Three Money Habits to Cultivate That Make a Big Difference

“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” 
― Epictetus

Writing publicly about my relationship to money for several years now has been fascinating and helpful. Money is still such a taboo topic for people but I’m convinced that more transparency about all its facets can be extremely beneficial, whether it’s benchmarking your salary more accurately or forming better habits. I’ve benefited from talking more openly about money with friends, colleagues and coworkers, and family members, and trying to turn some behaviors from projects to habits.

There are three in particular that have fundamentally changed my relationship to money, and which I think summarize most good advice out there. Because it’s Monday and you may be looking for some motivation, here they are, in no particular order:

Check your bank account(s) everyday. It’s 2019 and while we live with risks of data breaches everyday, it’s also never been easier to keep track of your money. I still remember my dad teaching me how to physically balance my checkbook when I got my first basic account at 12 years old and while it seems pretty quaint now, the same principle applies: know the exact amount of what you have made available to yourself and proceed through life accordingly. Checking my cash budget is part of my daily routine as much as brushing my teeth: it helps set me for the day and helps me make micro-decisions for the rest of the day. Can I treat myself to a lunch out today? Why yes, because I haven’t bought lunch all week and have a nice little bit extra for a fancy soup. Huh, that number seems lower than it should–ah yes, I have to process some work expenses, let’s do that as soon as I get into the office.

Use your bank for more than just cashflow. Because I was military dependent, I have access to some banks or credit unions that were primarily designed for servicemen and women or their families, often with attendant information and services (especially if you live abroad). I opened my first account with one of these banks at 12 and I will never close my membership. This bank is not the flashiest thing in the world, but their customer service is second to none and they make processes very user friendly. When I took out auto insurance for the first time as an adult, one of the agents went out of their way to educate me when I had “dumb” questions. They also have partnerships with other organisations to include services that I would otherwise have to pay for, such as  I have frequently called them to discuss queries about my accounts and how I can make different services work better for my family, or just to get some general knowledge. Reputable and trusted banks and credit unions are gatekeepers to some pretty important aspects of our lives, often managing both our wealth and risk, so build a relationship with yours and take advantage of the services and expertise they offer you. If you haven’t talked to your bank in a hot minute, make it a priority.

Admit ignorance. If you don’t know how a process works, ask. Ask parents, ask successful friends, ask experts, read a book. Do your research, and fact check the sources of the information you find to ensure it’s sound and from a trustworthy source. Make financial education part of your rolling task list and don’t neglect it. Factor financial reading into your daily or weekly intake, or check out or download a book about a topic that either interests or intimidates you. Ignorance will cost you, in bad decisions, delayed good decisions, or lost benefits or opportunities.

In short: be proactive not passive.

3 thoughts on “Three Money Habits to Cultivate That Make a Big Difference”

  1. Yes to this. I tend to know exactly what I owe and how much is in the bank — especially freelance when every penny counts and I am often waiting weeks for payment.

    I also now check my IRA account often online and (ugh) just took a withdrawal because this year isn’t great for income. Grateful to even have an account I can now hit w/o penalty and which is earning well — more than 10% annually without anyone’s guidance. So I feel less guilty accessing less than 10% of this money knowing (for the moment!) it will grow back.

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