When you are dealing with financial anxiety and stress, it can be helpful to practice financial self-care. Just like in other areas of your life, the more consistently you deal with financial self-sufficiency, the better. So I emphasize the idea of building habits. The reality is that fear and stress are the constants of life. We ourselves don't have the luxury of removing these factors from our environment, but we do have tools to manage and reduce them.
Before I get into that, I want to point out that there is a pretty extensive list of options for financial self-sufficiency out there, but I've found that in combat, rather than trying to be a little less, we often indulge too much in perfectionism imperfect. I'll be the first to admit that it's really difficult not to go all-in while reading advice that sounds life changing. Often times we try everything to feel in control, and because of this, I'm not going to offer you the extensive list today. Instead, I hope to help you focus on taking things slow once so that you don't set yourself up for failure (and ultimately back to the state of fear you first found yourself in). You can use these three basic habits as a starting point for long-term financial self-care that you will work to improve over your life. With that in mind, let's dive in.
HABIT # 1: REVIEW AND CATEGORIZE YOUR TRANSACTIONS DAILY
Raising awareness of what and how much you've spent can be a cornerstone. Not only does this habit reduce the dreaded guessing game of your remaining month-end earnings and total expenses, but it can also help you make course corrections throughout the month to make sure you hit budgeting goals and cut down on areas you may or even regret Increase your spend in areas you enjoy. A few additional perks of this habit are saving time at the end of the month when you're someone who typically sits down for 4 to 5 hours to get organized and help you catch fraudulent transactions faster!
Pro tips for building this habit:
Just do it: If you are not already using mint, Download the app today So that all your transactions can be organized and easily viewed in one place.
Make it clear: Set a calendar reminder on your phone to check Mint at the same time every day. I would recommend going to work early in the morning before your day gets full.
Make it attractive: Review your spending for a ritual or habit that you enjoy doing. For example, when you sit down to have your coffee, open Mint to check your transactions.
Make it satisfying: After reviewing your transactions, do something rewarding. For example, after categorizing and reviewing, consider ticking off your to-do list for the day to see progress.
HABIT # 2: CHECK YOUR SAVING ACCOUNT DAILY
Checking your savings accounts is a great way to flood your brain with positive attitudes about your financial situation. Saving is a feeling of reward, and it is even more rewarding as your savings progress over time. Getting used to this habit is also a great reminder to actively save for each of your financial goals.
Pro tips for building this habit:
Just do it: Link your savings accounts to Mint and use the goal setting feature which allows you to adjust your savings goals and link your savings account to easily track your progress.
Make it clear: Set your phone's background to a photo of something you save for so that every time you check your phone it will remind you to save. Mint also allows you to add photos of your goals in the web version and in the app.
Make it attractive: In addition to checking your savings right after reviewing your transactions in Mint, consider starting a savings group with your friends and family. You don't have to talk about how much you saved, but you can talk about your goals and reach out to the group for motivation when you are tempted to spend what you would normally save.
Make it satisfying: Make sure you stand out for this habit by deleting it as a separate to-do list item as well. Also, try to make it a rule never to double-check your savings. Skipping a day here and there because life is in the way is perfectly normal. Just make a commitment to do it the next day.
HABIT # 3: REWARD YOURSELF 1X PER WEEK
I saved the best for last. Rewarding yourself is a critical step that most skip when trying to become more disciplined. Self-control can be a stressful experience, especially at the beginning. Make sure you have "free time" each week to do something for yourself. It doesn't have to be big and it doesn't have to take a lot of money. Think of it as a way to say yourself a good job when you are working hard and trying to improve.
Pro tips for building this habit *:
Just do it: Make your reward something that takes less than 2 minutes. Maybe it involves turning on a Netflix show, making a simple dessert, having a coffee at the Starbucks you just passed by, or even dancing to your favorite song in your living room.
Make it clear: As I write this, it sounds strange, but for some of us it is not good to set aside time for ourselves. So advocate for a consistent day and time to do what you want.
* There is no need to make it attractive and satisfying here, as the reward in and of itself reinforces the habit.
With that, you now have three habits to begin building a financial self-care routine. Try it out and let me know how to do it in the comments below.
Jackie Porter (3 posts)
Jackie Porter, M.S. is a behavioral scientist at Intuit and previously a writer for Intuit's Mint and Turbo products. She earns her PsyD in psychology and is a health and fitness fanatic.