Fixing your finances is more about habits than anything else. You make personal finance decisions daily. So it stands to reason that you make a lot of these personal finance decisions out of habit. Habits are of course learnt or nurtured so just as you learn bad personal finance habits you can deliberately learn some good habits that can help you improve your financial position.
Keep an eye out for discounts
This sounds pretty simple but there’s a trap if you don’t understand the message here. Looking for discounts for the sake of discounts defeats the purpose of trying to spend less. The idea here is if you want to buy something, particularly big purchases you should get into the habit of looking for the best price for that item. Getting the best value for your money is all about respecting your money. Spotting a discount means you should know the price of the item normally, not just believe you’re getting a discount because the vendor says they are giving you a discount.
Invest in your capacity
Managing money is great, it is a very important part of managing your finances. Your great money management skills show up when you have more money to manage. Investing in your ability and capacity to earn more money is a great habit to pick up. This could be through learning skills that boost your capacity through formal or informal education.
Try the cash diet
Managing the finances of a nation or household has many similarities with managing the finances of an individual. When Tendai Biti was appointed Finance Minister of Zimbabwe in 2009 he informed the nation through the budget presentation speech that going forward, the government would only eat what it has killed. A metaphor to mean that the government would work on a cash basis, not making commitments that could not be settled with money on hand.
Study what you desire
If you desire something, it’s a good idea to study. The difference between you and the personal finance guru you admire is likely a couple hundred or thousand hours of combined study and practice. Sounds like a lot but an hour a day for 1 year is over 360 hours. If you want to take weekends and holidays off that’s roughly 270 hours. The guru didn’t learn all they know in one go so why should you? Create a habit of studying that which you desire. You’ve made a good start by reading this article.
Count your money
What did you buy yesterday? How many times did you spend money yesterday? Sure your bank or Mobile Money provider keeps a list of your transactions but you need to learn the habit of counting your money. This is not just about expense tracking but it’s also about knowing where you stand with money, particularly any liabilities or expected outgoings. You need to know where you stand to know which is the best decision for your finances.
Cut down on credit
Credit gets a bad wrap and rightly so. I’m not against credit entirely but in domestic settings, credit is generally used to fund an income gap. The problem with this is you are effectively borrowing from the future to fund the present. Assuming a fixed or close to fixed income you are starting the following period with a deficit that will need to be funded and it is likely to be funded by borrowing. So if you’re using credit to make ends meet it’s likely to give you problems shortly.
Many bad financial behaviours have roots in deeper emotional issues. For example, hoarders will tend to buy and surround themself with a lot of stuff because it makes them feel better, perhaps wealthy or safe in some way. Of course, they never use half the stuff they buy and end up cluttering their spaces if not having them overtaken by these items. This represents bad financial behaviour. The same can be said for spending more than you should on entertainment. Some introspection will help you identify the triggers to your poor financial behaviours.
Substance over form
Things are not always what they seem. Learning to tell the difference between what we see (form) and what is going on (substance) will save you a lot of trouble in life. People spend a lot of money trying to look rich rather than putting the money and effort into being rich. The same goes for the times we see people posting wonderful and likely expensive things on social media, understand that whatever it is, the money is gone and no longer with them.