Habits pave the way to reaching your goals.
Whether it’s losing weight, getting a promotion, or being debt-free, your habits will either help or hinder you.
That’s why it’s important to choose the right habits.
When it comes to your finances, there are some obvious habits you should practice. Following a budget, tracking your spending and building savings are just a few that will move you in the right direction.
But there are other daily habits that can also be helpful that aren’t so obvious.
The small choices we make day-to-day can add up to major progress toward our goals.
- taking care of your belongings
- avoiding television and other forms of marketing
- eating at home
- conserving utilities
- keeping your house clean and comfortable
All of these, when done consistently, can support you in reaching your financial goals.
1. Take Care of Your Belongings
It’s nice to get new stuff.
Shiny new appliances, soft new carpet, a snazzy new laptop.
The newness of these purchases can motivate us to give them special treatment, like house guests. You pay attention to what they need and treat them with care.
But once you’ve become acclimated to these items in your daily life, they eventually become normal instead of new. And that’s when they can start to be treated like 2nd-class citizens in your home. (Especially if you have teenagers in the house.)
One way you can stay on track with your financial goals is to take care of the things you’ve spent your hard-earned money on. If you can keep your belongings in excellent condition, they’ll last longer and save you money in the long run.
Larry Burkett used to say the cheapest car you can own is the one you already have. It’s always more economical to use what you have instead of replacing it. The cost of maintenance is usually a fraction of the cost of replacement.
In our house, we never wear shoes on the carpet. (One of my biggest pet peeves is dirty carpet!) I know that someday when we try to sell our house, the condition of the flooring is going to be important.
My husband changes the oil in our vehicles every 3,000 miles. I do not want a car payment, so I will drive my van until it’s on its last leg. (Er, wheel.)
I keep a hard case on my treasured Macbook and everybody knows to keep hands off. My last Macbook (actually, I still have it) lasted 10 years!
These are just a few ways we try to get more mileage out of the stuff that we use every day.
We live in a throw-away society, where if something doesn’t serve us to our standards we just throw it away and get a better one. And there are people that can totally afford to do this.
But if you’re trying to catch up on your retirement savings, you’ll get there faster if you’re not wasting money replacing things that are worn out or broken.
(*Tip: if you buy higher quality stuff, you’ll be more motivated to take care of it and it will last longer.)
2. Avoid TV Commercials & Other Marketing
When we were living in our first house, my dad decided to pay off our mortgage.
Yep, you read that right. He paid off our $100k mortgage.
A few months later, I saw a slick, shiny advertisement in the mail. A new master plan community was being built near us, closer to the mountains. And there would be a clubhouse, a gym and a pool! The kids would love the pool!
So, guess what happened.
We sold our paid off house, bought a new house twice the price, and took on another mortgage.
And that, my friend, is the power of marketing. It will make your head come loose so you can’t think with your brain.
Consumer marketing is not just an art, it’s a science. Professional marketers do a lot of research to determine what triggers a passive observer to a committed buyer. It’s nothing to mess around with.
These days, most of our mail gets thrown in the trash, because it’s all ads. I don’t even look at what the ads are selling, because I know I may get pulled into a purchase I never intended to make. (This is especially true if the ad would be appealing to my husband. That man loves to find a good reason to spend money.)
I don’t watch network television so I’m not exposed to many commercials.
But I do spend a lot of time on the internet, where ads are like pesky salespeople that won’t leave your porch. Popups, videos, banners – they’re everywhere.
So, I installed an ad blocker extension on my laptop that reduces some of the clutter.
Avoiding commercials, print ads, and internet marketing is a daily habit that only helps to keep more money in your pocket. If you’re not actively looking for a specific item, don’t consider spending money just because a store sent you a 10% off coupon.
It’s never a good deal to spend money on something you never intended to buy, anyway.
3. Eat At Home
This is a biggie, folks. And for some, it’s definitely a sacrifice of love.
I recently realized – after almost 25 years of marriage – that I don’t particularly like to cook.
Isn’t that funny? I just never considered how I felt about it until a few months ago.
If I could, I would eat out every day. Then I wouldn’t have to deal with all the grocery shopping and meal planning and recipe finding and … well … cooking.
The only reason I do it is to save money. If I was rich, I would hang up my apron for good. (Okay, I don’t really have an apron. But you know what I mean.)
So this makes it all the more tempting to just go out to a restaurant when I’m tired and don’t have the motivation to do something I don’t want to do anyway.
This is why it’s super important for me to have a plan in place before I get a hankering for a Chipotle bowl.
Keeping a well-stocked kitchen and a monthly meal plan on the fridge helps me resist the force. And taking meat out of the freezer in the morning is super helpful, too.
When you cook a meal yourself, you spend a small fraction of what you would pay for that same meal in a restaurant. If you can get in the habit of eating at home, you will literally save thousands of dollars a year.
Those same dollars in your retirement account will grow with compound interest and contribute to living a comfortable retirement.
So, the sacrifice is absolutely worth it.
Eat at home, for the sake of your financial future.
4. Conserve Utilities
I have never been great at being energy-conscious. Thankfully, my husband is.
At least with lightbulbs. He likes to save energy with lightbulbs.
Besides that, we use dimmer switches to cut down on electricity. We keep our home slightly cooler than comfortable in the winter, and a little warmer than we’d prefer in the summer.
Electricity is expensive! At least where I live here in Denver. Our monthly bill is usually over $200 a month. So we do what we can to minimize it.
This summer we changed up our sprinkler cycle so we weren’t using as much water. What a difference! I would guess we shaved off about $100 a month from our bill.
We don’t go crazy with unplugging small appliances and electronics when they’re not in use – but I bet this would also make a difference.
And we decided not to go solar because we didn’t think we’d get out what we’d need to put in before we move from this house. But if you plan on staying in your home for many more years, this might be a good option for you.
The point is to be aware of how you’re using the energy in your home, and being purposeful about conserving it the best way you can.
The lower your utility bills, the more you can add to your savings.
5. Keep Your House Comfortable
This might be more for the ladies. I know my husband doesn’t really care if our house is messy.
For me, a clean home means a comfortable home. And if I’m comfortable at home, then I’m content. And if I’m content at home, then I don’t feel the need to go out, which typically results in spending money.
For example, if our kitchen table is overcome with stacks of mail and dirty dishes, I am pretty uninspired to eat there. I would take one look at it and think nope, eatin’ out.
If my couch has dog hair all over it, along with a few dirty socks and a crusty plate, I would think I’d rather go to the movies than watch TV on this nasty couch.
It’s definitely an emotional decision.
But if I just take a few minutes each day to tidy up, or vacuum a little, or empty the sink, then I enjoy being home. I’m totally content watching Dick Van Dyke with my son or reading a book in my favorite chair.
Unnecessary expenses averted.
It’s a simple habit that doesn’t need to take a lot of time (or even effort), but it can potentially keep you from spending money.
And the more you keep, the more you save.
Now that you have a list of 5 daily household habits that can help you save money, you can be purposeful about building them.
Of course, you don’t have to use these 5. If you can think of other household habits, then you should definitely try them out.
It might be helpful to keep a list somewhere you’ll see every day. A reminder to make the choices necessary to build these habits.
Some will take a little extra planning (like eating at home), and some may be harder than others (like avoiding commercials). But habits are developed through small, consistent change over time. So give yourself patience and grace, because you’ll need it.
Just remember the big vision: living the retirement of your dreams.
If you can connect all of your efforts and sacrifice to this one goal, no matter how small, then you’ll most likely stay motivated to keep these habits.