Everyone I know can name 1 or 2 bad habits that they just can’t seem to kick. Bad habits are formed over time and, in some cases, are so hard wired in our behavior that we don’t even realize when we are doing them. Bad habits could be one of the reasons you find yourself broke every month and unable to save. I broke down the 5 most common bad habits that negatively impact your ability to achieve financial wellness. I also included recommendations for good habits that you can practice.
1. Impulse Shopping
Impulse shopping is something we all have fallen victim to at some point in our lives. Imagine you’re in the checkout line at the grocery store and the latest issue of Essence Magazine catches your eye. You see that Michelle Obama is on the cover and you feel you just have to know what the story is about. So, you buy the Magazine for $5.99. Now you’re home and become so busy you never actually get around to reading that ‘must have’ magazine. While $5.99 does not sound like much, imagine another scenario. Let’s say you’re now in Best Buy. You’re there to purchase a new laptop for school and the saleslady tells you they have a deal on Beats Headphones. If you get one today you get 10% off!! You think to yourself ‘well that’s a steal!’ Rather than spending $100 for the headphones you spend $90. This impulsive buying habit may seem trivial in the first scenario, but in the second you’re spending a lot more. Consequently, having a greater impact on your budget. These purchases cause people to spend thousands of dollars a year on products that they do not use or even need. Impulse shopping may be one habit keeping you broke.
The Solution: The best way to prevent impulse purchases is to delay the purchase. Seriously, in the moment it’s easy to think you need the product right away. But the truth is, more times than not, you don’t. Delay the purchase for one week and if you still feel the product is still a must have then purchase it. If by the end of the week you realize you’ll probably only use this novel product once, then don’t make the purchase. Practice this for 90 days and you’ll find yourself making less impulse purchases and saving more.
2. You Don’t Have Goals
In order to achieve financial independence and wellness, you must have goals. Having your financial goals established and documented is like having a road map to achieving financial freedom. Without this road map you’ll spend recklessly and not exercise discipline in your spending. Your savings will also be inconsistent, thus preventing you from investing or saving. Not having clear financial goals could be a bad habit that is keeping you broke.
The Solution: Start by taking the time to create and document your goals. It is proven that by actually writing down your goals, you’re more likely to stick to them. Furthermore, creating strong motivating goals helps to increase your chances of actually changing your habit in order to achieve them. In my post “Personal Finance: Setting Goals” I provide the best proven strategies for creating goal that keep you inspired and motivated.
3. Buying Cheap Products
Let’s be honest here, we all love a good bargain. However, just because a product is cheap does not mean it’s a bargain. You get a bargain only if you’re actually paying less than the perceived value of the item. Using this logic, buying shoes at the dollar store is not a bargain. In fact, you’re probably paying more than the item is worth. To see why buying cheap products is keeping you broke let’s use this scenario. Say you do decide to purchase that $5 pair of shoes from the dollar store for work. The shoes are stylish and trendy and will probably get you many compliments. After 2 months of wearing those shoes, you notice the glue is coming apart and now there is a hole at the bottom. To your dismay, you now need a new pair of shoes. Because cheap products are made from inferior materials, they wear and tear easily.
The Solution: Now I’m not saying to go purchase a pair of Christian Louboutin. The solution is to simply save your money to purchase quality products. By quality I mean durable, comfortable, well-made products that will last at least a year without falling apart. This will require a change in mindset. You’ll now have to practice focusing on value rather than the price of the product. So, the next time you’re about to purchase that $15 outerwear, ask yourself what value will I really get from this product? Is this product built from material that will last me years in the future? Can I wait 1-3 months so that I can save and buy a product of higher quality? Asking these questions will help prevent you from wasting your money on cheap products.
4. Keeping Up With The Jones
You may have heard the phrase “keeping up with the Jones” at some point in your life. Well, the Jones are regarded as ‘The Haves’ in the community. They have the beautiful home with the white picket fence, the latest cars parked in the driveway, their kids go to private school and they take lavish vacations across Europe every year. They set the standard that everyone in the neighborhood wants to achieve, even those who cannot afford that lifestyle. Young professionals are now trying to keep up with the Jones by trying to emulate the family’s lifestyle. Many who try to emulate this lifestyle are doing so on credit. Living above your means, that is spending more than you earn by taking out credit, is a habit that is keeping you broke.
The Solution: Get a reality check! Seriously, you’ll find your life can be so much more fulfilling if you live by your own standards rather than those set by strangers. This will be tough at first, but overtime you’ll soon lose the need to fit in. The easiest way to achieve this is to start small like cancelling those subscriptions that you have not used in months. Then work on decreasing the amount that you spend on services/products that you cannot afford. Keep doing this until you have gotten to a point where you’re spending less than you’re earning.
5. Poor Debt Management
In 2019 the American consumer debt stood at $14 trillion. This is only consumer debt. In fact, the average debt held by an American is ~$90k. The average salary, however, is ~$50k. Do you see the disparity here? Poor debt management is the result of bad credit habits. Studies have shown that people are more likely to spend more when using credit cards than cash. Once the habit to spend money that you don’t have is developed, it is very hard to break. And this bad habit could be what is keeping so many young professionals broke.
The Solution: Keep only one credit card and destroy the rest until you pay off all your balances. By the time you have paid all your balance you should have broken the habit of overspending because you no longer have access to all your credit cards. This will force you to spend less and live within your means. If you find yourself misusing the sole credit card left over, then destroy that one too. Pay off that balance and commit to going 3 months (90 days) without using a credit card at all.
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