Can Habit Stacking Work For You?

We all know that creating positive habits can help you reach financial independence. So, why is it so hard to develop financial habits that will last? Because learning a new habit is hard – plain and simple.

For this reason, you may want to try a new approach to create a new habit. How about habit stacking? If you’ve never heard of habit stacking, this is when you form a new habit by stacking it on top of an existing one. Because your current habit is so strongly hardwired into your brain, adding another one will help you implement it more consistently and quickly.

Interested in habit stacking? Read on to find out how to start and use this technique to create better financial habits.

The One Thing You Need to Tell Yourself

It’s easy to start stacking habits on top of one another. All you need to do is ask yourself: What existing habit can I use to help me integrate a new one? In other words, how can you use an old habit to form a new one?

The key to do this successfully is to integrate your new habit right after an old one. For example, let’s say you already drink a glass of water right after you wake up in the morning. With this in mind, you already have a good spot to slide in a new daily gratitude practice. Try this out for size: Begin journaling about things you’re grateful for right after you drink your water – every morning. To remind you of your new habit, you could even place your gratitude journal close to the sink. This way it becomes a trigger when you grab your glass of water.

Now that you’ve got this concept down, let’s take a look at how you can use habit stacking to help you in your financial life.

Look At Your Current Habits and Routine

This is going to require some work as you’re going to need to write down everything you do habitually on a daily basis, as well as how long each habit takes. Don’t leave anything out. Yes, this includes brushing your teeth, taking a shower, driving to work or even watching TV (and what you watch). Do this consistently for a week so that you have an understanding of where you have time or space to add in new habits.

For example, if you shorten your 15 minute morning shower down to seven minutes, this frees up eight minutes to stack a new habit. Perhaps you can now use those available eight minutes to read a book or listen to a motivational podcast.

Get Specific With What Habit You Want to Implement

Being vague isn’t going to help you at all. If you’re writing down new habits you want to create like “save money every day” or “stop spending money on coffee,” this isn’t specific enough and you’ll be hard-pressed to find an old habit to stack these on top of.

Here are some examples of habits that are more specific:

  • Ask for a paper receipt and put it in your wallet every time you purchase an item.
  • Check your bank statements every time you turn on your phone.
  • Drop your change in a jar right when you walk in from work.
  • Every time you buy a cup of coffee, automatically transfer that same amount into your savings account.

Take some time to brainstorm what habit you actually want to implement, and make sure it’s specific enough.

Start Small and Keep Building

Don’t get too ambitious and start a habit that will take hours to implement. Instead, see what you can do to implement one in 10 minutes or less. For example, it’s not a good idea to create a new and complicated investment strategy, which might take hours. Instead, maybe you can focus on reading up on a particular type of investment – like a Roth IRA – while you drink your coffee. Or, perhaps you can start making weekly deposits into your savings account. When you’ve got that habit down, then you can work on learning about other investments, or even opening up a brokerage account. You’ll soon be on your way to creating an investment strategy that works for you. Better yet, this will be a habit that you will hopefully keep for life.

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