Everyone wants to be a money-management pro. After all, who really likes dealing with money stress?
The first step in this journey is realizing you need to make a change—which, if you’re reading this article, you probably already have. Next, you need to train yourself into your new habits. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it takes a lot of commitment, even if you fall off the wagon a time or two.
One life hack is to set up habit triggers that help remind you to do your new money habit. Habit triggers help establish your habit as a part of your normal routine. With these five battle-tested examples of habit triggers, anyone can learn new habits—money-related or otherwise.
1. Set Up a Rewards System
Rather than focus on the negatives of failing, what happens if you think about the positives? Specifically, setting up a reward system can act like a magnet to help motivate and pull you through the difficult habit-forming stages.
I do this every month, and it’s worked wonders. I set an income goal: “I will make $X, and if so, I’ll treat my husband out to a nice(ish) dinner.” It’s hard to slack off when I think about the benefit of reaching my income goal and going out to a rare sushi dinner.
You can also set up certain income goals, or even do simple things like stick within your budget, or track your net worth every month. Some banks, like Radius Bank, actually make it easier on you by calculating these numbers and allowing you to set up a budget directly in your bank account with their innovative personal financial management tools.
2. Find an Accountability Buddy
Have you ever noticed that it’s more fun to go to the gym with a friend? Maybe you’ve even worked out for longer than normal, because you were holding each other accountable? That’s the same idea behind finding an accountability buddy for your finances.
Don’t fret—you don’t have to show them your financial numbers if you don’t want to. It can be as simple as hosting a no-spend weekend together. Or, maybe you’re trying to cook more meals at home, so you and a friend can get together to trade recipes, plan your weekly meals, and draft up grocery lists.
You can even set up bets with your friend: you will check in on each other to do X, and if not, you’ll owe the other $Y. If you do end up owing your friend money, Radius Bank will let you send cash to your friends instantly for free using a phone or a tablet. No more pesky PayPal fees!
3. Hold Yourself Accountable
You don’t always need someone else there to watch you. You can also hold yourself accountable. There are many apps and programs available nowadays, like the popular Beeminder or Habitica programs, that allow you to track your habit formation and even reward your or penalize you in your money habit formation journey.
Another good idea is to set up automatic alerts. For example, you can actually set up automatic payment reminders for many bills, credit cards, and loans. Some high-tech banks like Radius Bank even allow you to set up merchant restrictions based on “merchant type,” including retail shops, gas stations, restaurants and grocery stores. If you’re looking to scale back spending on, say, restaurants, you can set a restriction on that.
4. Focus on Your Savings Goals
One thing that’s helped me a ton is pausing before I pull out my credit card for every purchase, or throw an item in my cart.
“Do I really need this item? Am I OK trading this money for this item, or would I prefer to put it towards my savings goals?”
Last year, I took a two-week trip to Peru. Every time I asked myself this question before I bought something leading up to the trip, the answer was almost always “no.” This helped me save more money for my trip, and as a result, I got to do more fun activities, like surfing and hiking up Huayna Picchu, the mountain overlooking Machu Picchu.
Side benefit of working with Radius Bank: if I lost my card while at Machu Picchu, I could have frozen it instantly using Radius Bank’s app until I got a replacement card and avoided any fraudulent charges.
5. Stack Your Habits
Have you heard of “habit stacking”? It’s one of the biggest things that’s helped me. The idea is this: you already have habits you routinely do, such as making a cup of coffee in the morning or going grocery shopping once a week.
If you’re trying to learn a new habit, you pair it with the old, established habit. So, for example, when I wanted to get serious about budgeting (after many failed attempts), I paired it with another routine: brewing my morning cup of tea. Every time I brewed a cup of tea, I opened and updated my budget while I waited for the tea to steep. The cup of tea was the trigger (and new habit) to update my budget.
Let’s say you want to be more consistent about checking your bank account on a regular basis. Set aside a time—maybe when you’re brushing your teeth or cooking dinner—to check your bank account each day.
Radius Bank offers an app that can literally make this process as simple as a few button clicks on your smartphone. Make it as easy on yourself as possible!
You Can Do This
Training yourself into a new habit—especially a money habit—is hard. We’ve all been there, and we’ve all had successes and failures. The most important thing to remember is to never give up (even if you have temporary setbacks).
Finding habit triggers that work for you, along with help from technology at places like Radius Bank, can help boost your chances of success.
Before you know it, you’ll have a full savings account, and an empty plate of worries.
These are just some examples of habit triggers; which ones have you tried?