LB Note: This week's post is a syndication of a piece I wrote for MyBankTracker.com. This article has been lovingly republished with permission. Have a great week!
Just like that pair of sweatpants or a long term relationship, you can also get too comfortable with your finances.
What do you MEAN you can get too comfortable with your finances? How is this even possible?
I know for those who struggle with money the idea of being too comfortable seems like a foreign concept, but there is the potential to get into a rut – even when it comes to your money. What does a financial rut look like? I’m going to break it down for you.
How to Tell You’re Too Stuck in Your (Financial) Ways
Speaking from personal experience, I can always tell I’m in a rut when I begin to notice other unhealthy behaviors that previously escaped my attention.
- Example: I notice I’m getting a little too comfortable in a relationship when I begin to gain weight.
- Example: I notice I’m running my blog a little too much on autopilot when the emails stop coming in because I haven’t bothered to reach out and initiate the hustle.
You get the picture.
Getting too comfy with your money works in much the same way. Perhaps you realize that you’ve been throwing down the credit card a little too much at dinner lately, or that you haven’t gotten around to contributing to your savings like you said you would.
A rut forms when tiny acts of sloppy behavior (which let’s be honest feel pretty good at the time), quickly spiral into a new routine.
A Few Additional Tell-Tale Signs You May Be in a Financial Rut:
You haven’t looked at your budget in over a year.
If you’ve found a budgeting system so spot on that you don’t have to micromanage it, congratulations! You’re better than 90% of people who try to budget. What many forget about budgets is that they’re a tool meant to be shaped and tweaked as your life circumstances change. I’m not saying you have to reinvent the wheel, but you should at least look over your budget once every twelve months.
Your credit card spending is out of control.
Trust me, as a recovering shopaholic, I know the seductive siren’s call of using credit instead of debit. I struggled with this a lot recently when I first started working for myself and could not get ahead of the uneven cash flow of my business. There will be times when you may need to use a credit card, but if you’re completely relying on credit cards to float your lifestyle, then you are in the worst financial rut of them all and need to stop ASAP.
You haven’t thought of new ways to increase your income.
Healthy money habits aren’t just about saving and spending wisely, they’re about earning more too. If you haven’t asked for a raise at work in over a year or thought up a few ways to side hustle in our recovering economy, it’s time to brainstorm new ideas to increase the money flowing into your bank account.
You haven’t increased savings contributions (if you have the ability to do so).
Savings can be difficult, especially for those struggling to make ends meet. However, if you have the ability to increase your savings comfortably and you haven’t, then you’re probably too comfortable in your existing financial situation. Yes, money is meant to be spent and enjoyed, but it’s also important to save for emergency situations and retirement so you can continue your stress-free existence.
Your net worth never really goes up.
Net worth is one of my favorite financial numbers because it’s more about “big picture thinking” and less about pinching pennies. A great way to measure your financial health is to look at your net worth (total assets – total debts) quarterly. If it went down or stayed the same over the course of a year, you’re definitely in need of a financial re-boot.
How You Can Shake Things Up to Re-Engage with Your Finances
You know the old cliche: “If it ain't broke, don’t fix it.” That can also apply here. But if you’re only making a little progress on your financial aspirations, or desire to be smarter about the way you spend and save, here’s how to really shake things up.
Compete with Yourself
Personal finance is similar to karate – the only person you should be competing against is yourself. Meaning, if you saved $50 last month, make a game out of it and try to challenge yourself to save $60 this month.
We are living in the digital era. This means we humans can now leverage technology to help us with even the most mundane and unsexy of tasks – including managing our money. The simplest form of technology? Using your bank to set up automatic payments for your bills and schedule automatic deposits to your savings account. Humans have been able to do this since the early aughts.
“What if I already have everything set up on autopay and that’s how I got into a financial rut in the first place?”
I’ve got you covered. Keep reading.
Schedule Monthly/Quarterly/Annual Reviews
I’m not saying you have to sit down and spend hours each month reviewing your finances, but it’s important to schedule time with yourself to review these automations on the regular.
This is a good habit to practice for two reasons. First, to make sure money is making its way to the accounts as they should. Second, to review these payments in relation to your budget. Can you contribute more? Has something happened where you should be contributing less? If you have investment accounts, it’s good to review those accounts regularly as well.
Think of it as your monthly/quarterly/annual money check-up: a good way to stay financially healthy and keep you accountable for what you’d like to accomplish.
Try the “Three Good Things” Challenge
Have you heard of the practice of journaling three things you’re grateful for each day? It’s said to increase happiness and positivity and to have a profound impact on your overall wellness. I’ve done one of these challenges and it changed my life. That's why I decided to adapt this challenge to my financial life, and I began to write down three positive things I did for my finances each week.
It keeps the positive momentum going. One good act leads to another and soon you’ll create enough positive mojo to make some big financial changes. For example, last week I:
- Transferred a credit card balance to a 0% interest card
- Had four no spend days (out of seven!)
- Paid for a pet emergency in cash
They don’t have to be earth-shattering goals or even big money moves. Small behaviors add up to big benefits over time.
Try a Bigger, Tougher Challenge
If you read my site, you know I’m a big fan of 30-day challenges. They’re harder than you’d think to accomplish, but they shake up your life and routine in a big way. I’ve done several challenges – a 30 day no spend challenge, 30 days watching zero hours of television (this one was really difficult for me), and 30 days where I tried only eating at home. Not only are challenges like this good for your wallet, but they inspire you to think about how you could be living your life better. Double win!
Some of my favorite money challenges include a no spend challenge (where you only buy absolute necessities for 30 days) or a 30-day challenge where you purchase everything in cash.
Even if you can’t commit to 30 days of no spending, challenge yourself to simply not shop for thirty days and see how much cash you save.
I’m not here to tell you that getting cozy with your finances is a bad thing, or that putting your financial priorities on the back burner during big life changes is a sin (it isn’t, and I totally get it.) I’m simply reminding you that you should always be minding your money in both big ways and small. It’s okay to hunker down with your finances the way you do with a blanket, Netflix, and a big bottle of wine – just so long as you’re not doing it every night.