2/14/2013 3:15 PM ET|
7 tips to break bad money habits
Thankfully, you can develop good financial habits, too. Even small changes can make a big difference to your bottom line.
For most of us, our financial habits were picked up early by watching and learning from our parents as we were growing up. If you were lucky enough to have financially savvy parents to guide you, managing your finances probably comes easily to you. For many of us, though, making smart financial decisions is a process learned by trial and error.
So, how do you break out of bad financial habits? It takes time, commitment and a strong desire to want to make the change. If you're serious about changing your financial habits, here are a few tips and guidelines that may help:
Identifying bad habits
Take a step back and analyze your finances. What's causing you the most trouble? Are you buried in debt? Is your savings account empty? Have you set up retirement accounts? Do you consistently make payments late?
Before you can address any of these problems, you have to recognize that they exist and are caused by the habits you want to change.
Defining new habits
After you've identified the problems, analyze ways to correct them and pinpoint scenarios or situations that cause you trouble. Asking "who, what, where, when, why and how much," makes it much easier to identify and define new habits for almost any situation.
For example, if debt is your major concern, ask yourself where you are overspending and why. Are there any situations or triggers that tempt or cause you to spend more than you should? Can you limit your exposure to these situations or triggers? If you're worried about scrawny savings, think about how much you want to save, how much you need to save and how much you are actually saving.
Now, decide on the changes you will make to establish new habits. Maybe that means going for a walk instead of pulling out the credit card to deal with stress. Or perhaps it means automatically depositing money into your savings account. Think big picture and look at every aspect of the problem in order to define ways to correct it.
Committing it to paper
Now that you've identified better habits to replace the old ones, write them down. Include the changes you want to make, why you want to make them and the steps you're going to take to get there -- and then post it in plain sight. This will help you clearly see your end goal in specific terms and help keep you committed to the end result. It's harder to dismiss a promise or commitment when it's in writing and the reminder is right in front of you.
Tackling one habit at a time
You know the saying, "Rome wasn't built in a day"? Bad habits aren't changed overnight, either. Trying to tackle everything all at once isn't realistic and usually leads to frustration and a higher likelihood of failure. Start slowly and take one step at a time. Keep it simple and work at implementing one or two rules at a time. As rules become habits and you begin to see results, you can add in new rules.
One way to stay on track is by setting periodic goals or a series of milestones that help you stick to and develop strong new habits. You might consider setting milestones for 30 days, 60 days, 90 days or more. These mini-goals can help with planning longer-term goals like "I will be debt free in three years," and keep you motivated in reaching that long-term milestone.
Making good financial habits automatic
A great way to reverse bad habits is to automate good habits. Utilize automatic online bill payments through your checking account, set up direct deposit to allocate a percentage of your paycheck to a separate savings account, take advantage of 401k savings contributions at work, etc. Automation makes good financial habits so easy that you barely have to think about them. It sounds simple, and it is.
Learning to expect setbacks and rolling with them
No one is perfect. Accept that there will be setbacks. Learning to pick yourself back up, brush yourself off and keep going is the difference between success and failure. Just keep trying and your new habits will eventually stick.
This list is by no means exhaustive. What tactics have you come across that have helped you break bad financial habits?
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This article is okay except for the very first suggestion "Identifying bad habits". How do you expect people with bad spending habits to recognize that they even have bad habits? Usually they just plod along clueless, blaming the world for their own troubles.
If you can wake up and realize that your spending habits are hurting you, find someone who handles money well amongst your friends or acquaintances. Hopefully a better money manager will help you identify your problems. Then you can proceed with the rest of this article's advice.
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