Turn Your Victories Into Habits
As you travel the road to your financial goals, you'll face a multitude of money decisions – lots of little choices and some big ones. Learn from those that lead to wins, no matter how small, turn them into habits and pretty soon you'll be making record progress. Many people make New Year's resolutions and vows throughout the year to do better with money, but then get off track along the way. With good habits, you can stay on course to your goals.
For example, maybe one weekend you decide to save extra toward your family's summer vacation by cutting back on the expensive takeout dinners that have become routine at your house on weekdays. A great idea since, according to research, "It is 325% more expensive to eat a meal at a restaurant instead of cooking at home."1 So, before Monday is off and running, you plan a couple of easy-to-cook meals and shop for the groceries you'll need (sticking to a shopping list so you buy only the necessary items and stay on budget). Then you pull it off! You cook just two dinners and save a tidy sum. If you do that the next week, and each week that follows, your pot of savings will grow and grow. Do the same with all of your financial victories – turn them into new habits – and before you know it you will have achieved your goals.
It's Never Too Late
If resisting impulse purchases and splurges is one of your challenges, and you score a win by resisting something you crave but don't need (a $7 espresso, $4 chocolate bar, the latest cell phone, a vintage motorcycle), turn that success into a future of consistent wins. Make resistance your routine response to impulse.
Maybe you're thinking, "That's easier said than done. Old habits die hard." Well, it is true that change can be challenging, but it's also absolutely possible. According to Charles Duhigg, the author of The Power of Habit, "… it's never too late to break a habit. Habits are malleable throughout your entire life."2
And there are tricks that can help. Forbes suggests creating a spending mantra for yourself, which they report really can shift your behavior.3 If you have a habit of using your credit card to spend more than you can afford, when you're tempted, repeat something like, "I will not use my credit card to spend money I don't have." With each new temptation, remind yourself of those you successfully resisted, and then tell yourself, "I can do it again." Then notice how good it feels when you succeed. Enjoy that reward.
Repetition and Rewards Are Key
If you know that certain circumstances tend to trigger your urge to splurge, have a reward ready and waiting to entice you to resist. If a rough day at work makes you want to indulge in an online shopping binge when you get home, be prepared to reward your resistance with something that will feel good without putting a dent in your finances – an extra episode of your favorite show, a long bath with relaxing music or a free pass to sleep in for as long as you like on Saturday. Repeat the treat each time you resist a trigger and you'll get the benefits of the reward and the savings, plus you'll be training your brain to feel good about not shopping. Repetition and rewards are key to creating habits. Use them well and often!
Try it. Look for ways you can make changes in your life and create healthy financial habits. Start small and rack up some fast, easy wins. They'll encourage you to keep going and try for bigger changes. Soon you'll be on your way to the future you're working to achieve.