10 Personal Finance Habits You Can Start Today
Personal finance is more about behavior than anything else, including math! You need to be creating habits with intention if you want to reach financial freedom. There are so many things you can do to turn your finances around and get control of your money (I recommend following Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps) and while I think all of those big goals are important, it’s also important to put in place the small, everyday habits that are going to help you change your behavior. You can stop living paycheck to paycheck and stop living with money stress, but you’re going to have to change the way you behave when it comes to your personal finances.
Here are 10 habits you can start today to improve your personal finances.
1.STOP IGNORING YOUR FINANCES
It’s become normal to ignore your financial situation and just do whatever you want. Less people are balancing checkbooks, tracking expenses, and planning for major purchases. But just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t make it right. About 78% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, so that should tell you something isn’t right with the way we’re handling personal finance (or not handling it). Your finances won’t go away if you ignore them. If you ever want to reach your financial goals like funding your retirement, you have to pay attention to your current situation. You should not be spending more time watching reality TV than you are planning for your future. Get your finances under control.
2. START LIVING WITH A BUDGET
You don’t have to wait until the first of the month to start this habit. Figure out how much money you have coming in the rest of the month and plan how you’re going to spend it. Then don’t just stop there, make sure you track your spending so you can hold yourself accountable and know where to adjust for the next budget. If you don’t make a plan for where your money will go, you will end up wondering where it went. A budget will help get your spending under control and will help you prioritize savings and purchasing with intention.
3. LIVE BELOW YOUR MEANS
Learning to live below your means will set you free. Living below your means allows you to have extra money for paying off debt, saving for retirement, or whatever your current financial goals may be. It’s crucial for good money management and reaching your financial goals. The amount of money you make isn’t going to matter if you don’t have your spending under control. You could have a great salary, spend it recklessly, and end up living paycheck to paycheck despite your level of income. Living beyond your means, and breaking even, will not get you to financial freedom. Living below your means will set you free.
Related: The Art of Living Below Your Means
4. DON’T TAKE ON MORE DEBT
If you’re ready to get your finances under control, you know you need to payoff all your debt so you can begin saving and investing. But more than just paying off debt, you have to stop taking on more debt. If you’re trying to pay off debt but you’re buying groceries and birthday presents on a credit card, you’re just creating more stress for yourself. You’re never going to gain traction towards financial freedom if you don’t make the commitment to never take on more debt ever again.
Related: Why You Need to Break Up With Debt
5. SET FINANCIAL GOALS
If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there. You need to make a plan for your finances. Figure out where your focus needs to be currently, such as paying off debt or saving an emergency fund, and then you can begin to take the action steps to get there. You can get as specific as you want to with goals such as paying off all debt before age 40, saving X amount of dollars for your kids’ college, or saving X amount of dollars for your next car.
6. CUT UNNECESSARY EXPENSES AND EXPENSIVE HABITS
If you want to make a change in your finances today, you can simply cut out the things that aren’t necessary or that are killing your budget. It’s time to categorize needs and wants. Cut out the unnecessary expenses like subscriptions, unused gym memberships, or even cable. Cut back on expensive habits like eating out, daily lattes from the coffee shop, or frequent shopping sprees. You will find extra money in your budget to save or throw at debt if you cut back on these things.
7. STOP IMPULSE BUYING
You have to reduce the impulse purchases so you can live and spend with intention. Financial freedom does not happen by randomly purchasing everything that catches your eye. You need a plan and you need to be working that plan. You have to limit the distractions and the things trying to derail your plan. That means no unplanned shopping trips, no impulse buys.
Related: 20 Ways to Reduce Impulse Purchases
8. SEEK PERSONAL FINANCE EDUCATION
If you want to get better at your personal finances, you need to seek the education to do so! With the Internet we have so many resources available at our fingertips there’s no reason not to be learning more about how to handle personal finance. You can watch videos, listen to podcasts, or read blogs. Even visit your public library and find personal finance books. You will never regret investing in your education, especially when the topic is personal finance, which you will use every day for the rest of your life.
9. DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS
This goes for personal finance as well as every other area of life! You can’t compare your finance situation to some else’s. First of all, it’s likely that you don’t even know what their true situation is. Just because they drive a brand new car doesn’t mean they aren’t drowning in payments every month and charging groceries to their credit card. Secondly, if you do know someone’s situation and they’ve done something awesome like paying off all their debt…don’t compare your beginning to their middle. Everyone starts somewhere and we all take different paths to reach a destination.
10. GET AN ACCOUNTABILITY PARTNER
If you’re married, your accountability partner should be your spouse. You need to be on the same page about your finances and working towards the same goals. If you’re single, find a trusted friend or loved one that can be your accountability partner for your personal finances. It doesn’t have to be some fancy arrangement, just find someone you can check in with about your goals and that will do the same. Figure out your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to personal finance and let the other person hold you accountable for making better choices.
I don’t want you to feel overwhelmed, so try to pick three of the following habits and start there. When you get the hang of those, you can take on more. Just remember that no one is perfect and you won’t wake up tomorrow and suddenly have it all under control. Focus on making good choices one day at a time and you’ll see the trajectory of your personal finances change.