It only takes 20 days to change a habit. Yes, humans are habitual creatures. But we’re fully capable of rewiring our brain to take up a new habit. We do it all the time without thinking. For instance, you only every order cappuccinos and then, one day, switch to flat whites and never look back. Or you wake up one morning and head out for a run, and now couldn’t imagine living without your early morning pavement-pounder. So, when it comes to bad financial habits, what steps do we need to take to change them?
Spot The Habit
Naming the habit is the first step to changing it. So often, we assume our bad habits are a unconscious or an essential component of life. Once we own the fact that a habit is a choice, our choice, we are well on our way to being able to change it. Know the habit. Why do you view it as a negative habit? What kind of situation encourages the habit? Why do you want to change it?
Change Of Scene
Habit is incredibly linked to place and people, as anyone who has ever tried to quit smoking will tell you. What kind of environment causes you to fall into you bad habits? Do you spend money when bored? Or when you’re with certain people? The easiest way to change the habit is to remove yourself from the situation that encourages the action. Don’t go to your favourite stores until you’ve addressed your spending problem. Start hosting dinners for your friends instead of heading out, in order to stem escalating costs. If people are encouraging you in negative behaviour, or poke fun because you’re trying to change it, they might not be the kind of people you really want to be hanging out with. If you can’t change the environment, change your interaction with it. Don’t take your wallet to work, just take ten dollars of emergency money, for instance.
Leaving your credit card at home is the obvious contender for this step. Or freezing it in a block of ice. Find effective methods of pausing before you go into old habits. Maybe someone who can remind you of why you’re trying to beat the habit, like leaving your credit card at a friend’s place. Maybe a physical barrier, like the block of ice.
When you find yourself about to launch into a habit- for instance, buying stuff online just because you’re bored- find something else to think about, and do. A famous science experiment (using little kids and the promise of sweets) showed that distraction was the best method of discipline. Every time you go to make a luxury purchase, walk around the block once. It’s one thing to continually tell yourself you’ll stick to budget tomorrow. It’s far easier to schedule some time at a friend’s place, a run in the morning and an afternoon with a book you love- you’ll find you stick to your budget without thinking.
Stick With It
They say the physical addiction to smoking lasts three days. Yet, thousands of people find quitting cigarettes one of the most difficult things they ever do. Why? Because reconditioning our brains, especially our coping mechanisms, is no easy task. Yes, all it takes is 20 days. Theoretically. But if you get to the end of twenty days and are still struggling, give yourself another twenty.