Wednesday, August 22, 2007

My MOMA Advice

I was tagged by Stealth Wealth to continue Moolanomy’s My One Money Advice (MOMA) Meme. Moolanomy is trying to promote financial responsibility and awareness in our hyper consumption society.

The question: If you can give one advice, tip, or story related to money, what would you share?

My advice is to form habits. It doesn't really matter what they are, but remember there's a difference between forming habits and picking them up (at least in the way I use the words). Forming implies some directed effort, I think, whereas picking up implies that it's all happenstance. Picked up habits are often bad, whereas formed habits are often virtuous. Exercising regularly, for instance, doesn't just happen for many people, it has to be consciously achieved.

Today, a lot of things in the financial realm of our lives can be automated. Many bills can be paid automatically, savings can be deducted from your paycheck, IRA and 401(k) contributions can be made automatically. Those should be taken advantage of whenever possible, but it's interesting that automating your life externally is in a sense a way to avoid forming good habits internally. So even though I make automatic payments when I can, I still have mixed feelings about it because I don't think it provides you with the same benefits.

One of the habits that I'm trying to form right now is checking my mail regularly. Sad huh? In the past I have gone for a month at a time without checking the mail. One time the mailbox was so full that the mailman left me a note saying he couldn't fit any more mail into the box! I think I picked up that habit through classical conditioning -- when I had a lot of credit card debt, going to the mailbox began producing the same sense of dread as opening the mail to find a credit card statement that I felt like I had no hope of paying off.

Oftentimes, a good habit may seem totally unrelated to your finances, but will nonetheless have an impact. For instance, a seemingly non-financial habit I'm trying to form is keeping my apartment clean. This includes taking the trash out regularly, doing the dishes each night, vacuuming, etc. What's that have to do with finances? Well now that it's cleaner, I realize that I used to seek to escape my apartment by going out and doing useless stuff that ended up wasting a lot of money. I would go out to a cafe to have an expensive coffee just to be in a different environment. I went out for dinner a lot because the kitchen was too messy.

Another nice habit is getting up early and having a morning routine. I'm one of those people who, for most of their life, got up at the last minute, threw on some clothes, and always seemed to be a few minutes late. I want to be the kind of person who gets up early, makes a nice breakfast, and has a cup of coffee with the morning paper. Financial benefit: eating breakfast regularly at home will save lots of money compared to stopping at the drive through. Health benefit: well, it's a lot healthier too.

But the main benefit of forming habits isn't the immediate financial payoff. It's that you become a more responsible and balanced person and, I feel, you are more connected to life. In the long run, I think that can have a huge impact on your finances and general well-being.

If anybody wants to suggest some other good non-financial habits that end up having a positive impact, I'd love to hear about them. :)


stealthy said...

VERY GOOD POINT about how habits we form that are not related to finances can affect our finances. The example about keeping a clean house is so true.

SavingDiva said...

Great post! I never thought about it...but you're totally right. I'm also glad that I'm not the only person that struggles with keeping my apartment clean :)

BTW--WHY DON'T YOU CHECK YOUR MAIL?! I check mine obsessively! I LOVE mail! I guess it's because I get a lot of magazines...

SavingDiva said...

Not exactly another comment about your advice from this post...but I just wanted to say thank you for finding that info about my car. I will check it out when I get home!

mariam said...

Wow. This is deep. I thought you were going with how you saved money by not hiring a maid. :) I will use this to motivate me when I clean up!