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In the years we've been working together, I had never seen my boss in the break room getting his lunch ready until last week.  I knew him as one to go out every single day.  So, when I saw him in there last week, I did a double take.

He admitted that he had never been one to bring lunch from home, but wanted to start doing so regularly.  His motivation was both financial (saving money) and health (eating better).

He first told me that it had been a tough transition, simply because he wasn't used to making his lunch regularly.

This immediately made me look at how I handle my lunch, which is to bring it from home every single day.  Why?  Because making my lunch is now part of my automatic routine in the evening.  After dinner, I'll always spend five or ten minutes making a sandwich or putting together some leftovers for the next day, along with fruit, yougurt, and veggies.  This has become so habitual that I've even unthinkingly made my lunch on days where I haven't needed to (when the company provides lunch or something along those lines).

We talked, and he realized that the ‘habit forming' part is what was holding him back, and he is now working on developing new habits that will allow him to make this more part of his routine.  He is now portioning out a bit of what is served for dinner at the same time he takes his dinner plate.  This ensures that lunch gets made, since it ties in with eating dinner, something he does every day.

What does this have to do with finances?  Well, the same analogy could be used for determining the difference between those who exhibit good financial behavior and those who don't. It comes down to forming habits (and making sure they are good ones.

Here's just a few good financial habits that you should be making sure you have:

  • Save for retirement – If your employer offers a savings plan, sign up for it. They'll take it out of your paycheck automatically.
  • Pay your bills – Setup a calendar reminder and sign up for automatic bill pay when you can to ensure that you don't get any late payments.
  • Check your balances – Keep an eye on your bank and credit card balances every day.  Looking at them will make sure you're familiar with your spending and can lead to being able to avoid costly overdraft charges.
  • Stash your tax paperwork – If you get something important, put it in a basket or folder that you can then go through to file things away later.  Instead of doing a mad scramble at tax time or being without important documents, your habit of putting important stuff in the same spot will make for easier time come tax time.

There have got to be hundreds of other ways to develop good habits, from everything ranging to finances to making lunch.  The key is making it easy and repeating it.  After you repeat your good habits a few times, you won't even have to think about doing them, they'll just come naturally, leading to a better and less stressful life!