In general, a habit is when we act on "automatic pilot" when we perform a routine behavior. A personal habit can be thought of as the usual, regular, and repeated way of doing something.
Many of us handle money in a routine way, and our money behaviors might be so involuntary that we don't even realize any repeated patterns.
Some examples of common money habits include those who find themselves spending money right after payday, such as treating family or friends to a pizza or restaurant meal.
Another money habit might be shopping online late at night or donating to a favorite charity at the end of the year.
Again, the idea is that money habits happen regularly, without a lot of thought.
Your Money Habits
When our partners at GreenPath Financial Wellness speak with people about specific challenges they might be facing, it can be helpful to have a conversation about money habits and behaviors.
One of their clients, April from California, put it best:
"My GreenPath counselor took the time to discuss my money habits while providing options to help me overcome the financial burden we've accumulated, and also helped us develop an understanding and awareness of the driving factors behind our decisions and impulses. This has made us feel hopeful."
From family experiences to other factors such as social media, a range of influences shape our views of the world - including the money habits we put into practice each day.
Whether we have patterns of spending, saving, investing or even budgeting, these habits are usually shaped by our past experiences.
How we relate to finances is very much related to what we experienced in our families, and the money lessons people experience across the generations.
Perhaps our parents were not comfortable spending money and had a distrust when it comes to taking on debt. Or maybe we witnessed a family life where there was a high tolerance for spending and taking on loans for purchases both big and small. Whether we were in families that were big spenders or big savers, or somewhere along the spectrum, many people can identify with the role their family’s played in their money habits.
Movies, television shows and social media often romanticize the appeal of beautiful homes, nice cars, new gadgets, and brand-name clothing and jewelry. The media plays a big role in emphasizing the desire to have the latest and greatest of everything – despite the realities of our financial situation.
While the entertainment industry is a big part of our media diets, our social media feeds serve up a never-ending stream of photos and updates showing off expensive vacations, cars, elaborate events and more. As a result, many of us are tempted to “keep up with Joneses” and by ramping up our spending.
If spending is getting out of hand, for instance, due to the pressures of keeping up with a friend’s social posts, it might be time to slow down and take a hard look at spending. This is a significant influence on our money habits.
Attitudes and perceptions about how we handle our money are also influenced by the larger culture. For those living in a culture of consumption, the “buy now, pay later” philosophy is everywhere. For those in a culture that puts an emphasis on economic restraint, that philosophy and influence is likely quite different.
While cultural influences affect how we view money, we also have the power to choose how we interpret cultural exceptions. Many people turn the “conspicuous consumption” influence into a positive effect to encourage good money habits. They might see the cultural behaviors as life lessons on what not to do.
Know Your Money Habits
Habits are powerful!
Each of us has our own unique set of values and beliefs about money. Some people prioritize saving for the future, while others prefer to enjoy the present. Our values and beliefs shape our attitudes toward money and affect how we choose to spend, save, or invest.
Where do you stack up when it comes to money habits – especially when it comes to credit card debt?
All told, knowing your money habits is a good step toward financial health and wellness.