Learning practices and instituting habits to make your finances better and simpler are a major source of strength – and can be frustrating if and when they don’t “stick” on the first try or three.
Here, we’re going to examine what gets in the way of making habits that stick, and you’ll learn how to integrate new habits into your existing practices so that as you do develop money plans you want to work on, you’ll have more tools to integrate and keep with it!
First, let’s understand the slight difference between habits and practices:
- Habits – things we do unconsciously, like a path or pattern our brain is familiar with. Example: your route to work.
- Practices – things we do consciously, with intention around a process or outcome in mind. Example: meditation.
Creating strong habits that stick.
When our lives are already full of habits, creating new ones is a challenge.
Christopher Willard, PsyD says the key to breaking old habits and forming new ones is:
Building a strong foundation for your willpower to thrive on. [source].
This is a way the idea of practices is helpful: a practice is something you’re doing intentionally – unlike most habits, a practice is chosen regularly.
Step 1 to a habit – know THAT you’re creating it and build a mental foundation around it.
Creating habits out of practices
People are always trying to explore, understand, and change their habits.
There’s plenty of pro-tips and experts out there. For example:
Stephen R Covey, in his 1988 book THE 7 HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE names HABIT 1 as:
He says to “execute your resourcefulness and initiative to break through barriers.” [source]
Here, execution means practice. Like sitting down to run scales when you’re learning to play piano, or named positions if you’re learning dance.
You must do it again, and do again, and do again. Even if it’s imperfect, even if you mess up — especially at these times.
Step 2 to a habit – Intentionally and meaningfully do the action, and it can become a habit.
Selecting appropriate types of habits and practices for you
When you are building a new habit, you want to set yourself up for success. That means getting ahead of the ways you might defeat yourself.
Set yourself up for success by choosing things you
can and will do.
There are lots of good habit options, you don’t have to do things that don’t work for you!
The appropriate practice will be different if the goal is say “don’t overdraw my checking account ever again” or “save money for annual taxes during the year” or “pay off one credit card.” Usually, I advocate extremely specific goals, but a habit is a bit different: it’s a thing you want to do in perpetuity.
Mental memory triggers > goal is ingrained memory
- I think of X, and I remember to do Y, because I want to make a habit of Z
- When I look at the dollar taped to my wall, I remember to make a positive statement about money to myself.
- When I look at the check I wrote myself for $10,000 in my wallet, I walk away from buying random stuff.
Physical activity triggers > goal is physical memory
- I pick up my phone to use a budgeting app
- I open my mail when it’s money-related
- I spend cash only
- I use this card to track “special purchases”
Automated > goal is “I only had to remember once!”
- I set up an automatic savings withdrawal
- I have a calendar reminder to look at my finances
- I connected my accounts to a software that aggregates and does math for me
- I have an app that reminds me to do X daily
Your job is to select and try on a practice that works for you, to build towards the habit goal you want.
Step 3 to a habit – know thyself, and choose active or automated practices that are workable to YOU.
Make it stick with tracking or add-ons
Tracking your habits is popular because it’s easier now than ever – slap an app on your phone and all the day long you can get reminders to note your behaviours, feelings, and thoughts. These trackers can also function as reminder to DO new behaviours, a kind of automatic reminder until the action itself is automatic.
Adding on practices to things you already do is another way to fold in a reminder and strengthen the longevity of your new habit. If you already check your phone, put your budgeting app where you usually have your fave social media app button. If you already take a walk every day, add on a call to your accountabilibuddy. If you already manage your spending,
Step 4 to a habit – build fail-proof tracking, reminders or additive practices so that YOU will find it hard to skip or forget your new practice.
Examples of positive money practices
Make regular time for a recurring “money meeting” with yourself, your partner or a friend to take time and review your finances to see if you’re on track and debrief how a practice you’re doing is going.
Pause before purchase and ask a guiding question that’s meaningful to you, like “where will I put this thing I’m buying?” or “will this bring me joy or just dusting duties?”
Set up automatic payments for your credit cards, mortgage, utilities, so you free up mental space from managing bills and use the mental space to just make sure there’s a float of money in the account to cover bills.
Weekly check-in on a spending and budgeting app you put on your phone and connected to your bank. Take time to re-allocate your spending plan if anything is overspent this period.
How are your practices working for you? Are you building new habits right now? How’s it going?