You’ll often hear advice on money habits that you should learn by a certain age. Whether it’s money habits you should learn before you’re 30 or 40 years old, the truth of the matter is that it’s never too late to instill good financial habits. It doesn’t matter if you’re in your 20s or in your 50s, having good money habits is important no matter what age you are.
A recent report by Pew found that only 50% of Americans feel financially secure and 57% stated they aren’t prepared for a financial emergency. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your finances, don’t be. Learning how to manage your finances isn’t something people are naturally good at. All it takes is the dedication and a willingness to change your financial habits.
The good news is that it’s never too late to instill good financial habits. This doesn’t involve constantly living frugally and cutting out all entertainment costs, it’s about using basic financial principles that we all tend to forget about sometimes.
Lesson #1: Spending Without a Plan
If you haven’t already created a monthly budget, do it now. Your budget should consist of all your monthly obligations including your rent/mortgage, auto payments, insurance, utilities, and credit card payments. Next, take a look at your past transactions and calculate approximately how much you’re spending on groceries and entertainment.
At this point, you should be able to see exactly where your money is going every month. Too many people are spending more than they earn and that will lead them to cover expenses on their credit cards to cover the difference. Going down this route is a death trap. It’ll become increasingly difficult to get out of debt and save for the future.
Whether your plan is to save money or get out of debt, if you have a clear strategy and you stick with it, it’ll become a lot easier to achieve your goals.
Lesson #2: Be Resourceful and Save Money
As I mentioned, having good financial habits doesn’t necessarily mean living frugally every day. Whether we’re looking to go on a vacation or need to repair a car, doing thorough research can help save you big bucks. For example, if you’re looking to take a trip out of town, knowing where to look for the best hotel deals and knowing how to reduce your car rental expenses can add up. Many people might think to themselves that it’s okay to splurge a little on vacation, but you can still have a memorable trip without breaking the bank.
Another example is car repairs. Car repairs can be super frustrating at times. It’s hard to know whether the mechanic you’re going to is taking advantage of you or genuinely giving you a great deal. This is where doing your research can really pay off. Most mechanics will recommend an oil change every 3,000 miles but your car might actually need it every 5,000-8,000 miles. It’s little things like these that can add up to help you save more money.
Lesson #3: Stop Your Impulse Decisions
We’ve all been guilty about this at one point or another. Spontaneous purchases are rarely justified and it’s a perfect example of needs vs wants. A study by CreditCards.com shows that 75% of Americans make impulse purchases, but what’s interesting is that 16% said they spent over $500 on the purchase. If you have an urge to make an impulse purchase decision, here’s a tip. Wait 1-2 days before making the purchase. Don’t buy it on the spot. Go home and figure out if you can find the item priced lower online. Remember, lesson #2? Be resourceful. If you decide that you really need this item or if the new lower price you find is justifiable, then you can consider it.
The same CreditCards.com study also showed that over 50% of the people regretted the purchase afterward. Don’t fall into this bucket.
Lesson #4: Have Clear Goals Every Day, Week, Month, and Year
This ties back into having a spending plan and budget. If you really want to save more or pay down debt, you need to be in the right mindset. Your typical workday expenses might include a morning coffee, lunch, or a bus fare. Don’t be reckless and steer away from your required daily expenses.
You should also think about your weekly goals. Since you already know how much your daily expenses are, you should know what your 5-day workday expenses look like too. Figure out ways you can go under your weekly budget. Perhaps you can plan your meals ahead of time to avoid eating out or figure out a better way to commute to work. Having clear goals every week is the first step to making sure you’re staying under your monthly budget.
Lastly but not least, as the calendar year comes to an end, this is your time to finish strong. If you had some unexpected expenses and not seeing much progress on your financial goals, it’s okay to re-evaluate your goals. Financial circumstances might change, and your plan should too.
It’s Never Too Late
Maybe you’re in debt. Maybe you’re not saving fast enough. One thing for sure is that changing your habits is never too late. People aren’t born with good financial habits. Instead, they understand the basic principle of spending less than they earn and making sure they’re following a set plan.