Want a brighter financial future? Follow these tips to break free from bad money habits!
“I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it” – most of us will be familiar with these lyrics from a catchy pop song. Unfortunately, not all of us have the financial capabilities to actually buy anything we like at our whims and fancy (for now), so it might be better that we exercise caution when it comes to money. Money is an essential part of our daily lives, and how we manage it can have a significant impact on our financial well-being.
Good money habits are pretty straightforward: saving, investing, and budgeting. But what about the flip side of the coin – the bad money habits? While some bad habits like overspending are pretty obvi, others can be more subtle and harder to recognise.
We will discuss three bad money habits that you may not even know you have, and explain how to fix them. By identifying and addressing these habits, you can more confidently put on your big girl (or boy) pants and take control of your finances to set yourself up for long-term financial success. Yuh. So, whether you’re just starting out in your career or a student looking to improve your financial situation, read on to learn more about these common money mistakes and how to avoid them.
Bad Money Habit #1: Living Beyond Your Means
What Is It: Living beyond your means refers to spending more money than you have or can afford. Like adding more Taylor Swift merch to your cart than you actually need. We get it, we’re die-hard Swifties too. While it might feel fun and gratifying to buy things that you want, if you do it too often and spend more than you can afford, it can and will create problems for you. Honey, save yourself the anxiety.
How to Fix:
Follow the 50-30-20 Budgeting Rule
Ever heard of the 50-30-20 rule? One of the most basic ways to keep your money in check is to use your after-tax income (or allowance) in this proportion:
- 50% on daily needs. Groceries. Bills. All the essential stuff for survival.
- 30% on wants. Shopping. Travel. Things that you like but not needed for survival. (So, this is where your Taylor Swift merch falls under – it’s a want, not a need, stop arguing!)
- 20% on savings. For emergencies, rainy days and long-term goals.
This way, you’re not entirely cutting out your wants, just placing a limit on it. The process of budgeting with the 50-30-20 rule also allows you to have an overview snapshot of how much money you even have to begin with. Also, while it’s called a “rule”, it’s really more of a “guide” – feel free to tweak it to suit your needs.
Get that Side Income
If it’s difficult for you to slow down the outflow of money, then work on the inflow of money. That means working on the side hustle that brings you the extra dough. It can be a long-term commitment to a side or part-time job or even ad-hoc gigs.
For one, there are always paid research studies you can participate in (provided you fulfil the requirements). You can search for these paid research studies on various institutions’ websites, or Telegram groups that broadcast these research studies. A more straightforward solution is finding freelance jobs and gigs, which you can find on job portals and even Telegram groups, which are always being updated with new opportunities. A word of caution – if you’re going through “unofficial” channels like Telegram groups, make sure that you are extra vigilant against job scams. Here’s a handy resource about job scams from Scam Alert by the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC).
For something long-term, you can also opt to give tuition to younger students. In results-driven Singapore, the demand will always be there for private tutors. Pass on the generational trauma your knowledge by registering as a tutor on reputable tuition portals online and getting matched to a tutee!
Bad Money Habit #2: Eating At Expensive Places ALL The Time
What Is It: Think about it this way: when you go to a restaurant or buy fast food, you’re not just paying for the food, but also for the cost of preparing the food, the service, and other expenses. Not to mention the cost of transportation to and from the restaurant. These add up, and before you know it, you’ve already busted your budget. That’s not very slay.
How to Fix:
Dine at Cheaper Places
If you eat out, look for cheaper alternatives. While there is no need to give up eating at your faves, treat them as more of an occasional treat rather than a regular go-to. For coffee runs, try lower-cost cafes or your local coffee shop instead. Getting great food without breaking the bank is not as tough as it seems now, right? There are also restaurants that do not have service charges (no, not fake news), you just need to know where to look. 😉
Utilise Dining Vouchers and Dining Deals
Us Singaporeans are not known as kiasu for no reason. Dining deals are a godsend. 1-for-1 deals, lunchtime set discounts and the like are literally made for people like us who seek cheaper food options. Dining vouchers are also available on various websites or apps – some allow for discounts on meals just by reserving a table during non-peak hours. Remember, there’s zero shame in saving money.
Prepare Your Own Food
If you’re someone who eats out for lunch at school or at work, try packing your own lunch instead! You can save money and control what you eat by bringing your own food, a much healthier choice for both your stomach and your wallet. There you go, a guaranteed (Nutri) Grade A for you. Also, eating out may seem more convenient, but cooking can be too! Online video tutorials are a life-changer, trust us. It’s giving self-taught Masterchef. Gordon Ramsay is shaking. Cook in larger portions and save leftovers so that they can be eaten at a later time. This helps you not only save time on preparing food but also on cost since it is cheaper to buy ingredients in bulk. Psst, Price Kaki is an app that you can use to compare in-store prices of groceries. Trust us, these savings add up!
Bad Money Habit #3: Impulse Buying and Using “Retail Therapy” as an Excuse
What Is It: Impulse buying means buying something without thinking about it too much or without planning to buy it. Using “retail therapy” as an excuse means buying things to make yourself feel better emotionally, even if you don’t really need or can’t afford them. Both of these habits can be bad for your finances because you end up spending money on things that you don’t really need or want in the long term. Babe, we hate to break it to you, but there is a fine line between “self-care” and “instant gratification that is more destructive than productive”.
How to Fix:
Spend Small Each Time (or Don’t Spend At All!)
Keep the 50-30-20 rule in mind; 30% on wants, which is where this falls under! Using the framework in mind, set aside a small budget for yourself if you really do want to shop – and keep to it. Placing a limit on yourself prevents over-expenditure and just mindlessly spending away your money. Another alternative would be “window shopping”, where you just view items without actually purchasing them, giving yourself the psychological pleasure of browsing and shopping without any actual expenditure. Basically, gaslight yourself! Kidding.
Implement a 48-Hour Rule
Give yourself time to think over what’s in your cart! More often than not, impulse purchases seem more attractive in the moment than they actually are as they are driven by emotions. By setting aside time for yourself to calm down and reach a more rational state of mind, you can ponder over whether these items are things that you really need, or even want. Do we really need that sunset lamp? Or can we just borrow it from Stefanie from Marketing class?
Make (Online) Shopping Inaccessible
The most straightforward method would just be to delete your shopping apps temporarily — out of sight, out of mind! Take a step further by installing extensions that block pop-ups on shopping deals too. Removing these apps and pop-ups reduces the temptation of online purchases, as it eliminates the ease and convenience of doing so. When these apps and pop-ups are not in sight anymore, you’re likely to find an alternative to shopping to vent your emotions instead. You can just redownload them when you’re in a less unhinged, more rational state of mind.
To sum it all up, spending more than you can afford, eating out frequently, and impulse shopping can be dangerous for your financial situation. By budgeting, carefully considering and prioritising your expenses, or simply exploring different options, you can easily cut down on unnecessary spending.
Breaking bad money habits is a challenging but important process for achieving financial success and stability. Developing positive money habits such as tracking expenses, creating a budget, and regularly saving can help to reinforce new, positive financial behaviours.
While the journey may seem difficult, simply identifying and acknowledging bad money habits is the first step towards making positive changes in our financial behaviour. We stan self-aware kings and queens. Seeking support from family, friends, or a (trusted!) financial advisor can also be helpful in the process of fixing bad money habits. Remember besties, fixing bad money habits is a process that takes time, patience, and commitment, but with consistent effort, it is possible to break old patterns and build new, positive financial habits. You got this! It’s time we enter our money-savvy era. Periodt!