Habit #1: Stop doing the same things over and over again.

cartoon from 1980's

Humans are born to form habits to save their energy and time for more important matters, like what delicious meal they’re going to have for lunch or pondering about Jon Snow’s lineage in Game of Thrones. According to research, we seek any possible shortcut that allows us space our minds can explore creative ideas.

Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, explains that a “habit loop” is formed in three steps: an external cue or trigger prompts the particular action and then provides a reward for engaging in said activity. Unfortunately, it’s more difficult to worst money habits than automated ones like driving – why? Financial stability brings about much less satisfaction compared to being capable of safely maneuvering a hefty vehicle through urban streets without any harm coming to you or others.

Everyone who has excelled with their finances picked up certain habits, and you can too! According to Duhigg from NPR, research shows that forming new habits is possible at any age – it’s never too late. Habits adapt to the changing circumstances of life throughout your entire journey.

Habit #2: Stop spending more than you earn.

counting 100 dollar bills

Who do you think you are, the U.S. government? Even America’s much-vaunted fiscal deficit is declining – it has now dropped to $492 billion or 2.8% of our economy from a peak of $1.4 trillion (9.8%) in 2009 during the financial crisis based on data from the Congressional Budget Office!

Are you in the red with your finances? According to a National Financial Capability Study, one-fifth of Americans are spending more than they make. You need to aim for the 41 percent that spend less than their income by breaking even (36%) or better!

Habit #3: Stop ignoring your bills.

A 21-year-old woman, troubled by an overwhelming amount of medical bills, shared with this NerdWallet writer her approach to tackling the payments: When a collection agency calls, she pays them first. Unfortunately for her credit score and financial stability in general, this haphazard way of crisis management means that she will continuously be jumping from one disaster to another.

Your payment history carries immense importance for your future financial security; in fact, more than a third of your credit score is determined by whether you can pay off all of your utilities, car insurance and credit card bills on time. Therefore, if you find yourself unable to do so, make sure to negotiate a payment plan with the respective providers before proceedings move toward collections.

Habit #4: Stop using your credit cards like free money.

homer simpson looking at his phone

Credit cards can be a powerful asset in your financial toolkit; however, if not used wisely, they can easily become detrimental. Unfortunately, the latter is often seen too frequently—with the average U.S. household carrying an astonishing $15,480 of credit card debt!

The plastic in your pocketbook can be a major contributor to poor financial habits, permitting you to impulsively spend without thought for budget plans. For this reason, adhering to a strict budget is the most effective way of cultivating sound money practices.

Habit #5: Stop thinking you’re not smart enough.

Financial matters can be overwhelming to comprehend. People experienced difficulty understanding standard health insurance words such as “deductible” in accordance with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, according to a survey conducted by Kaiser Foundation last month.

In this day and age, it is crucial for individuals to be financially prudent when it comes to health insurance or 401(k) plans. The key lies in becoming fluent with the language of finance. Ann Marie Houghtailing, author of How I Created a Dollar Out of Thin Air states: “Instead of uttering ‘investing is hard’, I tell myself ‘Investment is an aptitude that can be improved if you take gradual steps.’ This motivates me to start learning how investments work”. It’s time you took control and become knowledgeable about finances!

Habit #6: Stop making it hard on yourself to save.

We are all creatures of habit, and using checks to pay bills or make savings deposits is one of the oldest habits that refuses to die. Fred Davis, a professor in Information Systems at the University of Arkansas explains: “Changing our money routine takes longer than switching from smartphone A to B because it’s core part of our identity.” With this knowledge we can understand why individuals find comfort in sticking with what they know – even if there might be more efficient alternatives out there!

To cultivate healthy financial habits and credit scores with minimal effort, set up automatic transfers to pay bills as well as direct a minimum of 10% or more from each paycheck into your savings account. This two-pronged approach will surely have long-term benefits for you!

Habit #7: Stop complaining about your paycheck.

Lazy Scott Pilgrim GIF

Instead of wasting your energy complaining about the size of your paycheck, why not devote it to discovering ways to fortify your financial stability? If you truly feel underpaid and taken for granted, take a proactive stance by negotiating a raise or conversing with your employer regarding what is needed in order to receive an increase. When they understand that there’s a chance you may leave if they don’t provide more substantial compensation, they will be far more likely to appreciate how much value you bring instead.

To diversify your sources of income and improve yourself, consider exploring ways to build other streams. Strengthen your abilities by taking the initiative to find methods that will significantly upgrade your talent. Stop complaining and take action today!

Habit #8: Stop your Starbucks dependency.

starbucks coffee snapshots portraying coffee addiction

Coffee may be your go-to pick-me-up, but it can actually come at a high cost – nearly $1,000 per year for the average American worker. The 2012 Accounting Principals survey also found that two thirds of workers buy lunch instead of packing one from home, costing an additional $2,000 annually. Sadly though – Americans throw away 40% of the food they purchase each year which adds up to over $2,275 wasted in a family with four members according to Natural Resources Defense Council. If you’re looking for ways to save money and reduce waste start by making small changes such as bringing lunch from home!

It is essential to plan both your meals and your budget simultaneously. Eating in should be the primary focus, as dining out can quickly drain one’s wallet without them even realizing it.

Habit #9: Stop thinking more cash brings happiness.

woman asking the question "what's more important, your friends or money?"

Money can certainly bring joy, but only up to a certain extent. A study conducted by Nobel Prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton in 2010 showed that emotional satisfaction increases with wealth until $75,000 per year is reached. Furthermore, investigations suggest that buying experiences or contributing to charity have much more enduring effects on our mental well-being than simply having money does.

The bliss of being debt-free brings a unique sense of joy and elation that can’t be compared. Just take one look at the people in this picture – it’s clear to see how much fun they’re having!

This article was originally published on NerdWallet.

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