“Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones.” -Benjamin Franklin
Have you ever tried to break a bad habit?
What about starting a good one?
Sometimes the good ones can be even tougher!
Some of the good habits that I’ve struggled with sticking to are: eating clean during the week (stupid late night cravings), waking up at 5am to workout (snooze button is way too tempting) and being distracted by social media (hold up…just thought of something funny I need to Tweet).
One of the worst habits I used to have was that I would always lose my keys after I got home from work.
I’m always in a rush when I get home and for the life of me can never remember where I put them.
My wife, tired of me asking her “Where did I put my keys“, attempted to break me of my bad habit by placing a small box on the counter top by our back door.
This box became the designated spot for my keys and my wedding ring.
Did I mention that I often misplace that, too? Shhhh….don’t tell the wife about that one. 😉
Some days I did good and placed them in the box. Other days I didn’t and she was quick to remind me where to put them (thank you baba!). Over time it worked.
Essentially, my wife created a system for me to break my bad habit.
When I followed the system, everything worked and I always knew where to find my keys.
When I didn’t, every morning sucked as I was trying to find my keys while scrambling to get our kids ready and out the door. Without the system I was a wreck. (Feel free to call me pathetic here. I’m used to it.)
What’s Your Bad Financial Habit?
Misplacing your keys doesn’t hurt you too bad other than time and plenty of frustration. Unfortunately, bad financial habits can ruin you. Always ordering an appetizer when you eat out (when you can’t afford it), paying unnecessary late fees on your credit card bill (because you procrastinate), not knowing your credit score which can cost you thousands on loans and insurance rates (because you’re too passive).
These are just a handful of bad habits that many possess. Are you one of them? Don’t worry, I might have the solution for you. Read on….
How to Break a Bad Habit
The founder of my coaching program, The Strategic Coach, Dan Sullivan, developed the concept of the 21 Day Positive Focus. In his experience of working with successful entrepreneurs over the years, he discovered the most common reason for the success was the fact they all possessed many positive habits. These positive habits didn’t just happen overnight.
Similar to the system that my wife created for me with the keys, these entrepreneurs worked to develop these tasks until they become part of their ordinary routine. Sullivan further went on to create the 21 Day Positive Focus as a way to celebrate each day that you achieved a positive habit. By taking time each day to focus on that positive achievement each day, you’ll become more confident in that habit. Sullivan says,
“You’ll have the energy and motivation to do more, and you’ll find yourself enjoying the results of your efforts more, too.”
Sullivan’s findings were also echoed in Charle’s Dughigg’s New York Times Best Selling Book The Power of Habit.
Once you understand that habits can change,” Dughigg concludes, “you have the freedom — and the responsibility — to remake them.
My favorite example in Duhigg’s book was how Tony Dungy trained his players to basic moves that they would practice over and over again. He believed that by practicing these skills, his players then would just react, not think, and have an edge on their opponent. He trained them to have winning habits which finally came to fruition when his team won Super Bowl XLI.
Readers Share Their Habit Experiences
A while back, I took a poll from my readers to learn some of their bad habits that they are currently struggling with or others they have been able to overcome. Here’s what some of them shared.
Habit #1: Losing track of your money.
This amount of money was never accounted for, it was like ghost money. We put a plan into action and been saving every month way more than those $300.00 To break the bad habit of paying credit card bills late, I did two things:
- Set up automatic payments online. So that if I do goof up and pay late, at least I don’t have $29 late/penalty fees in addition to the interest.
- Check all my credit card and bank accounts online every few days. I keep track of all new transactions on Quicken, so I know if any bank accounts are approaching zero, and see within a couple of days any new credit card statements that have been generated. When I see a new credit card statement, I schedule a payment online for a day before the due date. (This way I keep my money in an interest-bearing account almost as long as possible, but if I ever do need to beg for mercy from a credit card company, I can say, But I usually pay EARLY!
Habit #2: Make it a priority
Our Roth and 529 contributions are treated like bill payments. They are scheduled to automatically send every month out of our checking account.
Habit #3: Automation is the key
I’ve got a couple, but the best one was automating all of my bills to stop late payments & re-connect fees I also have a $500 ‘cushion’ in my checking that was not added to the register to cover in case on of those automated bills hits before I deposit my check
Habit #4: Utilize what’s free
Open a free, no minimum balance, checking account with a debit card and automatically transfer your agreed upon and BUDGETED “allowance” into the account each week. When the money is gone, wait until next week. I have done this for myself and my wife for about 15 years and it eliminates so much stress and strife – it becomes a habit. With online banking the charges show up almost instantly, but after a few months you can almost keep track in your head. Using a debit card requires discipline, unlike a credit card which is always a budget buster. I believe in keeping a minimal buffer of funds in a debit card account so I spend my small allowance down. On the other hand my wife, who gets a little more (for groceries etc.) likes to see how much she can accumulate – so there’s a challenge for everyone. One reason we get the FREE accounts and FREE online banking is because we have other accounts at the bank which meet their overall balance requirements. I hope this benefit doesn’t disappear.
Note: Here’s our recap of the best online banks to maximize your savings.
Habit #5: Discipline to sell
I have a difficult time allowing myself to sell a stock once I have a good gain. I seem to fear that the stock has made a good run but it could go higher and by selling I will miss the additional gain. Usually after a nice run up in price, I hold the stock too long and then it has a pull back and I sell in somewhat of a panic thinking it will continue to go down in value. Consequently I have made a gain but lesser of a gain than if I had sold earlier. I don’t have the discipline to set a sell point and once I reach that target, take money off the table. Bad habit. Lack of discipline.
One bad habit that I “would like” to break and know I should is: RE-BALANCE the portfolio periodically rather than just riding out the market. Still have not broken the habit since it takes time and effort to do this periodically. In addition, when is the right time ? At this time bonds are not up or down but seem to be following the market instead of being inverse. This makes it seem that re-balancing will not accomplish anything.
Habit #6: Make it “Excel-lent”
My husband and I use an excel spreadsheet that is very simple. the left column down lists income streams and the bills that we regularly pay separated by 1st and 15th of the month paydays. across the top we list each month. We also list non regular expenses such as taxes, vacations, gifts, etc. Estimates/budget amounts are entered in blue font and changed to black when the actual is entered and the bill is paid. The expenses are subtracted from the income telling us if we “have more money than month.”
We are then able to tell right away whether or not we will have money available to take a weekend trip or attend a concert. The added benefit to us is that either one of us knows what is due so we aren’t paying the same bill twice and we know if a bill has been missed so we can get it paid before we incur any late fees. Having the whole year’s payments on one sheet makes it easy to pull tax info together and look at areas for improvement in spending. We use our bank’s online bill pay so we don’t have to bother writing checks or finding the stamps.
Habit #7: Meal prep
My bad financial habit was buying lunch multiple times a week instead of bringing my lunch to work. What worked best for me to break that habit was to get in a routine of prepping the night before (I am not a morning person). When cleaning up the kitchen after dinner, I pack the leftovers into serving-size containers. That makes it easy to grab a lunch in the morning and there are no excuses because it’s already there. I’m the type that prefers a hot (reheated in the microwave) lunch over a sandwich, but in an emergency, I can always fall back on PB&J and an apple. Not wanting to eat PB&J motivates me to make sure I have something I like for lunch.
So now, instead of buying lunch a few times a week, I now buy a lunch a few times a year. I’m kind of proud of that. 🙂 Of course, the step before “pack up the leftovers” was to break my bad habit of not cooking dinner (because if you don’t cook dinner, there are no leftovers). I am still a work-in-progress on this one, but the best indicator of whether I will be successful at cooking dinner most nights in a week is if I sit down on the weekend, make a menu plan and shopping list for the week, and then go grocery shopping.
I know that’s basic, but when you’re a working mom with three busy children, some weeks it’s harder to be disciplined about that than others. When I’m not disciplined to make a real dinner, we fall back on what I consider “homemade fast food” like tacos, spaghetti or a ready-made roast chicken from Costco. It’s better than eating out, but can get boring. If we cheat and eat out or pick up something for dinner — at the very least I try to make sure to get something that makes good lunch leftovers. (The bonus is that I don’t overeat.
My family always teases me that a restaurant dinner entree for me equals food for two more days!) The bottom line is that a little extra time and conscious effort to prep — a few minutes at night (making lunch and also putting into the fridge what needs to be defrosted for tomorrow night’s dinner) and a couple of hours on the weekend (making a menu/list and going grocery shopping) — makes all the difference in our eating and therefore our financial habits.
Habit #8: Think of others
Perfume/Lotion: I broke my habit of buying expensive lotion and perfume after reading “The Ultimate Cheapskate’s Road Map to True Riches” by Jeff Yeager. Page 97 explains how we could feed the world’s hungry if we put the money we spend on perfume towards people who are starving. This just weighed so heavily on my heart, that every time I reach for some expensive cream or some perfume, I stop and think of a starving child. I started sponsoring a child in Honduras that costs me $60 a month. That’s money well spent, and it prevents me from buying more crap as I’m buying the unnecessary lotions, etc.
Children Toys/Books/Clothes: This has carried over to other spending; we don’t buy toys and books for our child because she has so many that other people buy for her. We use Thredup.com, a site where you can send out your children’s old clothes to parents who need them, and you can order boxes for your kids. You only pay for the shipping; it’s like a big hand-me-down network. We don’t even have clothing as a line item in our budget, we purchase them so rarely.
School: I’m also going to school at night, and all my textbooks I buy used if I can, and as soon as the semester is over, I post them online to sell them again. DVDs: My husband used to buy DVDs of all the movies he liked. We never really watch them. When I see him hunting for a new release, I remind him that we usually watch it once before it sits there collecting dust. ***** Thanks for everyone that shared their habit stories! Now it’s your turn…
The Breaking Bad Habit Challenge
Have a bad habit that you’ve been trying to break? What about a good habit that was part of your New Year’s resolution that lasted all of two weeks. Yeah, I’m looking at you. I want you to either stop a bad habit or start a good one that you’ve wanted to do for a long time. Are you in? How about some financial incentive? Now do I have your attention? 🙂 Challengers will have a chance to win:
- 1 $50 Amazon Gift Card (chosen by me for the best habit conquered)
- 2 $25 Amazon Gift Cards chosen by random submission
- 2 copies of my book, Soldier of Finance, chosen by random submission
Rules of the Challenge You can choose any habit that you want to break or start. It does not have to be financially related.
- Want to workout 20 minutes a day? Great!
- Want to make time to read your bible before the kids get up? Fantastic!
- Want to do a 100 pushups every single day while you’re at the office? Welcome to the club. 🙂
I don’t care what the habit is so as long as it goes towards making you a better person. Here are the specific rules:
- Leave a comment announcing you’ve joined the The Breaking Bad Habit Challenge and what you’re target habit is.
- Download The Bad Habit Destroyer worksheet (pictured above). This is part of the Money Dominating Toolkit that is exclusive for the GF¢ community.
[get-toolkit-shortcode] How Long Does the Contest Run? I’m running the contest until the end of the year (Dec 31, 2013). Winners will be contacted by me directly and shared via the blog January 2014. Anyone way else I can help promote the contest? Why I’m glad you asked. 🙂 First off, share this post on your social media channel of your liking (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, etc). For your convenience, I’ve already prepared this Tweet to spread the word. Just click the link to share.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” -Aristotle