The old saying, “If it were easy, everyone would be doing it,” speaks the truth when it comes our relationship with money. Money management isn’t easy. And for a number of different reasons and circumstances, you may not be happy with your current relationship with money. There are things you can do to help you set yourself up with long-term strategic planning, but what about everyday money management? Here are 6 simple habits you can start today that will change your relationship with money for the better.
1. Create (And Stick To) A Budget
Possibly one of the most important things you can do for your life, not just your finances, is to create a budget. Beyond just tracking and planning your finances, just as important to take a day-to-day approach to money management.
Once you start tracking your expenses every day, you’ll be able to see the connection between your money and your spending. It’s Budgeting 101 to hold yourself accountable for spending, but this can help you understand your relationship with money.
2. Set Goals
“If you aren’t working towards anything specific, you’ll likely spend more than you should.”
That’s what personal finance writer Amy Fontinelle has to say about the importance of personal finance goals.
Your relationship with money is best managed when you know what you want out of your money. Financial goals can be:
- Short-term, such as building an emergency fund or buying a new computer;
- Mid-term, such as taking a vacation or buying a car; or
- Long-term, such as retirement planning or buying a home.
It’s been written about and studied, but people who physically write their goals down are more likely to reach their goals, be it for your career, your education, or your personal life. are not experts in psychology, we recommend writing all of your personal finance goals down, even the ones that seem far away or unattainable.
Writing down your goals isn’t going to will them into reality, but it may just provide the spark to get you started.
3. Avoid Impulse Buying
Whether it’s that Snickers in the checkout aisle or a new flat screen TV, everyone’s guilty of impulse spending every now and then. Impulse spending can eat up a large chunk of your budget without you even realizing it.
Here are three tips to help overcome impulse spending:
- Shop with a list. Almost four in five people report making most in a brick-and-mortar store. To avoid falling into that trap, make a list before you go into any store, so you’re in and out, and not distracted by sales.
- Shop with cash. Don’t bring a credit card to the store with you. Shop only with cash to avoid spending money you don’t actually have on things you haven’t planned for. (FYI—This tactic only works if you make a shopping list and budget ahead of time!)
- Sleep on it. Take a step back and think before you buy anything. This will give you time to decide if you really want, or need, the item.
- Build a happiness budget. Some personal finance experts say that budgeting for expenses could help
All these tactics can help keep that impulsive buying at bay, and help you stay strong, even if the deal is hard to pass up.
4. Automate Your Savings
A national poll by Bankrate shows that a quarter of Americans don’t have any type of emergency savings. Starting a savings can be particularly difficult because there’s so many other ways you could your money. That’s why we recommend automating your savings strategy. Treat your savings like a bill by setting up automatic payments into a savings account.
Check out apps like Mint or HomeBudget, which can be used to automatically set a savings.
5. Calculate the Cost of Your Time
Some personal finance influencers will swear by this next habit: putting a price on your time. Sometimes called an opportunity cost, it’s that question of ‘what’s the trade off?’ between your time, and the money you spend. You’ll have to judge for yourself whether something is worth your time or money, or both.
Whether you’re a freelancer, an employee, or a business owner, it’s good to know how much money you earn per hour of work, but this also applies to spending. You can decide whether an item is worth purchasing by asking, “How many hours will I need to work to pay for it?”
If you know what an hour of your time is worth, you can then place a value on your time and compare it to actual costs. By considering time as a part of your relationship with money, you may find it easier to manage both.
6. Read About Personal Finances
One of the best ways to improve your relationship with money is to learn about it.
Some recommend spending up to 20 minutes a day learning about personal finance and money management, or take a class at your local community center, or start reading a money management blog that speaks to you.
It’s really about finding the right balance between your money, and your life. Just make sure you’re learning from reputable and responsible sources. And before you make any major financial decision, we always recommend speaking with a financial advisor, especially if you’re still green at managing money and investments. Your money deserves to be managed right.