Get Financially Fit With Good Habits

Personal character is made of habits. Bad ones just seem to happen, while good habits are usually the result of considerable effort.

Some people act as if their habits were issued at birth and are not likely to ever change. There are a select few, however, who know and live by the truth: It is possible to learn good habits and unlearn bad ones, no matter how ingrained or deep-seated. It’s all a matter of choice.


Some rights reserved by Rennett Stowe

The secret of learning good habits or breaking bad ones is found in conscious repetition—fueled by knowledge, skill, and motivation. One must repeat an action over and over and over again until it becomes a natural response: a habit.

To become more financially responsible, consciously focus and follow these seven habits, repeating them over and over until they become natural responses:

HABIT 1. Financially responsible people regularly balance their checkbook and online accounts. They calculate a current balance after every transaction. Yes, after every transaction!

HABIT 2. Financially responsible people think first and spend later. Thinking first means determining ahead of time whether the purchase is necessary or prudent. It means waiting. It means seeking out the best deal and being willing to walk away if necessary.

Habit 3. Financially responsible people save money consistently. They simply do not spend all the money they have. Financially responsible people save money first, before they pay everyone else. Saving is a long-term process, and, if necessary, sacrifices are made to achieve their savings goals.

Habit 4. Financially responsible people don’t see the monthly payment, but focus instead on the total price tag. These folks see through the marketing tactics and zero in on the true cost and bottom line.

Habit 5. Financially responsible people know precisely their financial condition. They usually know within a few bucks the current balance on their mortgage or other secured loans. They are keenly aware of and regularly update their net worth, and they habitually make each financial move in light of the effect it will have on their net worth.

Habit 6. Financially responsible people refuse to live under the fantasy of entitlement. They are not driven to keep up with their family, friends, and neighbors. They are content to live joyfully within the limitations of their means.

Habit 7. Financially responsible people’s actions are based upon principles, not feelings. This compels them to pay their bills on time; to deal fairly and honestly with people; to give generously, and to restrain their compelling desires and find contentment in the things which really matter.

Becoming financially responsible is a process. In my case, it was a long process. I sabotaged myself for many years, convinced that I could never change. But I was wrong. I have changed and continue to make new progress every single day. And you can, too. I would consider it a privilege to walk the path of financial responsibility with you.


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13 replies
  1. Kay in Florida says:

    I have found that if I have a “system” for posting my transactions (checkbook and credit cards) immediately after each expenditure, I have much more peace of mind, not to mention more control over my finances. The tool I use to do this is Quicken. It is great! I also keep a magnetic file on the side of my filing cabinet filled with folders: To Be Posted, a separate folder for each of my two credit cards, Medical, and Other. After posting expenditures, I move the receipts to the appropriate folder. When it’s time to pay my bills, I have everything organized and ready to pay. I also keep a monthly folder in my file cabinet to hold all my cash receipts and credit card statements after I’ve paid them. I save them for a year in case I need to refer back to them. Additionally, I keep folders to collect Income Tax information, with a folder each for: Medical, Forms, Charity, and Other. My husband and I always know where we stand financially. Works great!

  2. Jo says:

    Must admit I’m bad about not balancing our checking account following each entry. I carry it in my head – dangerous for sure. I will focus on doing better about that in 2013. We live on one salary and receive it only once a month (hubby’s a teacher). At first I thought that would be impossible to budget but in reality I think it’s better. We MUST focus on when and where we spend money outside of set bills because there is only one source and it only shows up once a month!

  3. Angie L says:

    It does mean taking care of the check book at least several times a week. It means looking at the bank website at any charges that come through that are not made by you. Maybe your hubby decided to run out for lunch. It shows up almost immediately at my bank if the debit card is used. No excuses anymore not knowing what’s going on at the bank.
    It means waiting. No buying stuff just because you feel like going shopping. This is a hard one for me. I am trying to find other distractions so I will not step foot into the store to just ‘shop’. Even when I REALLY want to.
    My goal is to also keep a cash envelope for grocery purchases. And one for my husband so he doesn’t need to go to ATM for cash. Lots of bad habits to break, but we are working on them.

    • Lynda says:

      We are also working on bad habits. Newly retired, we have a very limited monthly income with only a small savings. I have said we have no wiggle room and my hubby said “but I can/should still be able to buy a hamburger whenever I want one”. Trying to teach him when that line item is empty, that means no more. Tough for me too as we bought a foreclosure house, with cash to not have mortgage payments, but do not have the money to do needed repairs and basic niceties i.e. flooring (only have sub flooring), paint, etc. I did buy a range, lol, to do more cooking at home.

  4. matchgirl says:

    My husband has always handled our financial matters. Keeps track of pension payments, social security payments and pays our mortgage and bills on line. This year I plan to keep track of payments and learn how to pay mortgage and bills on line.

  5. kc-tford says:

    This year I quit drinking and already seeing a difference in my spending money.

    Just a $8 or $9 dollar a glass wine at dinner every week or so adds up! No ones really cares what you are drinking anyway. Just give me some ginger ale and I will safely drive myself home!

  6. Rich says:

    We are finally going to quit giving money to our irresponsible daughter and son-in-law and attempt by this to make her develop some good money habits. With her, it is always someone or something else that makes her broke, never her fault.

  7. Kitsy says:

    I am going to try to withdraw spending money from my checking account once a month instead of going to the ATM every time I need cash. I don’t have to pay any fees for the ATM withdrawal, but I have been negligent about checking the ATM slips against my bank account, so it’s possible there have been mistakes made and I never knew it. A big problem is that with the bank acct online, I can’t physically cross off the ATM charge when I cross check it with my slip. I suppose I can check it off on the ATM slip, but what if there are extra ATM charges (duplicates…it happened to me once)? Also, my husband just piles up his ATM receipts in his car and never brings them into the house. Help!

    • Petoskey says:

      Are you able to get a checkbook ledger, or something similar from an office supply store or Target/similar, and keep your balance that way? To me it sounds like you have an on-line account, like Ally or ING?

  8. kgrannemann says:

    Thanks, Mary, for this thought-provoking discussion. What am I taking on for 2013? I do balance my checkbook immediately at the end of each month. What I haven’t done is update it after every single expense. This has often caused me problems of shock, embarrassment, even fear, and insufficient fees charges. So – that will be one of my new practices, to update my check book balance after every purchase.

    • Petoskey says:

      I’ve made that same mistake before – not entering debit purchases at the grocery store, etc. until a few days later. I now deduct them from the checkbook register when I get home; it takes a while to get in the practice (which we all should have been doing anyway!) but boy – what a difference! My next challenge is going to work on an envelope for my wallet with grocery/gas money and not using the debit card. Small steps… Good luck!

      • Lynda says:

        I have found that going to my bank account online daily gives me a picture of what my balances are. I think Mary had recommended the free online software Mint and I use that and it shows me all my account balances in one location, including mortgage vs value and shows my net worth. It is updated multiple times a day.

  9. jazzy jan says:

    only giving christmas presents to children school age and under. a christmas eve party for the adults good food and fun. also,adults and kids will be indulged at their birthdays! balloons and all.


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