Reaching your financial goals isn’t just about keeping a budget and cutting coupons. If you ever want to reach financial freedom, you must develop good, productive habits in every area of your life.
You may think your spirituality or your mental health have nothing to do with how you handle your money. And I would challenge that thought by saying there’s a much stronger connection than you might think.
For example, if you don’t practice positive spiritual habits, you are likely not in touch with your purpose in life. A lack of purpose will leave you with a lack of direction and motivation. Two things necessary to achieve financial independence.
And if you haven’t developed habits to strengthen your mental health, you’ll probably fall into the trap of a scarcity mindset. In other words, you’ll find it hard to believe that anything will ever get any better – so why try?
So good habits in different areas of your life only serve to strengthen each other. They work together to create a life of abundance and achievement.
I’ve written previously about daily money habits and household habits that can help you get closer to your financial goals. For this post, I’m going to list 5 daily lifestyle habits to keep you on track.
1. Avoid temptations
What tempts you to spend money?
For me, it’s being hungry and tired and having nothing planned for dinner. Or, also, walking through Target without a list. That’ll do it, too.
Think about the situations that weaken your ability to spend wisely. Then, do what’s necessary to prevent those situations from happening.
Willpower will only go so far, so don’t rely on it. You’ll only be setting yourself up for failure.
Research has shown that willpower is a limited resource. Every day, in varying degrees, you are using up your willpower supply. Eventually, the well gets dry and you’re left without a buffer.
This is why it’s important to use strategies that don’t depend on willpower.
For example, to keep from spending too much eating out, I’ll usually plan dinner in the morning. That way, I’ll remember to take whatever meat I need out of the freezer before I head to work. When I get home and the meat is thawed, I feel a commitment to make dinner at home. Temptation to go to Chipotle: averted.
This year, I’m going to venture into freezer cooking. I’ll take one Sunday out of the month to prepare 20 meals to freeze, then take one out to thaw each morning. Not only will the meal be ready to cook when I get home, most of the prep work has already been done.
This is just one lifestyle habit I can develop to keep me on track with my budget.
Other ways to minimize temptations are:
- always having a list when you go shopping
- eat before you go to the grocery store; an empty stomach will betray you every time
- take a different route home if your happy place is too much to resist
- limit your time on social media to less than 30 minutes a day
- read more, watch television less
Determine where your temptations are waiting for you, then do everything you can to avoid them. Your wallet will thank you.
2. Follow a daily to-do list
Having a plan for your day not only gives you a sense of accomplishment as you check off each item, it also gives you a structure that will direct your actions.
I can count too many times that I’ve spent money spontaneously because I was bored. One of my kids will suggest going to the movies – which then leads to eating out and a walk through the mall. These impromptu plans often lead to expenses that were never a part of my budget.
I’ve found that if I’ve planned my day with a list of task items, I’m more motivated to get stuff done than go spend money.
Of course, I’m not saying to never do something fun on the fly. But even then I would suggest working these last minute activities into your budget.
The more often you can follow a plan, the less likely you are to spend money impulsively.
3. Take care of your health
Adopting lifestyle habits that promote good health will always keep money in your pocket. Even when you have to pay a premium for better quality or organic products.
Just 30 minutes of daily exercise – walking, riding a bike, yoga – will decrease your chances of developing a health condition that will negatively affect your quality of life and standard of living.
Sticking to a natural diet such as fruit, vegetables, legumes, and lean meats will help you maintain a strong heart and healthy weight.
These good habits can delay or eliminate the need for expensive prescriptions and doctor visits as you age. They can also keep you in the work force longer, so you can build up your retirement savings as long as possible.
Another benefit of good physical health is how it can stave off depression or other mental illnesses. As we get older and less capable, we can begin to feel useless and burdensome. It’s important to care for our mental health as much as our physical bodies, so we can live out our golden years with peace and fulfillment.
Ultimately, giving does more for the giver than for the receiver. You grow your faith and you feel a sense of personal happiness and satisfaction. Your gratitude increases, and you develop a positive, abundant mindset.
And you learn to keep your hands open.
After all, if your hands are holding on tight to what little you have, how will you be able to receive any more?
Being generous requires the giver to let go of the fear of running out. And once you believe you are fully capable of replacing what you’ve given away, your eyes will open up to all of the opportunities around you to build wealth.
Try it, and become a believer.
5. Live below your means
This daily lifestyle habit is probably the one that will make the biggest difference to your bank account. It’s also the hardest habit to develop on this list.
For some reason, in American culture, we’re taught (or pressured) to live a lifestyle that fits (or exceeds) our income. The more we make, the more we’re expected to spend.
I mean, isn’t that the whole point of going for that promotion or asking for a raise?
This is one of the biggest lies we believe when it comes to our finances: as we increase our wealth, we increase our expenses.
We think our level of income today dictates our standard of living, until we get another raise or promotion. With each increase in wealth, we take another step up. And our goal is to stay there until we make more.
The truth is, if you live on less than you make now, you’ll be able to attain a lifestyle you could never reach by just upgrading your life with every pay increase.
Let me say that again.
If you live below your means today, you’ll be able to achieve a standard of living in the future that far exceeds what any income increase will afford you now.
By making lifestyle sacrifices now, you can live the life of your dreams later.
This is largely due to compound interest. The more you stash in your savings today, the more time that money has to grow. And, over time, that growth gets faster and bigger.
Living below your means can be accomplished in varying degrees, depending on your financial goals. Here are just a few ways to live on less than you make:
- choose to live in a less expensive neighborhood than you can afford
- downsize your home, and your mortgage
- drive an older car
- skip the Hawaii vacation and go on a road trip instead
- give up expensive hobbies like golf and choose a cheaper activity like jogging
- eat out less, eat home more
Some of these ideas you can do today, others will require some serious thought and planning.
Whatever you decide, if you make a daily lifestyle choice to live on less than you make now then you’ll achieve your financial goals faster.
Change your habits, change your life
You might be stuck in the paycheck to paycheck cycle, deep in debt, struggling to increase your income, or just feel like things are never going to get better. It’s tough to see a way out.
I want to encourage you to step back from yourself and take a good, long look at your daily habits.
Are your actions supporting your goals? Do the decisions you make line up with your values and priorities? Have you been intentional with your time and maximizing your efforts to reach your goals?
We are where we are in life because of the choices we’ve made. If you’ve chosen to be a passive passenger in the ride of life, then you’ll end up wherever circumstances decide.
But if you take the wheel, and you decide where you’re going, then you’ll become someone who makes life happen, instead of letting life happen to you.
Amazingly, it all lies in those small, daily, intentional decisions you make throughout each day.
When you make these decisions repeatedly, they become second nature – or, habits – and we begin to do them automatically.
And that’s when your life starts to change.
Are you ready to finally take control? Then start with your habits.
You’ll be amazed at what you can do.