8 Habits Keeping You Broke
I like to think we all have the best of intentions. No one actually wants to feel like their finances are out of control or live in a constant state of money stress. No one actually wants to live paycheck to paycheck or have the self control of a two year old. No actually intends to never save for retirement or to continually borrow debt they can’t repay. No matter what your financial situation looks like right now, we have all been in places where we feel like we made money mistakes. But nothing is stopping you from breaking those habits that are keeping you broke and making new and better choices right now.
Being aware of which bad habits are keeping you broke will help you address them and fix them. Let’s look at 8 (common) habits you might need to kick to the curb.
#1 - Ignoring your debt and/or your finances.
It’s true what they say, out of sight…out of mind. If you’re not keeping tabs on your finances, how can you ever expect for them to improve? No one ever gains a six-pack by avoiding the gym. Your finances need your attention. Why? Because your life literally depends on it. You want to have food on the table, you want to be prepared for the future whether it’s an emergency, college, or retirement, and you want that nagging money stress to go away. Further more, your income and your finances are a gift from God that has been entrusted to you to use and manage in the best way. Stop ignoring it.
I know that when you’re in debt and living paycheck to paycheck it can seem scary and stressful and you’d rather not even think about it. I’ve been there. I ignored my finances so well the account kept going overdrawn and auto-drafting out of my savings account. That was stressful and I didn’t want to deal with it. But finally I was tired of that lifestyle, my husband was tired of that lifestyle, and we decided to grab the bull by the horns and pay off all our debt. Face your finances, make a plan to pay off your debt, and go for it. Your garden will not grow if you don’t tend to it. Stop ignoring your finances.
Related: Why You Need to Break Up With Debt
#2 - Not budgeting.
I know I sound like a broken record when it comes to this budgeting thing. You need a budget, you need a budget, you need a budget. But it’s only because I firmly believe the budget is the foundation for all your financial goals. Like the hearth of the home, the budget is the center of your finances. It’s where you make a plan for your money instead of allowing your money to control you. You want to pay off debt, you need a plan to get there. You want to invest for retirement, you need a plan to get there. You want to take a vacation every year and pay cash for it all, you need a plan to get there. You want to be able to have the freedom to give to someone when and as you feel led, you need a plan to get there. You cannot wander around aimlessly and hope to one day randomly walk through the door that is financial freedom. Even if you were to one day come into a large amount of money whether it’s through a really nice paycheck, a large inheritance gift, or something else…it means nothing if you don’t know how to manage it. Get on a budget. Make a plan.
Related: Why You Need A Budget
#3 - Doing this alone.
Have you ever decided you were going to lose weight, done a full grocery haul of healthy foods, only to have your spouse (or roommate, or friend, etc) walk in and as if you want to order pizza for dinner? Maybe it wan’t pizza but some other deliciously tempting food that caused you to stray from your new plans even on day one. You need someone on your side who is going to hold you accountable and even better if that person is working towards the same goals you are. If you’re single, you need to find an accountability partner you can trust who understands what it means to pay off debt and find financial peace. Choose someone who is going through it or has already gone through it and succeeded. Your broke family member with car loans bigger than their house payment is not going to be a good accountability partner, so choose wisely and just don’t try to do this alone.
If you’re married, your spouse is your accountability partner. The two of you need to be on the same page when it comes to finances and not playing for opposing teams. If you want to pay off debt and your spouse does not, it’s only going to lead to more money fights. Both spouses need to have involvement in the process and use their strengths. In our family, I crunch all the numbers, my husband handles the motivation (plus he’s the voice of reason), and together we decide on the direction. And to take that one step further, make sure you are including God in on your finances. Ask for direction, ask for clarity, ask for wisdom and guidance. It’s all His, so act like it!
#4 - Emotional or impulsive spending.
This can be a tough one because often times I don’t think we even realize how impulsive our spending habits can be. I used to think impulse spending was just throwing a pack of gum in at the last minute in the grocery line or grabbing a pair of sunglasses so conveniently placed near checkout at my favorite clothing store. And while those definitely are impulse purchases, it goes much deeper than that. Have you ever had a bad day at work and comforted yourself by eating out? Impulse purchase. And have you ever had a good day at work and rewarded yourself with possibly that very same dinner out? Impulse purchase. You felt an emotion and you made a decision to spend money based on that emotion. Whoa, I just unjustified half your purchases on your previous bank statement, right?
The emotional and impulsive spending has to stop because for one, it’s unhealthy anyway, and two, it’s keeping you from really being able to make progress in your finances. We live in a world where we are constantly being marketed to and often times those companies are playing on our emotions to convince us to purchase. Take your emotions out of the equation and think through your purchases logically. Don’t spend anything you weren’t intending to spend 24 hours ago, or maybe even 30 days ago. Don’t make a purchase just because your favorite retailer sent you an email with a promo code. But on the other hand, if last month you set aside some extra cash to revamp your wardrobe, and then your favorite retailer sends you an email with a promo code and you’re prepared to spend, then go for it, girl! Just stop spending on a whim and stop letting your emotions dictate your purchasing decisions.
Related: 20 Ways to Reduce Impulse Purchases
#5 - Using credit cards.
Credit card companies are excellent marketers. You probably didn’t even realize it but a credit card (or line of credit) is a product that you are being sold. They created a product that allows people to get what they want when they want it (cue the footage of a toddler tantrum) by paying extra for it, that extra being called interest. It’s a great scheme and obviously it works because here we are in 2019 and the average person owes $6,483 in credit card debt with an average interest rate of 16.86% according to recent data. All because we’re too impatient to save up the cash for a purchase and we want the thing now. The four major credit card companies have an annual marketing budget that could purchase 20,000 people each a $200,000 house so yeah, your money is worth it to them.
Credit cards can give us a false sense of security. But you have to remember if you spend it, you have to pay it back at some point and the longer it takes, the more expensive it’s going to be thanks to interest. I understand it can seem like a good idea to use credit to bail you out of unexpected situations but that’s a risk you just shouldn’t take. Set aside a $1,000 starter emergency fund and use it to pay cash when something unexpected comes up. When you’re debt free (except the house) bulk it up to a 3-6 month of expenses for a full emergency fund. Be prepared for these things to happen and you will be better off.
Related: Why Credit Cards Are A Terrible Idea
#6 - Comparing yourself to others.
You might be comparing yourself to others without even realizing it. Ever scroll through social media and suddenly want all the clothes in another’s girls closet because they all make her look amazing? Or what about that other girl’s house that looks like they were an unaired episode on the Fixer Upper show? Or maybe you even just saw your friend’s vacation photos, decided not to post yours, and immediately started searching for places to stay next year. We can call fall into the comparison trap because it’s just so easy to do. But be strong and resilient.
If you need to unfollow someone to keep your own priorities in check, do that! Follow people that inspire you to live a better life. Remember that social media only shows the things people want you to see, which is most often times a highlight reel. So don’t bother comparing your everyday life to someone else’s highlight reel! Even their own everyday lift would pale in comparison to their highlight reel. When you feel the comparisons sneaking in, put on your blinders. Take a break from social media if it’s causing you to think negatively. Make a list of what you’re grateful for now. Dream about where you want to be and then take it a step further to make a plan of action you can start today.
#7 - Not setting financial goals.
Oneday and someday are not days on the calendar so stop using them to plan your future. You cannot wait until your future gets here to plan for it. The choices you are making today will be the results in your future. So if you’re paying off debt and saving money you’re setting up your future for financial freedom. If you’re continually taking on debt and not setting anything aside for the future, you’re going to be in for a bumpy ride. You can’t just assume you can live the way you’ve always lived and get different results. Don’t just hope for the best, make the extra effort to set and achieve your goals so that you and your family will be taken care of in the future.
Remember that these should be attainable and measurable goals. You can’t just say “we want to pay off all our debt soon.” You need to set goals like “we want to pay off all $48,000 of our debt within the next three years.” Achieving goals will get you motivated to keep going and working towards the next goal, so even if you need to break it down into goals of paying off $1,000 of debt each month, do that. The point is to be setting goals and actually have something you are aiming towards.
#8 - Not knowing your purpose.
Calm down, I’m not saying you have to suddenly have your purpose in life figured out. I’m still working on that one. But you do need to know your purpose for making financial decisions. Whether you’re paying off debt, saving money, reducing spending, or something else, you need to have a deep knowing of why you are doing this. And if you’re married, your spouse either needs to have the same purpose or you need to both be in agreement and understanding of each other’s purposes.
Having a purpose prevents you from letting the excuses get the best of you. During our debt pay off journey whenever I would feel tempted to spend money I hadn’t planned for I would think “do I want this pair of shoes more than I want to be free from debt?” and the answer was always no. And the reason it was always no is because I had clearly envisioned what life after debt would look like. My husband Ryan and I had talked and dreamt about how we would use the money we were currently paying in debt payments. We dreamed about giving outrageously and spontaneously, we dreamed about traveling, we dreamed about retirement, we dreamed about entrepreneurship, we dreamed about our kids living life in an entirely different way. We envisioned it so clearly that it was real. It gave us purpose. We were paying off debt so that we could experience the life we envisioned.
The struggling and the sacrifices we had to make to pay off debt would have been unbearable if we didn’t both understand why we were doing this. Having a purpose will keep you from quitting and eventually it will keep you from being broke. So right now, I’m daring you to dream. I’m daring you to find your financial purpose.
Related: You Have Permission to Dream
Being broke is totally normal. So don’t be normal! Be weird! Normal people have car payments. Normal people take out student loans to get a college degree. Normal people fight about money at least once a week in their marriage or they’ve done that for so long that the marriage has gone cold. Normal people don’t live on a budget. Normal people don’t plan for retirement. Normal people can’t pay cash for a $1,000 emergency. Normal doesn’t sounds so great, does it? If you make the same choices as everyone else, you’re going to get the same results as them too. If you make the same choices you’ve always made, you’re going to get the same results you’ve always gotten. If you want something different, if you want something better, you have to make a change. Stop keeping bad habits. Stop being broke. I know you can do this.
If you’re ready to start paying off debt or you want further guidance in your pay off journey, get my completely FREE downloadable Debt Free Guide. This is a full guide of reading and prompts that gives you the steps to paying off debt in a bite sized format so that you can stop feeling overwhelmed and start feeling motivated!