You don’t need a whole lot of time and effort to get yourself on the path to financial independence. Most people are excited to get started on health and lifestyle journeys (like the popular minimalism movement shows) but feel intimidated when it comes to making financial changes. Money habits have a profound impact on our lives, so why not take the time to reassess your current habits and start new ones to improve your finances?
If you are looking to make financial changes in your life, consider these five life-changing habits that could enrich your life and your bank account:
Set up an auto-transfer to savings
Decision fatigue is real. We may not realize it, but we have to make hundreds if not thousands of decisions a day, as well as many things to keep track of mentally. When we feel exhausted or burnt-out, we end up making decisions that may not be the best for us in the long run.
So by automating savings, you have one less thing to worry about. Automate a transfer to your savings account by submitting either a % allocation to HR, or set up an automated recurring transfer. If you’re not sure how much you should transfer, start with a low figure – $50 or $100 every other week adds up.
On a related note, it’s also a good idea to set up automatic bill pay for your essential monthly bills using your bank app or the service website. You can do the same for your investments and savings to help save even more.
Start sinking funds
Do you feel like you’re always playing catch up with your credit card balance? While it’s a good idea to pay a bit more than the minimum amount due every month, unfortunately that means that present-you is still paying for past-you. The goal is to get to stage when present-you anticipates and pays for the expenses for future-you. This is where sinking funds come in.
Sinking funds let you save for larger expenses bit by bit, in easy and doable increments on a regular basis. Set up sinking funds to pay for expenses that you know you’ll have to pay for in the coming year. By being as detailed as possible, you increase your chances for saving and sticking to your goal. For example, by saving $15 every week for the cloud-like bed sheets you’ve been seeing everywhere online, you’re likely to get a big jolt of motivation every time you look at your budget.
Focus on one spending category
Baby steps, right? If you’re frustrated by how much you spend on new clothes that you don’t need or even enjoy after they’ve shipped to your doorstep, maybe it’s time to rein in that specific category. Whatever mode of saving you choose, from a no-buy month to having a small but firm budget for clothing, it’s easier to track and analyze one specific category rather than doing a complete overhaul of your budget. Tracking your spending for a single category will help you correct overspending almost automatically as you are able to see where your money is going and make changes if necessary.
Find the best way to track your goals
Do you cringe at the sight of an excel spreadsheet? Prefer to keep a paper planner along on hand at all times? There are multiple ways to track expenses, and you are more likely to stick with a system that works for you. If you prefer a hands-off approach, an app like Mint would probably be best. On the other hand, if you want to seriously hone in on your spending habits, you could try a digital system like YNAB or write down each expense in a notebook. There are many tutorials, spreads, and methods online – just pick one method and start tracking. You can always change or modify it if it no longer works for your goals.
Lastly, set up a time where you review your finances regularly. This can be every day or weekly. Put it on your calendar as a recurring event.
Sign up on an investing platform
Investing is not as scary or complicated as it’s sometimes shown to be online. In fact, it’s one of the easiest ways to grow your wealth. No daily stock trading or feverish stock picking is needed.
The key is to find a user-friendly investment platform that utilizes ‘robo-advisors’ to invest your money. It’s not a portfolio that is perfectly allocated to your specific needs and goals, but it will get you 90% of the way there. If you feel like you’re a little strapped for cash at the moment, even creating the account may make it easier for you to invest small amounts in the near future. Once you feel more comfortable as an investor, you can always branch out into real estate and other assets.
If you’re ready to up your investment game, there are a couple easy moves you can make. If you have access to a retirement account through your employer, send a request to up your contribution by 1%. You can also create a retirement account through your current investment platform or bank – it takes all of 15 minutes and is almost entirely online.
Sounds overwhelming? Pick any one of the above and just get started
We hope we’ve given you actionable advice but remember that you don’t have to do everything all at once. If you’re really frustrated by your current take-out spending, make that a focus for the next month. Once you figure out how much you can save by cutting out 50-70% of your take-out spending, set up an automatic transfer for that amount into your savings account every month.
Remember to be patient. It can take a few weeks or sometimes even a few months for your new money habits to become routine. But if you can stick with them, the end result can be a healthier financial situation for the rest of your life.
Whatever stage you are in your financial journey, it’s not too late to start. In fact, just reading this article is a great first step in developing good money habits. Now just keep going!