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40 to 45 percent of what you do is based on habit formation. But, here’s the good news: Once you form a good money habit, you’re more likely to stay with it. The tough part? It takes time and effort for a habit to stick—66 days, to be exact.
To get you started on drumming up an awesome plan to save your moola, here are 8 healthy money habits to form:
Track your spending
These days it’s super easy to track your spending. There are a handful of free apps to help you manage and save your money. The nifty part is that you can track your spending by the day, week or month. You can also break it down by categories.
I recently looked through my transactions and discovered that I was eating way more junk than I thought. While these sorts of reality checks aren’t always fun, they’re an important first step to turning your money situation around.
Your inflow needs to be greater than your outflow
Back in my 20s, my pal “Dumpster Diving” Dave Fried told me that you need to treat your money like a business. Your cash inflow needs to be greater than the outflow. Mind you, Fried wasn’t the richest guy. He worked minimum wage at a screenprinting shop, and his finest luxuries were bowling and cheap beer. But he never carried debt and lived within his means.
The takeaway: If you find your credit card debt increasing every month and you’re spending more than your paycheck, take a close look at what’s going on. From there, you can commit to some long-lasting changes.
Automate as much as you can
This is by far my fav healthy money habit. That’s because it’s easy and you only have to do it once. Then you can sit back and relax.
If you enjoy a steady paycheck, you can automate all your bills, savings goals and investments. If you’re a Chime member, you can even set up autosave to sock away a portion of your paycheck.
While I’m a freelancer, I’ve made a point to get a month ahead. I set all my bills and some of my savings goals on autopilot. This way I’ll have enough in my bank account to get through the following month.
Spend only what you have
Easier said than done, right? To start, leave the credit cards at home and clear out any “saved” items in the online shopping carts of your favorite retailers. Instead of whipping out your credit card, opt to take cash out of the ATM.
It also helps to separate what you can spend on discretionary expenses—eating out, groceries, shopping, personal items and entertainment. I actually have a debit card just for variable spending, and check in on my balance every few days to make sure I’m on track. For instance, if you can afford to spend $1,000 a month on discretionary stuff, transfer just that amount to a separate debit card, or take out $250 a week in cash. Try it for a week and see how it goes.
Link specific income flow to savings
In our modern side hustling era, it’s important to remember to save any extra money you earn from your gigs. To help you out, you can try syncing up different income streams to your savings goals.
Let’s say you make money from an ebook, pet sitting, and driving for a ride share company. Any cash you don’t need for your living expenses can go toward your savings goals. For instance, money made from your ebook can go toward your vacay fund, earnings from pet sitting toward your debt, and rideshare income can be socked away into your emergency fund.
Try the WOOP approach
Besides being fun to say, WOOP is a strategy that is a hybrid of two existing habit-forming tactics. WOOP stands for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, and Plan. It’ s also known as MCII, which stands for Mental Contrasting, Implementation Intention. Here’s how it works:
First off, pick a behavior that’s hard to change yet doable to achieve. For instance, blowing a good chunk on fine dining and drinks the Friday you get paid or exercising for 10 minutes first thing each morning. Then, imagine an awesome-sauce future where you’ve achieved the desired outcome. For example, having a robust rainy day fund or making serious headway on paying off your debt.
Secondly, consider what currently gets in the way of achieving this goal. For instance, if you’re having trouble holding on to your paycheck, it may be because you love going out a lot and lack willpower. If you have trouble doing those yoga stretches or burpees first thing in the morning, maybe it’s because you feel crunched for time.
The second part of WOOP encompasses simple statements or motivating mantras that help you tackle the obstacle. This will help you push through the obstacle and stay on track.
Pay attention to somatic knowledge
It’s important to be cognizant of what you experience and feel in your body. By paying attention to your natural responses to situations and triggers, you’ll gain powerful knowledge that will help inform your decisions.
For example, how do you feel the morning after spending a quarter of your paycheck at the bar? Or what flurry of emotions do you feel when you see something you really want in a store window?
As someone who struggles constantly with scarcity mentality about my money, I feel a bit of hesitation and dread when I spend more than a certain amount on a single item. While logically I know it’s the right purchase and I can afford it, my body tenses up.
The long and short of it: By paying attention to your body’s response to different money situations, you’ll gain a greater understanding of your relationship with your money, and how you can go about making changes.
Come up with specific money goals
Sure, you want to be “better with your money” in the new year. But what, specifically, does that mean?
For me, I have ambitious retirement goals. Retirement may feel like light years away, but I know it’s important to get a jump on it. So, I’ve assigned a desired amount I want to save each month to hit my goal for the year. That nitty-gritty specificity helps me take action, see my progress and stay motivated.
A pro tip: Be sure to name your savings accounts for desired goals. For instance, instead of just “savings account 2,” label it “Hawaii 2019.” This is another way to stay motivated to hit your savings goals.
Small steps, major changes
There’s no better way to kick-start the new year than to focus on bettering your financial situation. By following these 8 healthy habits, you’ll have an easier time achieving money happiness and hitting your financial goals. In turn, you’ll feel less stressed out and in greater control. And that’s something worth celebrating!