and a financial strategy in place sooner rather than later may actually help you reduce stress. Think of it as “That’s one thing off my mind now!”
Taking the time to understand your money situation and getting a budget in place is the first step to put your financial house in order. As you learn more and apply changes – even small ones – you might see your efforts start to make a difference!
¹ “2020 American Household Credit Card Debt Study,” Erin El Issa, Nerdwallet, Jan 12, 2021 https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/average-credit-card-debt-household/
² “2020 American Household Credit Card Debt Study,” Erin El Issa
But it doesn’t have to be like this. The morning hours can be times of relaxation, focus, and self-improvement. Here are a few practical habits that can take your mornings from pointless to productive!
Go to bed early. Stayed up too late watching just one more episode of your favorite show? Don’t expect to wake up feeling motivated. A productive morning starts the night before. Try to stay away from screens before going to bed (at least one hour) and make sure you turn in at a reasonable time. You may also want to dial back when you wake up. Having a quiet hour or two before everyone else wakes up is a great way of freeing up time to invest in things you care about. Just remember that your new sleep schedule will take some time to adjust to!
Exercise first thing. One of the best habits to fill your new-found morning hours is exercise. It’s a great way to get your blood flowing and boost your energy. Plus, the feeling that you’ve accomplished something can help carry you through the day and boost your confidence.
Prioritize your tasks. But let’s say you’ve started getting up an hour and a half earlier and you work out for 30 minutes. How are you going to spend the next hour before you start getting ready for work? One great habit is to start planning out your day and prioritizing your tasks. Write down what specifically you want to accomplish and when. You might be amazed by how empowering it is to make a plan and to see your goals on a piece of paper. Start off with your biggest task. The morning is when you’re at your peak brain power, so commit your best efforts to the hardest work. The feeling of accomplishment from knocking out the task will carry you through the smaller things!
Mornings don’t have to be rough. Incorporating these tips and habits into your daily routine can help make the first hours of the day a time you look forward to. Start inching your alarm closer towards sunrise and use that extra time to absolutely crush your day!
Excited? Afraid? Disappointed? Nothing?
Those feelings can reveal deeper truths about your relationship with money. And that relationship can influence your financial future.
That’s because, despite what people say, money is often wrapped up in feelings about…
That’s why people’s behavior with money is often not well-reasoned. Instead of making measured decisions based on the numbers, people find themselves on autopilot. In other words, they react instead of respond.
Let’s look at some examples…
Let’s say your relationship with money is primarily fear based. Maybe you saw your parents struggle with their finances, and you constantly worry about reliving their experience.
The autopilot response? Frugality and risk-aversion, even if you earn a comfortable wage.
There’s nothing wrong with either of those qualities in moderation. But taken too far, they may seriously damage your personal relationships and prevent you from taking advantage of financial opportunities.
Plus, the constant stress and fear of losing everything might impact your mental and physical health if not properly managed.
There’s also the opposite extreme. What if you use wealth to establish your social status?
You’ll be far more likely to buy things you don’t need to show off to your peers. You may even begin compulsively shopping to cope with stress.
In other words, you may be using money in unhealthy and damaging ways. And the stress and guilt that come from such behavior can seriously harm relationships and your ability to accomplish your goals.
So what’s the solution? What should your feelings toward wealth be?
The starting point must be that money is primarily a tool. It doesn’t define you. It isn’t evil. It’s simply a tool that empowers you to pursue things that you love.
Simply put, money isn’t an end unto itself. It’s a means to an end.
The question is, then what do you love? What do you want to do and see and pursue? And what role will money play in achieving those goals?
Once you reorder your relationship with wealth along those lines, a whole world of possibility may open up like…
But it all starts with understanding your current feelings towards money, and then deciding on what you want your future to look like.
If you need someone to process those feelings with, contact me! I’m here to offer you guidance and support on your journey towards financial stability.
Let’s find out!
A survey of the wealthy revealed that 76% engaged in aerobic exercises for 30 minutes per day, 4 days per week.¹ The same survey revealed that only 23% of the non-wealthy do the same.
So the question isn’t whether the wealthy work out. It’s whether exercise played a role in their journey to financial security.
The connection isn’t as clear as we may like. That’s because correlation doesn’t equal causation. Plenty of wealthy people also read a lot (see my other article on the connection between wealth and reading). But no one would claim that reading alone created their prosperity. The same could be argued for exercise—perhaps the wealthy only found the time to work out after they achieved financial independence!
There’s a host of research that demonstrates the power of exercise to…
In fact, exercise is as effective as antidepressants in some cases!³ That means exercise may help remove barriers that inhibit your ability to build your goals and achieve your dreams. It can also fuel the creativity you need to help solve problems and increase your potential market value. One study discovered that physical activity in men resulted in a 14-17% increase in income over a 15 year period.⁴
The takeaway? Imitate the wealthy and get some exercise! It’s a non-financial habit that may pave the way to better mental health and help position you to achieve greater things, wealth-related or not.
¹ “Why Is Aerobic Exercise Important to Building Wealth?” Thomas Corley, Rich Habits, Aug 25, 2020, https://richhabits.net/why-is-aerobic-exercise-so-important-to-building-wealth/ ² “The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise,” Lawrence Robinson, Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., and Melinda Smith, M.A., HelpGuide.org Oct 2020, https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/the-mental-health-benefits-of-exercise.htm# ³ “Exercise is an all-natural treatment to fight depression,” Harvard Health Publishing, Feb 2, 2021, https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/exercise-is-an-all-natural-treatment-to-fight-depression ⁴ “8 Daily Rituals Most Millionaires Have In Common,” Lou Carlozo, Money Under 30, Nov 16, 2020 https://www.moneyunder30.com/millionaires-daily-rituals
You’ve come to the right place.
Over the next few weeks, this blog will explore the habits of the wealthy. You’ll discover why the wealthy incorporate certain activities and rituals into their daily routine and how you can implement them, starting TODAY.
You might be surprised by what you learn. That’s because almost none of these habits have anything directly to do with how you spend your money.
But they have everything to do with building character and improving lifestyle. That’s because the wealthy are often ordinary people who reached a critical realization early on—financial success is just one element of a rich life. The more growth you experience as an individual, the more empowered you can become to build wealth.
There are plenty of exceptions—you’ll find countless people who are both prosperous and non virtuous. This series isn’t about them, and it’s certainly not for those who want to pursue that path.
But if you’re curious to discover the habits of the wealthy, keep your eyes on this blog. You may learn something you can put into practice right now that might transform your future!
But that doesn’t stop “budget” from being an intimidating word to many people. Some folks may think it means scrimping on everything and never going out for a night on the town. It doesn’t! Budgeting simply means that you know where your money is going and you have a way to track it.
The aim with budgeting is to be aware of your spending, plan for your expenses1, and make sure you have enough saved to pursue your goals.
Without a budget, it can be easy for expenses to climb beyond your ability to pay for them. You break out the plastic and before you know it you’ve spent fifty bucks on drinks and appetizers with the gang after work. These habits might leave you with a lot of accumulated debt. Plus, without a budget, you may not be saving for a rainy day, vacation, or your retirement. A budget allows you to enact a strategy to help pursue your goals. But what if you’ve never had a budget? Where should you start? Here’s a quick step-by-step guide on how to get your budgeting habit off the ground!
Track your expenses every day. Start by tracking your expenses. Write down everything you buy, including memberships, online streaming services, and subscriptions. It’s not complicated to do with popular mobile and web applications. You can also buy a small notebook to keep track of each purchase. Even if it’s a small pack of gum from the gas station or a quick coffee at the corner shop, jot it down. Keep track of the big stuff too, like your rent and bill payments.
Add up expenses every week and develop categories. Once you’ve collected enough data, it’s time to figure out where exactly your paycheck is going. Start with adding up your expenses every week. How much are you spending? What are you spending money on? As you add your spending up, start developing categories. The goal is to organize all your expenses so you can see what you’re spending money on. For example, if you eat out a few times per week, group those expenses under a category called “Eating Out”. Get as general or as specific as you wish. Maybe throwing all your food purchases into one bucket is all you need, or you may want to break it down by location - grocery store, big box store, restaurants, etc.
Create a monthly list of expenses. Once you’ve recorded your expenses for a full month, it’s time to create a monthly list. Now you might also have more clarity on how you want to set up your categories. Next, total each category for the month.
Adjust your spending as necessary. Compare your total expenses with your income. There are two possible outcomes. You may be spending within your income or spending outside your income. If you’re spending within your income, create a category for savings if you don’t have one. It’s a good idea to create a separate savings category for large future purchases too, like a home or a vacation. If you find you’re spending too much, you may need to cut back spending in some categories. The beauty of a budget is that once you see how much you’re spending, and on what, you’ll be able to strategize where you need to cut back.
Keep going. Once you develop the habit of budgeting, it should become part of your routine. You can look forward to working on your savings and developing a retirement strategy, but don’t forget to budget in a little fun too!
¹Jeremy Vohwinkle, “Make a Personal Budget in 6 Steps: A Step-by-Step Guide to Make a Budget,” The Balance (March 6, 2020).
The good news is, you don’t need a perfect relationship or perfect finances to have productive conversations with your partner about money, so here are some tips for handling those tricky conversations like a pro!
Be respectful. Respect should be the basis for any conversation with your significant other, but especially when dealing with potentially touchy issues like money. Be mindful to keep your tone neutral and try not to heap blame on your partner for any issues. Remember that you’re here to solve problems together.
Take responsibility. It’s perfectly normal if one person in a couple handles the finances more than the other. Just be sure to take responsibility for the decisions that you make and remember that it affects both people. You might want to establish a monthly money meeting to make sure you’re both on the same page and in the loop. Hint: Make it fun! Maybe order in, or enjoy a steak dinner while you chat.
Take a team approach. Instead of saying to your partner, “you need to do this or that,” try to frame things in a way that lets your partner know you see yourself on the same team as they are. Saying “we need to take a look at our combined spending habits” will probably be better received than “you need to stop spending so much money.”
Be positive. It can be tempting to feel defeated and hopeless that things will never get better if you’re trying to move a mountain. But this kind of thinking can be contagious and negativity may further poison your finances and your relationship. Try to focus on what you can both do to make things better and what small steps to take to get where you want to be, rather than focusing on past mistakes and problems.
Don’t ignore the negative. It’s important to stay positive, but it’s also important to face and conquer the specific problems. It gives you and your partner focused issues to work on and will help you make a game plan. Speaking of which…
Set common goals, and work toward them together. Whether it’s saving for a big vacation, your child’s college fund, getting out of debt, or making a big purchase like a car, money management and budgeting may be easier if you are both working toward a common purpose with a shared reward. Figure out your shared goals and then make a plan to accomplish them!
Accept that your partner may have a different background and approach to money. We all have our strengths, weaknesses, and different perspectives. Just because yours differs from your partner’s doesn’t mean either of you are wrong. Chances are you make allowances and balance each other out in other areas of your relationship, and you can do the same with money if you try to see things from your partner’s point of view.
Discussing and managing your finances together can be a great opportunity for growth in a relationship. Go into it with a positive attitude, respect for your partner, and a sense of your common values and priorities. Having an open, honest, and trust-based approach to money in a relationship may be challenging, but it is definitely worth it.
The older Gen Zers have just come out of college, but this group’s imprint on society is already clear. You might be surprised by their attitude towards money and wealth! Let’s explore how these digital natives interact with money and why their financial habits might be influencing your business strategy.
Social media is an integral part of their world. They spend more time on their phones, tablets, and laptops than any other generation. The iPhone was old news by the time younger Gen Zers were born. This generation needs a whole new set of rules for how they shop and find financial advice.
For instance, Gen Zers are 72% more likely to buy from brands they follow on social media.¹ And there’s been an explosion of financial advice–not all of it good–on TikTok—#personalfinance has 3.5 billion views on the platform.² So if you’re interested in not just understanding Gen Zers, but also getting their attention, it pays to keep up with social media trends.
Gen Zers have yet to accrue massive debt. Gen Zers have thus far avoided the traps of credit card and student loan debt that have burdened every generation before. The numbers aren’t stellar–on average, Gen Zers have over $10,000 in non-mortgage debt–but that’s just a fraction of the debt carried by the typical Millennial or Gen Xer.
Of course, Gen Zers haven’t had as much time to accrue debt. It could well be that in 10 years they have just as many student loans and high credit card balances as older generations. But there is hope! Why?
Gen Zers are avid budgeters. 68% of Gen Zers use some form of budgeting system.³ Only 41% of the general population can say the same.⁴ That’s a massive improvement! If Gen Zers can use their budgets to avoid massive debt, they could find themselves well positioned financially.
In other words, Gen Z is hungry to learn how money really works. They’re already taking steps to avoid the missteps of past generations. The real question is who will teach them what it takes to become wealthy?
¹ “Generation Z Spending Habits for 2021,” Lexington Law, Feb 8, 2021, https://www.lexingtonlaw.com/blog/credit-cards/generation-z-spending-habits.html
² “Viral or vicious? Financial advice blows up on TikTok,” Nicole Casperson, InvestmentNews Feb 15, 2021, https://www.investmentnews.com/financial-advice-blows-up-on-tiktok-but-at-what-cost-202260#:~:text=That%27s%20what%20financial%20advice%20is,form%20of%2060%2Dsecond%20videos.
³ “Generation Z Spending Habits for 2021,” Lexington Law, Feb 8, 2021, https://www.lexingtonlaw.com/blog/credit-cards/generation-z-spending-habits.html
⁴ “What Is a Budget and Why Should I Use One?,” Tim Stobierski, acorns, Sep 6, 2019, https://www.acorns.com/money-basics/saving-and-budgeting/budget-meaning/#:~:text=While%20many%20factors%20likely%20contribute,budget%2C%20according%20to%20U.S.%20Bank.