How to Break Bad Money Habits

Patrick McNally Academy, Finance 101, Income Planning, Insight Investing Articles, Investing & Planning

Many of us plan thoughtfully for all kinds of life goals. Yet many of us spend impulsively, using our money on the moment rather than saving or investing it for the future.

This last recession caused us to take a second look at where our dollars go. If you seem to be making adequate money and yet dollars still appear to be slipping away from you, maybe it is time to break some of your old habits and regain control of your financial life.   

First of all, you need a budget

Wait a minute, scratch that word, instead of budget let’s call it a “spending plan”. The word budget feels too restrictive, but spending, heck we all like to spend money, so why not make a plan to do it? Unfortunately, most people live without one – and that includes wealthy people.

Here is an exercise that is starkly simple, but might be illuminating: Get out a legal pad and make a two-column chart, with the left column listing your monthly income and the right column detailing your expenses. Detail them as best as you can, the type and monthly amount. Once you have everything down, add it up and look at the bottom line. Do they match up? Don’t worry if you’re like most people, they don’t. At least now you know so you make some course corrections to get back on track.

Distinguish needs from wants

Do you need that thing or just want it really bad? Slick marketing and advertising leaves many of us unable to tell the difference. It’s really easy to justify our wants by calling them needs and then we run up a bunch of debt to buy our need and then wake up the next day feeling some remorse.  So try this simple tip I got from Grandma… sleep on it for a night and see how bad you really NEED it the next day.

Set financial goals and take them seriously

When people start to educate themselves about their money (the ways to possibly make it, and the ways to plan for and how to protect it) they start to see how the financial world “works” and they tend to explore their own financial potential. This exploration may lead them to get their financial house in order, or they may find that they need some professional help and meet with a financial advisor. That conversation can inspire them to set and plan for specific objectives, and get a relationship going, which can turn into a shared commitment to long term wealth building.

If you’ve never had that conversation, today is as good as any to make that happen.