Picking up bad habits is soooo easy, as is falling back to default, often dangerously destructive ways.
Eating sweets or junk food is a bad habit. I’ve never been a fan of junk food but sweets, ooooh that I can eat. Especially when I feel tired or restless (maybe that’s why I work so much, hmmm… something to think about). The only way that I know of how to cope with not eating sweets is not to buy any.
And bad financial habits aren’t any different from bad eating habits. We tend to promise ourselves that the next month we will keep our spending under control, but unless we track it meticulously and cut down on vanity purchases, it’s really hard to build a safety stash, invest or start on the road to FI (financial independence). Besides, if the process towards FI or even financial security isn’t fueled by organic growth but rather carries a feeling of deprivation, it won’t work.
I’ve done it millions of times. Whenever I felt deprived of something, be that food, shopping trip or experience, I would bounce back threefold (just like with diets). For instance, after weeks of not buying take away coffees, I have weeks of drinking it every day. After months of not eating sweets and not missing sugar that much, I would cave in and munch on sweets, leaving myself open to destructive sugary cravings (sugar doesn’t make me feel that fantastic long term).
It’s the same with establishing and nurturing new financial habits. If we cut out from our budgets too much and too soon, the odds of not keeping up with our goals are pretty high. Hence, establishing new habits shouldn’t feel like deprivation but like a conscious choice for new, more positive and productive habits.
Personally, I would always choose to go on holiday twice a year over eating out once or twice a month. However, not everyone would see my choice in the same light. Many people would consider my choice as a deprivation of some sort.
I’ve noticed that bad habits are built on unfortunate decisions and choices that have negative consequences, either immediately (if you drink too much on an empty stomach, you will feel sick), or some time in the future (if I had started investing in Index Funds in my 20’s, I would have been financially independent by now).
I feel that bad habits are our body’s reaction to life pressures, stress and unhappiness. Unlearning them takes much more than just positive affirmation, believing and cutting out them cold. It takes understanding why those habits came into our lives, how they influence our daily existence, decisions and choices. Anxiety can be fueling overeating, stress and unhappiness could be triggering anxiety. (most of my anxiety is work-related)
Unlearning bad habits takes time because understanding one’s actions and conditioning them take time. So kindness, time and space are a must in this process.
When it comes to making financial decisions, I feel that the first step is to unravel the wrappers around our bad investing and spending habits to understand why we have made those decisions in the first place, as well as the conditioning and short-lived awards possibly attached to those choices, often fueling and pushing us over the bad habits trajectory.
If you plan to become financially independent, having a strong “why” and knowing why you want that independence badly will help you overcome all those bad habits and change them into positive ones.
If you are like me, far from perfect, unlearning bad habits takes years and lots of inner work. First, set yourself small goals and try to follow through. If you cannot at the first try, it’s ok. You can re-set your goals again next day, next week or next month. I try to set myself monthly goals to see how far I can push myself and see if the new habits stick.
Just recently, I set up a Patreon account for my creative work. This small act of kindness towards my creativity allowed me to see how much I’ve created over the years. For now, Patreon will be my umbrella where I park all of my creative projects while publishing new films or books monthly and other smaller creative endeavours weekly. It was an eye-opening exercise, especially to realise how, at times, I thought I didn’t do “anything”, where in fact, I was just stupidly unkind to myself.
At the moment the bed habit I’m trying to drop involves increasing my income by 10% each month and charge the actual prices for my services (I tend to undercharge badly. A very usual behaviour across the creative sector, especially amongst women). I don’t know how doable it is now, but let’s see how far I can go.
It’s been a year since I started investing in Index Funds (after reading JL Collins’ fantastic and life-changing book), and I have to say I made massive progress without depriving myself of anything.
I work part-time for an organization that pays me monthly (when I opened my Vanguard account, I was on maternity leave) and I also freelance and do consultation work. 50% of my pay goes towards investments or emergency/holiday stash.
Seeing my money and savings grown makes me realise that a lot can be achieved in one short year, including eradicating bad habits. In my case, finally seeing money as a commodity that could make me truly free, not just something to spend. Since this one destructive habit is out of the way, I’m ready to take on another one. Keep your fingers crossed for me.
What are the bad habits that you have been trying to unlearn? Do you have any tips you could share? I would love to hear from you.