Posted by Joe Wride
As creatures of habit, the importance of how we conduct ourselves daily is crucial. Our patterns quickly mold our thoughts, behaviors, and ultimately…
Below is a list of general spending habits to take with you throughout your financial journey. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, but it’ll serve you well in the fight for financial freedom.
Let’s get started.
1) Feel, Process, And Think On Impulses
The age of lightning fast internet, drive thrus, and two-day shipping has conditioned us to care most about our immediate selves.
And that’s had some consequences.
Take Anita for example.
Anita is a hypothetical, average American woman. She makes $42,238 a year1, and spends $2,327 of it on coffee annually.2
Anita has no idea what this “harmless” impulse for caffeine is costing her in the long run. That she’s spending over 5% of her current gross pay, and over the next 30 years…
Nearly $70,000 on coffee alone!
Regardless if you like coffee, there’s an Anita in all of us.
There’s that person who wants to switch on the brain’s autopilot, satisfy the day’s cravings, and deal with any and all consequences “later.”
I’ve seen a lot of money wasted on subscriptions rarely used, habits folks aren’t proud of, high-interest loan payments, and credit cards not paid off every month. A main factor in all of it?
We all experience impulses, but we don’t always think about them before acting. And focusing on the immediate can cost us hugely in the future.
First, take the time to look back at three, six, or 12 months of statements. Don’t bother categorizing - just tally up transactions you would classify as “impulse-driven.”
Second, see how much was spent on “impulses” each month and even each day. Become consciously aware of what’s been happening in the past.
Third, take the time to feel your impulses, process them, and think of the full-range of consequences when you're out in the world. You’ll be surprised that you inevitably start spending less (at least for a while). And if you do this once or twice a year, you’ll slowly start turning your impulse spending around.
If you’d like help getting a reign on your finances, I’d be happy to help. Schedule a time.
2) Make Saving Easy, Routine, and Automatic
So our routine, impulsive behaviors can lead to self sabotage. And modern technology has made it even easier to spend impulsively…
Is there any way this could be advantageous?
Our technology has also made it easier to spend or rather, invest in ourselves. Whether it’s automatic payroll deductions into a 401(k), self-directed drafts into a dedicated account, or apps that invest your spare change, there are several ways to make sure you’re paying yourself first.
And you should take full advantage of them.
Take Anita 2.0 for example.
It’s the same Anita from before, only this time she’s decided to put that coffee money towards her retirement instead.
She took that $2,327, divided it into twelve installments of $193.92, and set up an automatic monthly payment into an investment that compounds at 9% annually.
Now, after 30 years, Anita has $317,193 saved for retirement instead of that $70,000 hole in her pocket.
We have a tendency to make things harder than they need to be. Fear of failure, disappointment, and uncertainty often stop us from taking that first step towards healthy growth. But when it comes to saving for the future, it can be made automatic and easy.
Don’t hesitate to take the little bit of action that will make all the difference, let me help you.
3) Keep Your Values And Spending In Alignment
Personal story time…
Earlier in my professional life, I really struggled with mental health. Granted, I’ve had on-going battles with anxiety, but this particular point was a real crisis…
I needed help.
It started with a chest pain and a referral from my doctor to an in-house therapist that was covered by my insurance. It really helped me get my head on straight. But with work still to do, I sought out ongoing treatment. This was money well spent, and it exposed me to deeper problems with my values.
At the time I was working a job that simply wasn’t a good fit. But because I realized my core values centered around family, time, and independence, I found the courage to pursue a different way to move forward. Once this happened, I made one of the biggest decisions of my life…
To start my own business.
At that point my spending needed to change in order to keep the lights on at home. It’s amazing how a shift in perspective can alter your spending habits. Over time my finances became devoted to things like start-up costs, employee costs, business coaches, remodeling costs, and even buying a new dog.
Obviously what you value will change and fluctuate based on your personality and present position in life. However, it’s important to regularly reflect on your values and ensure your spending properly supports them.
This is why in financial planning we regularly focus on listing your goals, and re-centering your financial moves so that you will reach them.
If you’re out of alignment, you’ll risk feeling triggered to spend impulsively on quick “fixes” to resolve feelings of anxiety, insecurity, and fear.
Interested in making some big changes? Starting your own business? Let’s talk finance.
4) Stick To Cash And Debit Cards
Credit cards… Let’s address hypocrisy first.
In our household, we use a credit card for spending.
I wouldn’t go as far as to call them evil. But if I’m being honest, I guarantee you we would spend less if we didn’t use credit cards.
Do we get flight deals with our Alaska Airlines card - yes. But how much more spending occurs every day and month because it’s a credit card and not a debit card???
Probably more than the flight discounts we receive…
Having a credit card will come in handy for things like booking a hotel. And a solid credit score will only help you in buying a home, a car, or renting a new apartment.
I say stick to debit cards and good ol’ fashioned cash as often as you can. There’s some real science backing this, particularly in the cash department.
- Associate Professor Drazen Prelec at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that MIT students were willing to bid twice as much on sports tickets with credit cards as they were with cash.3
- Priya Raghubir, PhD of New York University and Joydeep Srivastava, PhD of the University of Maryland, College Park conducted various studies on the psychology of using credit cards versus cash. They found that:4
- People spent more on groceries using a $50 gift card than $50 cash.
- Gift certificates were less likely to be spent after being held in one’s wallet for an hour like normal cash.
- Estimations for how much people would pay for a given restaurant meal increased when the payment(s) were made via credit.
Don’t let a piece of plastic subtly wreck your finances. If you have more questions, contact me.
5) Stay In Financially Healthy Relationships
One of the key things that can make or break your habits are your relationships. This applies to partners, spouses, friends, family, business partners, and the like.
Let’s say you were trying to quit smoking…
In that case, it’d be best to avoid chainsmokers or hanging out with friends in a restaurant's smoking section. Otherwise you’re exposing yourself to unnecessary triggers, and risk lapsing back into your old ways.
Financial habits aren’t all that different…
Shopping and gambling addictions are real. And even if you aren’t an addict, the wrong influences will only make it more difficult to break bad spending habits.
And make it all the easier to form them…
Whether it’s in your friendships, marriage, or business, you need to communicate properly and set healthy boundaries around money.
- Fidelity conducted a study that uncovered that 40% of American adults living together with their partners could not correctly identify how much their significant other made.5
- University of Southern Mississippi researchers found in 2018 that 53% of Americans had kept money secrets (ex: lying about prices and hiding receipts) from their partners.6
- A study conducted by Utah State University found that financially related fights were a top predictor of divorce. Couples who fight frequently about money were 30% more likely to divorce than those who rarely do.7
As a fee-only financial advisor I help individuals and families stay on top of their spending. If you’re interested in developing a relationship with a seasoned professional, I’d love to speak together. Reach out to us at 650-336-0598 or fill out a contact card here, and we’ll reach out to you.