I get asked this question a lot… “Stephanie, how do you make good money habits stick?”
The truth is, our brain cannot differentiate a good habit from a bad one, and this is why it’s hard to break long-standing habits.
For example, if you’ve been so used to NOT doing your books until the last minute, then chances are you’re going to keep repeating this same pattern.
But this is not to say that we have to stay stuck in this cycle and put up with habits that no longer serve us!
As with anything you want to change, the first step is to acknowledge your patterns, and understand where they come from. Once you understand the root of your pattern, you can start shifting to something else that works better for you.
So if you’re someone who’s not a huge fan of math or numbers, think about when did this feeling first show up? What created it? And then let that guide you to create a new money mindset for yourself.
Here are some helpful tips on how to break old habits and develop good money habits instead:
Make them easy
Something that is difficult to achieve rarely sticks. The best way to create a habit? Decide how you want to feel and take steps towards getting there, little by little. It doesn’t have to be a huge lifestyle overhaul.
Everything doesn’t need to get done immediately. Focus on ease and start with one, manageable step at a time, like just coding your transactions in QuickBooks once a week. Even the smallest of good habits will make you feel good when it’s done!
Rewards are awesome for reinforcing new habits! Try giving yourself a small reward for your efforts each day – maybe take yourself out for a nice meal after crushing your to-do list, or give yourself an hour to read in the evening when you’ve finished your day’s work.
Make that reward enticing enough to get you through the initial hard work – like including that course you’ve been eyeing in your financial plan for the year!
Turn your goals into habits
The secret to achieving goals is assimilating them into your routine, that way it’s easier to break down that big goal into little steps, and you can create momentum more sustainably.
- Intentionally go for a walk every day after work – it’s something your brain will automatically make you want to do, instead of making you feel guilty about not exercising.
- If your goal is to be more intentional with your spending, set a reminder in your calendar to check your bank balance each morning before you open your email.
The best way to reinforce good habits is by surrounding yourself with other people who will hold you accountable for your new behaviors. This means people who likely already emulate the behavior you are trying to form. (Ahem, we have just the solution for you in the Purpose & Profit Collective!)
You see, our brains are not thrilled when we suddenly change things – it’s the same with the people around you. If they are not ready or not fully supportive of the change you’re making, they may inadvertently sabotage your attempts at sticking to your new habit.
So, surrounding yourself with a supportive circle of colleagues, friends, coaches, and mentors will help a lot!
Track your progress
We’re visual creatures and we like to see our progress. This is why we tend to only see the end result and not acknowledge how far we’ve come. Track your progress so you can see your achievements, even if they seem small right now.
My favorite way to track progress is in our Profit Playbook – you enter your forecast for the year, then your actuals each month so you can easily compare how you did to what you planned.
Make them relevant
Trying to create good money habits when we’re not even clear on what we value and prioritize is like starting work on a project without any understanding of the objectives.
Start by getting clear on your values, priorities and your ideal business and lifestyle. Then you can build your financial plan and habits to suit them. What are some common pitfalls that get in the way of you achieving what you want?
Plan for failure
Let’s be honest, even the most well-meaning plans tend to go awry. When you do slip up – like getting behind on your bookkeeping or not using your forecast every month – don’t beat yourself up over it. Make a slight course correction and get right back on track.
It will take some time for your new habits to feel natural, but don’t give up before you’ve given yourself the chance to make them stick!
Get comfortable with discomfort
Change can be scary and will likely cause some sort of internal resistance – that’s totally normal!
After all, your brain is programmed for survival which translates into always trying to stay on top of things.
This is why “you should always do what you are afraid of” doesn’t work. Our minds are quick to notice when things are out of the ordinary, so doing something new will immediately trigger stress or discomfort.
So instead, start small and gain your confidence before tackling bigger things.
Building good money habits that stick requires you to be thoughtful and intentional about what new behaviors you want to develop.
Identify your goals, set up a plan to track and monitor your progress and form supportive relationships with like-minded individuals. When you do slip up or it feels like an uphill battle, remember – slow and steady wins the race!