Should I get out of bed now? Cereal or scrambled eggs for breakfast? Stop at the orange traffic light or step on the accelerator?
Every waking moment of our lives we make decisions. Some are bigger. Some are smaller. And some of them have to do with money, like: “should you be managing your money better?”
Most of our decisions are so routine and automatic that they’re processed in our subconscious mind without us even knowing about it. In fact, researchers say we make about 35,000 remotely conscious decisions each day.
If you’ve been reading my newsletter for a while, you probably know that recently I made a conscious decision to up-level my health and fitness by committing to a regular exercise routine.
In the beginning of a new commitment, we’re excited, with a keen desire to reach our goals.
In fact, the goal is so palpable you can almost taste it making it easy to stay motivated and on track.
I call this the infatuation stage.
Kind of like the infatuation you experience in a new love relationship.
Unlike love, however, where infatuation lasts between 18 and 36 months keeping you committed to the relationship, the majority of people who decide to reach a new goal and commit to change, fail and give up within six months.
What Happens When You Fall Out of Infatuation With Managing Your Money Better
And my waning enthusiasm for my exercise routine about a month ago coupled with my redoubled commitment to change, inspired me to share with you eight tips for staying committed to changing your relationship with money even after the infatuation dies away.
1. Clarify your long-term vision and know your why.
It’s easy to jump into something because it’s trendy, there’s a write up in your favorite magazine and “everybody” is doing it. But trends swing in and out of fashion.
To get staying power, connect your goal with the deeper reason you want to make a change. Know how it will transform your life. Create a clear vision of what your life will look and feel like once you’ve achieved your goals. A vision board or pictures taped to your bathroom mirror or kitchen cupboards will make your dreams come alive.
In a recent meeting, my client Sharon told me she wants to let go of the stress and anxiety she carries in her body. Always thinking that “sometime in the future” it’s going to work out is getting tiring. Sharon wants to create a sustainable lifestyle for herself and her children NOW.
It’s not always easy sticking to your commitment, especially if it means reducing your spending. Like Sharon, knowing your WHY helps you stay committed, strong, and confident.
2. Make small, consistent changes in your behavior
Once you’ve got your vision, break it down into tiny steps you can achieve easily. Whether your goal is paying down debt, building up your emergency fund or growing your retirement account, commit to something small, like setting aside one dollar a day, for at least two months. A 2009 study by health researcher Phillippa Lally and her colleagues at University College London, determined that it takes an average of 66 days for behavior changes to become ingrained. More challenging habits can take much longer. So hang in there and keep going. Before you know it, your new money practice will be as mindless as brushing your teeth.
3. Organize your daily calendar for success
If I don’t schedule it, it doesn’t happen. Spinning is in my scheduler every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday morning. My work day starts later those days. And I always feel invigorated and energized, plus just a little bit sweaty.
When I start working with new coaching clients, I recommend that they track their money first thing in the morning or right before/after dinner. Every single day.
If you want to stick to your commitment, clear your calendar and make it a non-negotiable.
In his New York Times bestselling book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg explains the habit loop: the 3-step cyclical process necessary for habit formation. You start with a Cue, like breakfast or dinner, that triggers a Routine behavior like tracking your income and expenses. Routinely tracking your money leads to a Reward like money left over at the end of the month for guilt-free spending and a lot less stress. The Reward reinforces your behavior providing the necessary encouragement you need to repeat the process. Ultimately, your new habit becomes ingrained. A no-brainer. You can’t imagine life without it.
4. Automate your finances
Speaking of no-brainer, what could be better than bypassing the habit loop altogether? Automate your finances by setting up a standing order in your bank to transfer money to your Savings and Investment accounts monthly, on the same day of the month. If the money’s not available in your bank, you will adjust your spending and live without it. And you will be building wealth on automatic pilot. Start with small amounts as in #2, above.
5. Become accountable
Working with a partner, a friend, or a community of like-minded folks who strive together to reach similar goals is a great way to stay on track. An investment club, a Facebook group, or an online money class, like my signature program Smart Women Build Wealth, are forums to learn, share, support, encourage and grow your money and your confidence with like-minded people. If you prefer one-on-one work, a financial planner, a money coach or an investment advisor might be the right accountability buddy for you. Regardless of your personal style, a support person or team that cheers you on and encourages your continued progress helps you maintain momentum and stay in the process.
6. Celebrate your success
Rewards are crucial to your long-term success. While sometimes that inner feeling of peace and freedom is enough, most of us mere mortals need something more tangible. Gift yourself little rewards each step of the way: dance a jig every day after tracking your money. Relax in a luxurious bubble bath to celebrate your success at the end of the week. Enjoy a coffee date with a friend or buy a new lipstick after a month of staying in the process. Getting smarter with your money shouldn’t be a drag. Make the process simple, exciting and fun.
7. Practice gratitude for everything you have and every small change you make
If you really want to become a smart, savvy money manager, this step is crucial. Appreciate what you have and thank G-d every day for your blessings of health and wealth. Regardless of your individual situation, if you’re reading this post on an electronic device, I know that there’s someone out there who has less than you do.
Establish a daily writing practice to be thankful for the simple things, the little pleasures and wonderful people that brighten your day. Practice gratitude for the money and material wealth that enhance your life. Two minutes a day is all it takes. You will feel abundant, blessed and enthusiastic about creating a financially sustainable and meaningful life.
8. Give generously
This beloved final step is the corollary to #7. Giving generously is the best way to acknowledge G-d’s unlimited bounty in this world. When you share with an open hand and an open heart, your money mindset shifts from scarcity to abundance. You feel happier, lighter and more expansive, making it easier and more enjoyable to stay on track with your financial goals. So be a disciplined and committed giver, even when you’re starting small. As your earnings and your wealth grow, you will give more. And you will feel very, very good about that. Because giving is its own reward.
What about you? Do you have any great tips for staying committed to your goals? I’d love for you to share them with me in the comments below.
Related reading: 10 Ways to Fall in Love with Money