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Good money habits to help your money grow
What does good health, a strong marriage, and a thriving spiritual life all have in common? Practicing good, consistent habits.
And building savings for a comfortable retirement requires consistently practicing good money habits as well.
In Brian Moran’s book, The 12 Week Year, he says this:
“The greatest predictor of your future is your daily actions.”
That means that even though I can’t predict the future, my best chances of having a comfortable retirement lie in the small, daily choices I make with my money.
When we’re intentional with changing our bad money habits, we can achieve greater wealth over a shorter period of time.
It would be nice to win the lottery, or make a killing in the stock market, or receive a surprise inheritance from a distant rich uncle. But it does me no good to daydream my way to wealth. My best bet for a better financial life is investing my efforts in those purposeful and consistent actions that I can control.
Every time I’m faced with a financial situation, I can choose to either add extra money to my future or deduct money from my future – which can eventually lead to a retirement filled with travel and comfort or one buried in credit card debt and stress. It starts with the small, intentional choices I take today.
In this post, I share with you some of those habits I try to practice with my finances. Some are small, simple choices that save a few bucks. Others are building the foundation of my financial future. But they all make a difference to the bottom line.
Here are 50 good money habits that can help you put more money into savings.
Practice good money habits and track your progress! Download these *FREE* savings trackers today!
50 good money habits to practice
These habits are numbered, but not in priority. Read through the list and pick one (or two … or three) that you want to adopt in your own financial life.
Once a habit is second nature, start building another. You’ll be a money-saving master before you know it.
1. Keep an emergency fund
If you don’t have one, start building it today. Put aside a few dollars from your income for those unexpected costs. If you do have one, keep adding to it. And, don’t forget to replace any money you take out of it.
2. Set up automated transfers
Make saving *easy* by doing it automatically. You can schedule transfers from checking into savings through your banking app, and you’ll never have to think about it again!
3. Live within your income
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported Americans’ total credit card debt balance to be $800 billion in the 3rd quarter of 2021. That’s a heckuva lotta people living beyond their income.
Living within your means is a money habit that will ensure you’re not building any unnecessary debt. It’s a good financial principle that will help you align your values with your spending.
Create a budget that includes a savings category, and be committed to staying within the financial boundaries you set for yourself.
4. Eat at home
This is a big one for me, because I’m not in love with cooking. Or grocery shopping. Or doing dishes. But it’s one of those small decisions that makes a big dent in our monthly expenses. Limit impulsive spending at the drive thru by creating a meal plan and cooking at home.
Eating leftovers will really stretch your grocery bill. Just don’t forget about that tuna casserole in the back of the fridge, because it will change color.
5. Stop paying others to make your coffee
Did you know it typically costs less than a quarter to make your coffee at home? This means you’re paying about 700% more for someone to make it for you at Starbucks. *Dang!*
Even buying a Keurig and cappuccino pods are cheaper in the long run. Buying fancy coffee drinks is just excess spending that eats into your savings plan.
6. Pack your lunch
Or in my case, my kid’s. Except have them do it. This will literally save you hundreds of dollars over the course of a year.
7. Compare per-unit cost, not total cost
Sometimes cheaper doesn’t mean a better deal.
8. Grocery shop online
This is one I’ve been doing for a couple of years now, and I love it!
Previously, my bad spending habits would result in busting my grocery budget every month. But online grocery shopping provides many benefits:
- I know my bill before I pay.
- I only get what I need and eliminate impulse purchases.
- I save time.
- I don’t have to go grocery shopping!!
9. Use Amazon’s Subscribe & Save
Write a list of each household item you purchase on a regular basis and how much you pay for them. Then look up those same items on Amazon and see if you’ll save by subscribing to their delivery.
Many times you will. We get dog food, dishwasher detergent, toilet paper, and other goodies cheaper through Amazon – and it’s delivered right to my door for free! Thanks, Amazon, for helping me stick to my good money habits!
10. Skip desserts, appetizers and alcohol at restaurants
These things will *double* your bill – at *least*.
I know, because my husband just loves him some good mozzarella sticks with a pint of beer. Kills me.
Decide beforehand, so you’re not making impulse buys in the moment.
11. Buy generic or store brand
Most store brand items are just as acceptable as brand name ones, but lower in price.
Here’s a trick – never buy a brand name item and you’ll never know what you’re missing!
12. Eat before you go grocery shopping
I have personal experience with this. Believe me, any good money habits will fly out the window and the food will win.
Save your income and eat before you go – a public service announcement for the reduction of family grocery bills.
13. Give up alcohol
Or drink less. Or make your own.
(I saw that wince.)
But trust me, the sacrifice is worth the rewards – additional money, better health, fewer apologies…
My husband actually took up brewing his own and has gotten very good at it over the last 10 years. With as much beer as he drinks, he’s made back all the investment he’s put in plentyfold.
14. Don’t gamble
That includes the lottery.
Back in the day, I was a blackjack dealer on the Vegas strip. (Believe me, it sounds more impressive than it really is.) I saw so many people lose so much money, including myself (getting cash tips at the end of a long shift in a casino can be a losing combination).
The odds are always in the casino’s favor – and the lottery’s.
As Nike doesn’t say, just DON’T do it. You’ll never maximize the results of smart money habits as long as you continue to gamble.
15. Give your kids a modest allowance
Thn, make them buy their own extras (games, electronic devices, that 13th pair of shorts, etc…), but also a little to their piggy banks.
Your kids’ financial know-how will increase, they’ll develop age-appropriate good money habits, and they’ll be more aware of wasteful spending.
16. Make your teens get a job
When you tell them to use their own money for nonessentials and expensive items, they learn financial responsibility.
We told our kids that we would match dollar for dollar whatever they saved for their first car. This was enough motivation to start making their own money.
17. Shop second-hand clothing stores
When I was building a wardrobe for teaching, I was able to find everything I needed at Goodwill and on eBay. I found lots of good deals on those shopping trips!
The key is having the patience (and the time) to find what you really want.
(Another bonus: developing positive spending habits also strengthens your ability to delay gratification!)
18. Get free whenever you can
When my son moved into his first apartment, his TV was on the floor. So, I opened up my handy dandy NextDoor app and found a sweet entertainment center for free.
Some people just want their stuff gone, and I’m happy to help.
19. Put your favorite stores’ apps on your phone
I have saved anywhere from 10-40% on an item because I did a quick coupon search while standing in line. Every little bit helps!
20. Turn garage sale-ing into a hobby
It’s like treasure hunting for frugal people.
Keep a running “wish list” so you don’t start buying things you’re just going to sell at your next garage sale. My husband has found great deals on luggage and tools, among other things.
Also, make a spending category for garage sales in your budget, so you always have money to find great deals when they arise!
21. Re-gift unwanted items
Taking the time and the money to buy a new gift for every occasion is sometimes just unnecessary spending. Depending on the person and the occasion, you could get away with new or used.
My mom doesn’t care if she unwraps something from me that I no longer use – if it’s useful for her then she’s all good! My mother-in-law, on the other hand, may give me a polite but unenthusiastic “thank you” without making eye contact.
22. Make your own gifts
Okay, so this one takes that “crafty” gene to work well. But, it’s another good money habit that will minimize unnecessary spending.
It could be as simple as a framed photo you took, or writing a funny poem. I once gave my Dad an old hymn that I typed out and framed. It was on his office wall for years. Sure miss you, Dad.
23. Sell stuff you don’t want anymore
Easy-peasy way to make a few extra bucks. Your trash is another’s treasure. And your home is better for it!
24. Don’t settle
Do you ever buy something, get it home, and realize you don’t really like it? But, you stick it in the drawer or the back of the closet anyway, thinking maybe someday you’ll use it. Yep, me too.
Don’t do this. Take it back, get a refund, and put the money back in the bank.
My husband has literally returned washed clothing. I, being a rule-follower to a fault, was dumbfounded. You can’t do that! But he did. And he got his money back. So I started making him do it for me.
25. Comparison shop
This is one I have fought valiantly to drill into my kids’ heads (and my husband’s). Don’t buy something without looking for it cheaper somewhere else.
You will almost always save money, and this good money habit will limit impulsive, emotional spending.
26. Don’t buy when you can borrow
This applies to books, suitcases, snowblowers, and anything else you can borrow for free from someone else.
Something to keep in mind when you’re paying $24.99 for that hardback book: it won’t hold its value. Kind of like driving a new car off the lot. It could be in like new condition when you’re trying to sell it, but you may not even get half of what you paid.
Besides, how many times is a book really useful and not just taking up space on your shelves? Yeah, you know I’m right. Go to the library. It’s good for you.
27. Sign up for surveys
There are a lot of options out there, some legit, some not so much. I use Pinecone Research and score a $5 Amazon gift card for every 2-3 surveys I complete. Makes my heart smile.
28. Choose low-cost entertainment
This is hard for me because I *love* going to the movies. Especially those theaters with the cushy reclining chairs and that magic button that calls a waiter to your seat so you can order a glass of water. Love it.
But, when I compare $50 for tickets to $2.99 for streaming a movie on Amazon, I feel like my soul cries a little. I think that’s called conviction.
29. Get the most for your dollar
Stretch those purchases as far as they can go. This means using every last drop – of detergent, toothpaste, ketchup, etc. Using a little less means spending a little less.
Here’s a tip: write the date you start using the item on the container, then challenge yourself to make it last as long as possible. It’s a fun game.
30. Rearrange instead of replace
Is that framed picture over your desk getting old to look at? Hang it on the empty, boring wall in the living room!
Keep stock of what items you already have to decorate your house with, and rearrange when you feel like mixing things up. Then add the money you saved to your vacation fund. Win-win!
31. Reduce your utility bills
My husband is our family’s energy-efficient lightbulb representative, which is super helpful when you have kids that love to turn on every light in the house. And never turn them off.
You can also use cold water for laundry and turn the thermostat down a couple degrees. Every little bit helps to lower costs.
32. Do your own pet grooming
My daughter has a little itty bitty long-haired chihuahua that costs us fifty bucks (yes, 5-0) for a bath, cut and nail trim. He comes out soft and fluffy and smelling like baby powder, which lasts … oh … about half a day.
We decided to pay $30 for a grooming trimmer and a good pair of scissors. Guess what? The dog could *not* care less.
33. Cancel that gym membership
Whether you’re a faithful gym goer or you pay a monthly fee for something you never use (like moi), it’s cheaper to run around your neighborhood, buy used weights, and dance to Latin music at home.
34. Cancel the newspaper
Get your news online. Besides, you’ll find so many more spins than in just one paper.
Also, most magazines can be found at the library. Or your local doctor’s office.
35. Download a gas app on your phone
Auto gasoline, silly. Find the cheapest cost per gallon and save a couple bucks every time you fill up.
36. Keep a change jar
Rinse out an empty pickle jar and start filling it with all your spare change. You’d be surprised how quickly it adds up.
37. Skip the room and pitch a tent
When you have a family of five or more, one hotel room can get crowded (and smelly) pretty quick. Besides, it’s hard to find something less than ten Hamiltons that makes you feel better about being on vacation than worse.
Opt for the great outdoors instead and go camping! It’s cheap, it’s fun, and all that open air is good for your health (and your nose).
38. Skip the plane and drive a car
Flying goes from “it’s not so bad” for one ticket to “dang, that’s a mortgage payment” for five. So we’ve taken a lot of road trips.
Pack up a cooler and grocery shop along the way and you save even more.
(Hint: earbuds for all are a good investment.)
39. Save the bonus money
You know … all the money you weren’t counting on but landed in your lap anyway.
Job bonuses, tax refunds, Christmas cash. Decide beforehand how much you’ll save so it’s not frittered away on unnecessary stuff.
40. Be aggressive with debt payoff
If you want to maximize savings, you have to get serious about paying off your debt. Don’t “charge it and forget it” because your balance will balloon faster than you can pay it off.
Watch your monthly balances closely, and limit yourself to only charging as much as you can fit in your monthly budget. For bigger balances, consider getting a 2nd job or a side hustle to generate more income.
Get focused and aggressive with getting your debt paid off, so you can start applying your hard earned dollars toward savings.
41. Convert to online banking
All of your bank accounts and financial transactions can be accessed on the web. So, stop paying for all those checks. Stop using all those stamps. Stop dealing with a paper bank statement every month.
Just stop it. Free yourself and bank online.
42. Save some for college expenses (into a separate fund)
Even if it’s only $100 a month (like me). Your kids will be grateful for whatever you can contribute to their college tab.
43. Find a lower rate for your high-interest debt and student loans
True confession: I am a recovering terrible, horrible, no good, very bad credit card user. Ever since Citibank gave me my first credit card at 17 years old I have struggled with breaking my habit of using them.
As a serious consequence, I have spent thousands of dollars in interest over my lifetime. Eventually, I got smart enough to transfer my debt to the best 0% offer I could find, and commit to paying it off before the rate went up.
Check the rates on your cards. If any are too high, find a lower rate you can transfer your balances to until they’re paid off.
44. Pay more than the minimum
This applies to your mortgage, credit card debt, student loan debt, and medical bills.
Really, any debt.
The more you can pay, the sooner it’s all paid off.
45. Refinance if it makes sense
When we moved into the house we live in now, we got a 5/1 ARM. That eventually expired and we really started feeling the pinch of a higher interest rate. So, I shopped around for a low-fee refinance loan and was able to shave off $350 from our monthly bill.
Depending on your credit score and current loan, you could potentially lower the most expensive item in your budget and save hundreds every month.
46. Pay yourself first
This is the money habit my parents always emphasized. Before you pay the bills, buy the groceries, or fill the tank – pay your savings account first.
This one goes well with Habit #2 (automated savings) so it never gets neglected.
47. Set financial goals
Get intentional with your money by setting some goals. You should think of long-term, mid-term, and short-term objectives that are realistically achievable, but stretch your efforts.
Use the SMART method to make your goals specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
48. Take time to track your progress
Stay motivated by tracking your savings and how close you’re getting to your financial goals. Find a free savings tracker online, or make your own.
Keep it somewhere visible so you remember to update it often.
49. Plan for your retirement
In other words … invest for your future. Money needs a lot of time to grow, so start as soon as you can.
Talk to your employer about a 401(k) and if they offer matching contributions. If that’s not an investment option for you, open an IRA at your bank or other financial institution. Both will diversify your money into a wide variety of mutual funds.
Learn about the differences between a 401(k) and an IRA and then start saving for retirement.
50. Stick to a workable monthly budget
The mother of all smart money habits. It sort of encompasses all of the above, because doing the previous 49 will help you with this last one.
A healthy budget will help you live within your means and pay your bills on time. Try building some (or all) of the habits above and you’ll be a budget boss in no time!
A few bad money habits you should drop
If you’re short on savings, it’s likely you have a few bad money habits that are hindering your progress. Perhaps you got some bad financial advice or you’ve just built some bad habits over the years.
Here’s a short list of habits to change for a better financial future. If you recognize any of these in your own behavior, think about replacing it with one of the good habits listed above.
Making decisions based on your emotions is never a good idea, especially with money. If you find that you’re drawn to wandering the aisles at Target when your emotions are heightened, you might be an emotional spender.
Making purchases when you’re in the feels can lead to overspending. When you’re really happy or sad, your defenses are weakened and it’s too easy to talk yourself into that $50 purse.
The best thing you can do is be aware of your feelings, and choose to avoid shopping when you’re emotional. At least until you’re in a more practical state of mind.
Impulse buying can happen when you’re in an intense emotional state, or it can happen because you’ve been triggered. Slick advertising, deep discounts, or a hungry stomach can all lead to making an unplanned purchase.
When it comes to a candy bar or pack of mints from time to time, the financial consequences are minimal. But, if you find yourself often spending more than you planned, it’s time to take control.
If you want to learn how to stop impulse buying, read my post with 50 tips to take control of your spending.
Building credit card debt
Using high-interest credit cards to buy stuff you can’t afford will eat up hundreds of dollars you could save instead.
The best way to keep your debt balances to a minimum is by paying cash for everything. But, if you like to build up reward points with your credit card, make a spending category in your budget that allows you to pay it off every month.
Paying bills late
Although being late with a bill now and then seems harmless, your neglect to pay them on time can eventually damage your credit score.
Low scores will lead to higher rates when you need to qualify for a loan. Keep your credit in top shape by scheduling your payments through your online bank account, or signing up for autopay through the provider.
If you’re not being intentional with saving money, it’s probably not happening. Maybe you’re waiting to make more money, or pay off all of your debt. These are good financial goals, but they shouldn’t replace the habit of saving money.
Without a healthy savings account or even a small emergency fund, you’re just one crisis away from going in the red. That means your debt would get bigger while your savings potential gets smaller.
Use the habits listed above to start saving money. Cut some expenses, include a saving category in your budget, and pay yourself first. Over time, you’ll build a nice cushion that prepares you for any financial challenge that comes along.
Don’t forget to download these free savings trackers to help you build good money habits:
Even small, simple money habits make a big difference
Your retirement plan isn’t just made up of your 401(k), pension plan, or social security. It’s also in the day-to-day choices you make to stretch your hard-earned dollars farther so you can build a stronger financial foundation. Those little but good money habits will make all the difference in the long run.
Even the smallest change in degree on your financial journey will, if done consistently over time, make a big difference in creating stable finances. You’ll find that short-term goals will be achieved faster. Any long-term goal, especially a big one, will require some discomfort – so a resistance to immediate gratification could be the most helpful habit of saving you develop (that could be #51!).
Challenge yourself to start building better money habits that will improve your financial picture. Open a separate savings account and start adding to it. Make an action plan and chart your financial progress to stay motivated. Keep your vision in front of you. Even consult a financial advisor if you feel it’s necessary.
Every little step can either get you closer or farther from your ambitious money goals, so choose wisely.
Let me know if any of these habits are already helping you save more, and share any that aren’t on my list so others can benefit too!
Other posts you may enjoy:
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