With just small, repeated actions, we can change our whole world—even our financial picture, says blogger Kara Perez.
One of my worst habits is grinding my teeth. I do it unconsciously, but I do it every day. At my recent dentist appointment, my dentist told me that while my teeth are fine at the moment, I was setting myself up for extensive dental work in the future.
This one habit of mine, repeated day in and day out, could have a major impact on the rest of my life. That’s the power of habit: with small, repeated actions comes big impacts. Harnessing the power of financial habits can be more impactful than any other money tip out there.
Habits are consistent, and consistency breeds motivation. Jerry Seinfeld, one of the most successful comedians of all time, preaches the power of habit. When a young comedian asked him for a piece of advice, Seinfeld told him to get a large wall calendar and hang it somewhere he would see every day.
Each day he wrote a joke, the young comedian was to mark a big red X on the calendar. After a few days, a chain would start to appear. The longer the comedian went with writing every day, the longer the chain would get. There comes a point where he wouldn’t want to break the chain, Seinfeld told him. A chain of seven days is good. A chain of seven weeks is great. A chain of seven months? That’s downright incredible.
It’s in this way that consistency breeds motivation. You don’t want to break the chain, so you keep at the habit. You continue building. You look at that chain of red marks on your wall and want it to keep going. Dedication and visual motivation are a powerful combination.
Applying the “don’t break the chain” tactic to your finances is easy. Get yourself a calendar, hang it up, and, instead of writing a joke a day, save one dollar a day. Mark your calendar off. At the end of the month, you’ll have an extra $30 to put into your savings account—or more than $360 if you go all year. If you want to get really crazy, try saving $5 a day. That’s an extra $150 a month, or more than $1,800 a year.
Another tactic is to pick one day a week where you manually transfer money from your checking to your savings. You can automate this, but for the first few weeks, do it manually. Set a reminder on your phone and move a small amount over.
You’ll begin to hold yourself accountable to that savings date. You won’t want to break the chain, so you’ll prioritize having money to move over. Maybe you skip happy hour one week to make sure you have the cash in your checking account.
Hold yourself to a new standard, and then that standard will become your habit. At first, you’ll have to make an adjustment to your thinking and your spending. Over time, it will simply become how you do things. You will make that new standard your new normal.
That’s the real beauty of habit: Within ourselves, we have the power to change things simply by repeatedly doing things a new way. A lightning bolt doesn’t have to strike us, and an earthquake doesn’t have to shake us. With just small, repeated actions, we can change our whole world—even our financial picture.
When Jerry Seinfeld started, he wrote one joke. One joke became two, two became three, and so on. You can do the exact same thing. One dollar can become two, two can become three, onward and upward. You can save a large amount of money simply by sticking to it.
Kara Perez is a freelance personal finance writer living in Austin, Texas. She is passionate about helping people become financially literate and telling people’s money stories.
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