Did you set New Year’s resolutions this year? No? I didn’t either!
After years of feeling fed up and frustrated with myself about not keeping my New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and save more money, I decided to try something different – not setting any resolutions at all.
I know that may sound lazy or like I’m lacking ambition, but hear me out. I decided to replace my resolutions with practicing healthy financial habits. This has been a game-changer for me as these healthy habits helped me make big life changes, like completing a savings challenge by socking away little bits of money each week.
If you’re ready to get your finances in order and make your money work for you, try adopting these healthy financial habits starting TODAY!
1. Pay Yourself First
Don’t stop at just automating your savings, start paying yourself first instead of last. You might be surprised at how much more money you’ll be able to save if you transfer a set amount into your savings account every time you get paid. Even if you have the best intentions to save whatever is left over after spending each month, life happens and you might end up spending that money instead. You can avoid this by paying yourself first and then spending what’s left after saving.
2. Spend Mindfully
Similarly, learning to spend mindfully and along with your personal values can bring you financial peace and joy in your life. This can be hard to implement at first, and you might even get some push-back from friends and family as you change what you spend your money on. But in the end, it will be worth it.
Spend some time reflecting on what you really want your life to look like. Then, take small steps to change your spending to reflect your ideal lifestyle, no matter if that means having money for travel, moving to a different location, or even spending money on eating out regularly if you enjoy fine dining. There’s no judgment here because I’ll be the first to admit that I value some of these things as well.
3. Track Your Spending
Before I ever made my first budget, I started tracking my spending. Tracking your spending will help you correct overspending almost automatically as you be able to see where your money is going so you can make changes if necessary.
You might consider going on a cash-only spending plan for the areas where overspending tends to occur often. For me, those areas are dining out, entertainment, and groceries. But, if cash isn’t as convenient as you’d like, you can also use a debit card on a separate bank account with a pre-set balance each month. Opt out of overdraft protection so once your money is gone, you can’t keep swiping.
You can track your spending with a simple spreadsheet, an app, or even the old-school way with a pen and paper.
4. Automate Your Finances
One of the best things I’ve ever done for my finances is to automate them as much as possible.
We all have hundreds if not thousands of small decisions and things to keep track of every day, so if you can automate something important like your finances, you’ll have one less thing to worry about. This is why I’ve set up automatic bill pay for many of my monthly recurring bills. I’ve also set up automatic transfers from my checking to my savings account to help me continue building my emergency fund and other savings. Plus, Chime’s automatic savings program helps me save even more by rounding up my purchases and putting that into my savings account too!
5. Switch From Credit to Debit
One of the best habits you can adopt if you are prone to overspending and racking up credit card debt is to shred your credit card and switch to debit. Debit cards offer a natural limit to how much you can spend as you can only spend until your account is empty. There’s no danger of racking up high-interest debt that could take years to pay off. Once again, make sure you opt out of overdraft protection with your bank so you can’t go negative in your account. If you do, you’ll be subject to some hefty bank fees. Chime is a bank account with no fees that doesn’t allow you to overdraw your Spending Account, so there’s never worry about an overdraft fee.
6. Pay Extra on Your Debt
If you’re in the nasty habit of only paying the minimum on your debt, it’s time to start a new habit. Being paying extra on your debt to get it paid off faster. Even if you don’t have a lot of extra money, a few dollars can make a big difference. To make sure you use your money for debt instead of being tempted to spend it on other things, try making extra payments to your debt any time you have extra money in your account.
7. Start Investing
Just like paying yourself first, you also need to make sure you’ve taken care of your future self by investing for retirement and other future needs. The easiest way to get started investing is to start contributing to your employer-sponsored retirement plan if one is available to you. If you aren’t already contributing, you might be missing out on free money! Many employers will offer employees a match on their contributions. But, if you don’t have an employer-sponsored retirement plan, you should still be investing. Open up an IRA or Roth IRA right away and make contributions regularly.
8. Don’t Let Bad Days Get You Down
No matter how much progress you make with your finances, we all still mess up sometimes and have bad days. We might make a bad financial decision, or come across some unforeseen expenses. But the key to overcoming these things and getting back on track is learning to accept them and move on. Of course, you want to learn from your mistakes, but don’t beat yourself up about them.
9. Practice Gratitude
Another financial game-changer for me was deciding to practice gratitude daily. It might not sound like a financial habit, but it can make a world of difference. When you practice gratitude for the world around you, you’ll feel less pressured to “keep up” with others by buying things you don’t actually want or need. Just recently a friend of mine bought a new car and it made me feel jealous at first. But, once I reminded myself that I’m grateful for my current vehicle and that I don’t want to be spending any more money on a car payment, I stopped feeling the pressure to “keep up”.
10. Keep Your End Goals in Mind
When you’re in the throes of working on improving your finances, it can be easy to forget about why you started in the first place. This year, make it a habit to keep your end goals in mind when things get tough because they will get tough at some point. But those goals should be enough to keep you motivated to make forward progress with your finances.