Make Healthy Skepticism a Habit! 10 Easy Steps to Improve Your Financial Habits
- Written by Will from Holland
- Category: Articles
Recently, I found myself thinking of what the future may bring, and how the current pandemic will impact that. Right now, things are very uncertain for most of us. Our routines have been disrupted, employment may not be guaranteed, and times are tough financial or otherwise!
Focus on the things that you can control instead of dwelling on what you can't. A great place to start is taking a look at your current financial habits.
How do we handle a world like this? It's healthy to focus on the things that you can control instead of dwelling on what you can't. A great place to start is taking a look at your current financial habits.
We created a plan to help you step up your personal financial behavior, starting now. It's a pretty easy plan, too. It focuses on making healthy skepticism your habit: you'll think cautiously and critically about your spending.
Changes you know you need to make. By implementing these 10 steps now, your money will go a lot further, and you'll be a happier person. You may be unsure about our approach—and being the healthy skeptic you should be—but we believe it will help you, and that's a FoolProof guarantee.
So, let's roll.
This may sound simple, but it is the first necessary step to take; just start to make [some] changes in your financial behavior. Decide—now—that you really want to succeed with your money and change some of your financial habits (especially the ones that are working against you).
Look at yourself – you are what you do on a daily basis, especially when it comes to your money. Therefore, think through your financial patterns, money routines, and habits, especially the bad ones – those are the ones you want to change!
Make a list of your habits and routines, so you get complete oversight of the decisions you make, and not let your routines make your decisions!
Here's an example:
You routinely end up in the grocery store every day right before dinner time. You buy more than you need because you're hungry, you buy items you don't need.
Our quick fix?
Plan your grocery shopping for a time when you won't be so hungry, make a list and stick to it, or eat a quick snack before you shop.
3. Discover Your Motives
Why do you buy what you buy? And why do you buy something when you feel a certain way? Do you just simply like it? Is it something you want or need? Were you bored or frustrated when you made that purchase?
What is your buying motive? Ask yourself the important question of why you're actually buying something, with every purchase. You'll probably find that you make a lot of unnecessary purchases, and you can stop it in their tracks.
What would this look like?
- You buy a new gadget to make up for a bad day
- You reward yourself with jewelry because you needed a "happy boost"
- You grab a bag of jerky while gassing up your car
Insight in your own buying motives will help you avoid falling into 'shopping traps' and going over your budget at the same time.
4. Impulse Control!
Life happens. But here's the sure thing: whatever happens, you are in charge of your reaction to it. Always. You have a choice – make sure it's the right one and do not give into impulse.
Impulse control is closely related to your buying motives. Be aware of your buying motives and your impulses, as you'll be on your way to be a smarter spender and a healthy skeptic.
Here's an example:
It starts with things as simple as grabbing a pack of gum while waiting in line at the grocery store. Or buying a Starbucks coffee on the go because you get a little tired. Believe it or not, controlling your impulses will save you around $500k in your lifetime. But we'll get to that later.
5. List and Question Your Needs
We've been talking mostly about your 'wants'. To prepare yourself for the 'new money you,' we now need insight in your 'needs'.
List all the monthly bills you have to pay, minimally, to live your life. Think of your rent/mortgage, utilities, car payments, phone bill, insurance and health care, and the like. Then critically think whether they are a 'need' or if they actually are a 'want' instead. Drop the wants, just focus on the 'needs!'
This worksheet from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) can help you look at your monthly income and expenses.
6. Be Prepared to Slip Up
You feel good about a bad habit you've changed and then fall back into that bad habit. Even though that may be frustrating and demotivating, there's a solution here: plan your possible solutions ahead, just in case you slip.
Here's what that might look like:
Say you are living paycheck to paycheck. You're short on cash at the end of every month and can't pay all your bills. You do however buy the latest video game, go out for dinner with friends, buy coffee at Starbucks, etc. It's okay! We're all human and mistakes happen.
But let's turn things around:
Move up your bill due dates on (the needs from #5) to the beginning of the month, put a little money in your [locked] savings account, and budget whatever you have left for groceries first, and then add the rest to free expenses (wants).
Now, once you implement those changes:
Spent too much on in-game currency halfway through the month? No stress, you've paid your bills, have money set aside for food, and just have to take it easy until you get your next paycheck. Your wants can wait after your needs have been paid. BAM! Seems simple enough, right?
7. Set a Savings Goal
Make it specific and realistic. Visualize how and when you want to reach your goal, and start working towards it. Setting a savings goal, and trying hard to stick to it, even during hard times, helps you stay in control of your spending.
8. Get Support
A lot of us have financial problems now. Talking a little about your problems (without oversharing financial details with strangers, due to financial safety concerns), and your plan to solve them, can help you and the person you're talking to. Share your goals with family and friends, ask for their support, and think about starting a group with others who are working on their own financial behavior projects. You know, misery loves company!
9. Say No
Not feeling too happy? Buying goods, over eating, or even gambling; those are never the [long-term] solution to feeling better. Figure out when or why you get that feeling of need, and solve it. Whether you're tired, sad, lonely, bored, or insecure; take control, say 'no' and find out your needs and wants.
Need an example?
Ever heard of buyer's remorse? You buy something on the fly (in impulse, because you're feeling bad, whatever), and when you start to overthink your purchase later, you feel regret. Say no, and don't let whatever feeling you're having influence your spending (or have it wreck your budget).
10. Stay Financially Fit
You are really close to solid financial decision making, well done! You are ready for the next big step; staying where you are. By now, you are well aware of your needs, your wants, your [adjusted] daily routines, and you are ready to stay in this new reality. You are a savvy and thrifty consumer – all you have to do is remind yourself of these 10 steps on occasion.
You can do this, right? Easy peasy!
Changing your financial habits isn't always easy. But changing your habits in small steps is easy. And that's what you have just done. Hey, just by reading this, you've already started to take better control of your financial and mental health. Stick with the easy steps here and you'll have the routines and motives to be in control of your financial life. You've made healthy skepticism your habit.
Good for you!