I was listening to a Choose FI podcast (Episode 67) and one of the guests (David Cain of Raptitude.com) spoke about this idea of tracking your habits before actually trying to make progress in changing that particular habit. I think it’s such an amazing yet simple concept and feel it’s going to help tons of people really start to make changes in their lives.
I am going to focus on building great money habits but this concept can be applied to any aspect of life. Eating habits, spending, parenting, physical activity and beyond. It’s more of a life hack than it is a personal finance or money hack.
Let’s take budgeting an break it down, so many people want to budget or have started budgeting but have a hard time keeping up with the task. It becomes pretty overwhelming and I think I can identify one of the reasons why.
We tend to sit down at our dining room tables and think something along the lines of “I am going to budget and become great at it by tomorrow morning”. When in all actuality it doesn’t quite work that way. Remember you’re working on a habit you’ve had for a long time now and are trying to change it.
I call this “Information before Implementation” and it isn’t some new idea but I feel as though it just isn’t talk about enough. Simply gather information or data when it comes to your spending habits first. Maybe for an entire month so you can get a clear picture of where money is going. Pay close attention to what you ae spending money on, track it and write it down. After 30 days or so you can take this data and start your budget. Once you see where you money is going you can start to tell it where to go. This will only work if you are brutally honest with yourself so don’t cut any corners, really track your habits!
We’ve been taught to start with the budget, which is great and works perfectly fine for most people. But this idea of taking your time and kind of leaning into your budget really does take a lot of the stress and anxiety out of getting started. There is an important mental shift that needs to take place when you take on the task of budgeting (especially if it’s not something you’re accustomed to doing). This approach makes that mental shift easier and that makes the entire task easier.
Same goes for any other area of your life you want to work on. If it’s eating habits simply keep a log of what your consuming daily and even document the times of the day you are eating and drinking. This data is going to help you make better choices when eating. The key is to start slow and make sure you aren’t trying to change your life in a day. The journey matters so embrace and experience it fully. You will find that your going to start to improve almost immediately because now your actually paying close attention to what your doing. The next time you pick up a bag of chips at the grocery store you’re going to stop and think to yourself “Do I really need this snack? It’s going to cost a few dollars more than I wanted to spend and it really isn’t that good for me anyway”. The tracking alone will help you improve, it’s magic!