Personal finance can be a difficult topic for lots of us. It can be tough to remember to take some time each month to track our income and expenses. It isn't easy to reduce our unnecessary spending. Making a lunch each morning seems so much more difficult than just dropping by the local deli for a sandwich.
The trick to making all this stuff easy lies in our ability to turn them into habits. Habits can be powerful allies on our road to early retirement. Let's see how.
I floss my teeth every night. I started flossing regularly about five years ago. However, I knew I should be flossing about fifteen years ago; it just took about ten years to get into the habit.
When I first started flossing, I used to find it quite bothersome. I wasn't very good at it so it took a long time. I'd usually forget to do it and then remember shortly after I got into bed. When I ran out of floss, it would often take me a week or more to get around to getting more.
Little by little all that changed though. Now that I'm in the habit of flossing it doesn't take much effort at all. It's just part of my nightly routine and I hardly even notice I'm doing it. I'm good at it too so I don't have to stand in front of the bathroom mirror while I do it and it doesn't take very long at all. It's a habit and it's easy.
All that to say that if you stick with something, even if it is challenging or boring to start with, eventually you'll get into the habit and it won't be difficult anymore. So if you have a tough time tracking your spending just stick with it, it'll get easier and pretty soon you'll hardly even notice the extra time it takes once a month to tally up your income and expenses.
If you've gotten into the habit of impulse spending, over time there is no reason why you shouldn't be able to get into the habit of being frugal. It'll take time and dedication but once you've formed a habit it'll be easy. Really easy.
Sit down and make a list - either written or mental - of some habits that you'd like to form. Then start working at them. At first it won't be easy and you'll have to make a conscious effort to keep on track. Little by little, the conscious part will diminish and you'll be left on autopilot doing all these great things without even having to work at it!
I've already crossed daily flossing off my list and now I'm working on monthly expense tracking and morning exercises. I'm still in the forming stages. I sometimes let my expense tracking slip for a month or two and play catch-up. I also have a tough time getting down to the chin-up bar in the basement each morning. However, I'm looking forward to these things getting easier over the coming months and years.
So how about you, what habits have you formed? What ones would be good candidates for your 'habits to form' list?