How to Kick Your Bad Financial Habits
While bad habits are hard to kick, it's certainly not an impossible feat. It's important to form healthy money habits now in order to set yourself up for a year of financial success.
Here are the most common bad financial habits and how to drop them for good.
Not Having a Spending Plan
If you're going on a road trip, it's usually a good idea to map out your route and destination spots. If that's the case, then why is it that so many of us are without a plan when it comes to our money? According to the Federal Reserve 2017 report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households, only 53 percent of Americans use a budget for their personal spending and a mere 18 percent pay bills with a budget payment plan.
Try creating a basic budget. If you're new at it, start by jotting down your fixed spending (such as rent, bills, insurance payments) and variable spending (groceries, entertainment, shopping). Don't forget to include any one-off, anticipated expenses.
Neglecting to Monitor Your Spending
Having a budget is one thing, but seeing where your money is going is equally crucial. You might find that your budget doesn't sync up to your actual habits. While it might be daunting to look under the hood and see how much cash you're spending on meals or clothing, it's only after facing the numbers that you can make lasting changes.
Use tools to help you see your cash inflow and outflow. KeyBank's HelloWallet tracks all of your accounts and gives you a Financial Wellness Score. As you make changes to your money habits, such as saving more or spending less, you'll be able to see how your score changes.
Caving into Impulse Buys
There are a number of reasons for why you might go on a shopping spree. And while it might feel good in the moment, you may have regrets when you check your bank account or credit card statement later.
According to psychotherapist Jonathan Alpert, one of the biggest reasons people don't stick to their resolutions is that they're not specific enough. If you want to stay on course, get more granular in your money goals. How much do you want to save for that summer vacation to Key West, and when do you want to hit your target?
Visualization exercises, such as thinking about how amazing it would be to hit some of your financial milestones, can also help prevent you from spending too much money.
Spending More Than You Earn
A major pillar of financial wellness is that your inflow should be higher than your outflow. If you don't pay yourself first, or put money toward your savings or other financial goals, you'll be left with very little — or worse, a negative balance — at the end of the month.
Look at where your money is going, and cut back where you can. First, focus on "big wins," or ways to slash your spending on major expenses such as housing, transportation, and food. How can you save on groceries, or fuel for your car? Then, consider the "easy wins," or ways to boost you recurring savings. Think about utilities such as your heating bill and subscription services.
Not Paying off Debt
It's easy to shove your debt underneath the proverbial rug and pretend it doesn't exist. However, making late payments or missing payments altogether will take a toll on your finances, particularly your credit score.
Tally up all of your existing debt and, if it's been a while, check to see if they're with a lender or collection agency. Next, come up with a debt repayment plan. Start by paying off high-interest "bad debt" first — credit cards, payday loans, and any personal loans you've taken out to use on discretionary spending. That will save you the most on interest fees.
Remember that it takes 66 days to form a new habit. With a bit of focus, diligence, and persistence, you'll be able to transform your bad financial habits into good ones in no time.