Then days (or hours) later, we’re ruing the way we’ve splashed our cash yet again, filled with despair as we look at our empty bank accounts.
We might have lofty goals of sorting out our finances, but if we don’t tackle our relationship with money, we’re doomed to repeat our failures again and again – no matter how many savings challenges you take on or budgeting apps you download.
The key to making a lasting change is breaking out of old patterns that are no longer working for us.
The good news? You don’t need to do a load of digging to find out what tendencies need shifting.
According to money mindset mentor Sarah McCalden, you’re likely guilty of these common bad habits…
Common bad money habits you probably have
Not paying yourself first
Paying yourself first doesn’t mean spending your money the second it lands your account, but simply prioritising your savings.
Just as you instantly earmark money for bills and rent, do the same for your savings, moving over a chunk of your earnings the moment you’re paid.
Spending all you earn
This is one loads of us are guilty of – feeling the need to spend, spend, spend until we have nothing left over.
Paying bills late
It’s easy to do, we know. Try to set reminders or set up an automatic direct debit to avoid damage to your credit or extra bills.
Having no emergency fund
We don’t like to imagine that things might go wrong – so many of us aren’t prepared for a nasty shock.
Spending on credit cards and not paying it back in full every month
Spoiler: spending on credit cards feels like pretend money, but it’s very real… and it will come back to bite you.
Why we’re so stuck in bad money habits
You likely nodded along to at least one of the above money mistakes. But why are they so common? Why are they so hard to shake?
‘A habit is an idea that has been planted in your subconscious mind and then it is fed on repeat,’ Sarah tells Metro.co.uk. ‘After a period of time, you act on the idea without giving it any conscious thought.
;Just think about the way you put the dishes in the dishwasher or the way you get dressed or even the way you clasp your hands together. You don’t think about these things. They are automatic.
‘You have done them repeatedly for years and it would take conscious effort on your part to do them differently and it would be uncomfortable to change, to say the least.
‘And in the same way these are automatic, our bad money habits are too.’
Habits – good and bad – take a while to form, and once they exist, they’re deeply embedded.
When it comes to our finances, few of us had any proper financial education growing up and we may have modelled our behaviour off our parents (who, shockingly enough, aren’t perfect).
Because we haven’t learned good habits, the bad ones are taking up that space in our brain – and it’ll take time and effort to boot them out.
Then there’s the science-y bit. Don’t use this an excuse to spend willy-nilly, but it can go some way to reducing the guilt and shame around being rubbish with money.
Sarah says: ‘It’s simple: humans don’t have a natural tendancy to save. Humans biologically prefer to save for smaller more immediate rewards than larger, long term rewards.
‘If you think about our predecessors in hunter gatherer times, there was no point in saving. They had to take what they had with them and with food, it was a “use it or lose it” scenario. It was better for our ancestors to consume as much as they could as fast as they could.
‘This has been inherited by us and this helps to explain why the majority of us are overspenders.
‘Saving is a relatively new thing for humans and it requires conscious effort on our part in order to create a new habit that doesn’t involve constant consuming, but we are lazy by nature.’
How to break these money habits
Don’t just accept the belief that you’re bad with money and are thus doomed to dip in and out of your overdraft forever.
Change is entirely possible – it just takes some work.
The key to changing any habit is to make the process require as little effort as possible.
Here’s what Sarah recommends…
Take the decision-making out of your hands by making saving automatic.
‘If you have set a goal to save £2,500 over the course of the year to use as the beginning of your emergency fund, you can’t rely on yourself to put £209 away each month manually,’ notes Sarah. ‘Something unexpected will always come up to take that money away from you.
‘Instead of keeping things the way they are, what you need to do is automate the process so that £209 automatically goes into a savings account every month.
‘Once you have created the automated payments it will take you more effort to sabotage yourself, so you won’t.
‘If you have been spending everything you earn, in addition to the emergency fund, set up an automatic payment for the day you get paid your salary and pop 10% or more into a savings or investment account.’
Pay off more than the minimum on your credit cards
Prioritise getting debt-free this year.
Sarah says: ‘If you haven’t been paying off your credit cards each month in full, then you might owe hundreds or thousands of pounds to the credit card company, and every month you might pay the minimum.
‘It would be better to set up a direct debit to pay off more than the minimum.’
Go credit cold turkey
‘Don’t use credit in the meantime,’ Sarah adds. ‘It’s so difficult for many to get out of the debt trap.
‘Cut up your card and stop any automatic payments that go out on it.’
Focus on the future
Our human brains aren’t great at thinking of our future selves. It’s far easier to buy yourself something that feels good now than it is to tell yourself that the money will make you happier in some distant future.
So, make it concrete. Work out exactly what you’re saving for and why you want this, then visualise that future.
Stick some reminders up in your eyeline – post-it notes on the fridge, pictures of your dream home as your phone’s background, that sort of thing – so you can’t put your future self in the back of your mind.
Explore the why
Money has to mean something to you for it to actually matter. Otherwise it’s just this abstract thing that you can fritter away with wild abandon.
You need to think about the ‘why’ of your savings goals.
‘The first thing to do to improve your relationship with money is to decide you want to be wealthy and then define what the word wealthy means to you,’ Sarah says. ‘How much money do you need to be wealthy? What is money’s purpose in your life?
‘Get super clear on what money you need to live the lifestyle you want. How will it serve you? Wealth is a mindset, not an amount. It’s not about how much you earn, it’s about what you do with what you earn.’
Figure out your self-limiting beliefs around money
‘Figure out what your limiting beliefs are about money and change them,’ suggests Sarah. ‘Write them all down. Start with 10 limiting beliefs.
‘Then challenge those beliefs. Find out why they are not true. Then write down a new more positive beliefs about money that will serve you.’
Track your spending
Sounds boring, we know, but it’s a bit of a game changer – especially when you’re trying to get rid of bad habits and replace them with good ones.
Sarah advises: ‘Start to track your spending in a book or on a spreadsheet every day. That means writing each purchase you make, small or large, down, at the end of each day or first thing in the morning of the next day.
‘If you can create this new positive habit for yourself, your life will change dramatically over the next year, that’s a promise. It will help you to take control of your spending. It will make you choose consciously about what you spend your money on. You will become more mindful about money.’
Sarah McCalden is a money mindset mentor, Canfield Success Principles Trainer and certified business coach. She runs a 30-day money challenge to help people completely overhaul their relationship with personal finance.
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