One thing is for certain, there are good money habits and there are bad. It seems like everyone has at least one bad habit (me included), but the key to a financially stable life is having more good money habits than bad ones.
Good money habits are just like anything else in life. The more you practice them, the more natural it will become like an everyday practice. Also, moderation is key. You can’t expect to have all good habits and no bad ones, it just isn’t how the world works.
Today I want to go over what a few good money habits are, and a path that can help you stick to those habits. Good money habits are like smoking, you can’t just say one day you are going to start making good choices and believe it’s going to happen. You need a detailed plan to help stick to it.
- Plan, plan, plan
- Managing your bank accounts
- Save anything extra
- Track your progress
If you’ve read anything I’ve posted before, you’ll know that I’m huge on planning and I do that by creating a budget. In the past I’ve discussed how this helps with cutting unnecessary purchases, managing your cash flow, and cutting debt faster, so it should be no shock that this is my number one good money habit to follow.
The key to any good plan is a detailed budget that goes above and beyond the “normal” spending in a month. I’m talking about planning for a future vacation, planning for a doctor’s appointment, planning for vehicle maintenance. All things that are going to come up eventually, and it’s better to plan for it in advance than have it come up unexpectedly later.
Note – I understand that you can’t predict what’s going to happen in the future. Just last week my son had to go to the emergency room because he fell trying to climb on a couch. I certainly didn’t know he was going to try and do that, but we needed to get him checked out because we could tell he was in some pain after falling. You can’t plan for everything, but the more detail the better.
The best examples I can give on how I plan are vacation and vehicle maintenance. For vacation, I know exactly when it’s coming, and I know some additional expenses will be occurring that aren’t in a typical month. If I have a trip in March, I usually try to build a hundred dollars or more in the January and February budget to go towards it.
This may not be the best financial move, but I’ll go to the ATM and pull out the $100, put it in my wallet, and save it for vacation. Now, you are losing interest in this money, but it’s a good way to plan and not put the full burden on one month.
I also make sure to put the vacation in the budget. Even if I must dig into my savings to cover monthly expenses, you can’t just not include it. Plan out what you think you will spend on food, lodging, and other miscellaneous items and put it in the plan.
By adding it to your budget, you can also see where you end up for the month and can adjust other categories. In a month you go on vacation, you will likely spend less at the grocery store and your electric bill because you won’t be home. You may also work a little more overtime to pay for the trip and have a slightly higher income for the month.
The second example is vehicle maintenance. I typically plan my budget two months in advance. Meaning if it’s the middle of December, I have a budget planned for January and February. The January one is far more accurate, but February is out there just to keep me in line.
I drive a ton for work, so I know that pretty much every other month I’ll need to schedule an oil change. So, my January budget may end up being $75 lighter than February because I know that cost will occur.
Good money habits are the key to being financially stable, making sound financial decisions, and putting yourself in a position to be successful. There are a ton of good habits you can adopt but being a strong planner should be a top priority.
Managing your bank accounts:
This one sounds easy, how hard can it be to manage your bank accounts? I agree, pay your bills from your checking, and move anything left over to your savings. However, there are three good money habits you can practice using your bank accounts even more effectively.
1 – Auto transfer to savings
One of the best good money habits I have learned is using an auto transfer to my savings. This not only forces the transfer and doesn’t allow you to forget, but it also guarantees that some money is hitting the savings account.
What I use the auto transfer for more than anything are goals. For example; say I want to save $2,500 for a vacation that is 12 months away. With 52 weeks in a year, I can sit up an auto-transfer of $49 a week, and 12 months later I’ll have $2,548 saved up for my vacation.
This is money that I don’t have to account for in my monthly budget (the month of vacation) because I planned prior and already have it earmarked in my savings for vacation. It is much easier to come up with $49 a week than it is $2,500 a month.
If you are struggling to save, one of the best good money habits you can try is utilizing the auto-transfer within your banking services.
2 – Send savings to your savings immediately
I’ll be honest, I don’t do this as much anymore personally, but when I was trying to save money to buy my first house I did it all the time. That is, sending your savings to your savings account instantly. This is a good money habit that is great for beginners but is a lot for long-term use.
What does it mean to send savings to your savings? Say you go to the grocery store for the week and you have budgeted $120 to spend. You get everything you need, and your total comes to $95. Maybe you had some coupons, bought store brands, and/or found a cheaper meal option than originally anticipated.
It doesn’t matter how for this example, but you were able to save $25 compared to your budget. Don’t wait to let this true up at the end of the month, send $25 to your savings immediately. That way it won’t allow you to overspend in another category later in the month. This strategy just holds you accountable for sticking to the remaining monthly budget.
It’s great to get rewarded for good behavior, but when it comes to a budget, robbing Peter to pay Paul is a bad strategy.
As I stated earlier, this good money habit is more for beginners, but if it becomes a natural habit, you can save money quickly using this trick.
3 – Pay yourself first
The last trick I have when it comes to managing your bank accounts is to pay yourself first. That means if you have a budget of $250 to go towards your savings account, make sure on day one of the month you pay yourself and transfer the money to your savings.
This is somewhat like the second trick, but also completely different because this is a planned saving, vs. additional savings. Both are extremely important and great good money habits to follow that can really help you stabilize your financial situation.
When I first started my budget a few years ago, I paid myself (our family savings account) last. That means I paid all the bills first, and then what was leftover went to savings. I found that I was consistently falling short of what my goals were.
By paying myself first, I began falling short on eating out or making a purchase I really didn’t need at the end of the month because the budget had been met. So, this is kind of two birds with one stone trick. Not only can you cut some unnecessary spending, but it also allowed me to put more money into my saving.
You may have thought I was crazy to begin, but hopefully, with these three tricks for managing your accounts, you’ll see how you can use your online banking more effectively.
Save anything extra:
This is an obvious good money habit to adopt, right? I mean save every extra cent you can and putting it into your savings seems like a no-brainer? Well, that is great advice, but I’m focusing on a few different tricks.
The first subject I want to touch on is an increase in your income. Let’s say you have gone 12-months and have been hitting your budget perfectly. Now, your boss calls you in at the end of the year and says you’re getting a $2,500 raise for the following year.
That is fantastic, however, don’t just increase your spending by $2,500. There could be some inflation and some of that money may need to go towards your budget, but other than that, put it all into your savings account and continue to build wealth.
This good money habit is a tough one to follow. I’ll admit in my younger days I loved to just increase my budget vs. saving more, but this tip alone has saved me thousands in a year, as I still make budgeting decisions from my 2018 salary when I started with this company.
Another tip or trick I have that can add up quickly is collecting change. I know cash is used far less than 30-years ago when change jars were a real thing, but you would still be amazed at how quickly change can add up. I would say I use cash for 10 percent of my purchases and credit for the rest, and I still come up with over $100 a year in change. You can use this for whatever you want, but this has become our slush fund for vacation in our home.
Probably one of the coolest things we started in our house was saving $1 bills. That means every time you get a $1 bill back, you save it. We put ours in our change jar, but you can put it wherever you please. After six months of doing this, we managed to save $278 in one-dollar bills.
Trust me, this became a game for us, and I catch my wife asking for change back in singles not because of a tip, but because she wants to stash money away. But hey, that’s the name of a game, so it has been a major win/win in our household.
My family does this with singles, my parents do it with fives and they still spend a lot of cash so you can only imagine how much they are able to save. I know I asked them last year, and my dad said they had more than $800 through the first six months of saving.
It sounds easy to just save anything extra, but believe me, I understand how hard it is to follow through and build up the savings account. I’m a man that is open to any trick and these three ways have been a major benefit to me and my family. If you want to get crazy, start saving $10 bills and see how quickly you can pay for a vacation!
Track your progress:
The last good money habit I have for you today is to track your progress throughout the process. This can mean a few different things. If your goal is to save money, track how much your savings increase each month. If your goal is to pay off some debt, track how much you have worked off.
Not only is it a good habit for your awareness, but it’s also good to be able to have the self-satisfaction of seeing what you have accomplished. Remember, anything you do with finances will take time. I don’t care if it’s saving money, paying off debt, or investing in stocks, you aren’t going to see results overnight.
How I would recommend tracking your progress is through your budget (I know you guys are sick of hearing about the budget). At the end of a month when you calculate your actual spending and income vs. projected, you should be able to see if you met your goal.
Another tip that takes extra time but can help, is updating your budget twice a month. I found that updating it halfway through the month can be a huge benefit, especially early in your budgeting career, and helps you see if you are getting out of line before just overspending.
Truthfully, it doesn’t take that much extra time to do half of your budget twice, vs. the whole month in one sitting. I’m to a point where it takes me about 20 minutes a month.
I hope these good money habits can help you accomplish whatever goal you are set after. With some preparation and hard work, almost anything is possible. Just remember, these things take time and you must have some balance. You need to have good money habits, but it’s okay to have one or two bad as well.