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9 Smart Money Habits You Need to Start Right Now (That Can Make You Rich)

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Are you adopting smart money habits so you can grow healthy, wealthy and wise?

When it comes to your finances, the patterns you create with your money can make or break you.

Some habits are ones you consciously develop. Others are ones you just kind of fall into.

But either way, they can have a big impact on your finances. So it pays (literally) to know what you’re doing when it comes to your money.

Stumped on which habits you should be developing to grow rich? I’ve got ya covered!

9 Smart Money Habits to Improve Your Finances

Before we dig into the list, here’s something you should know: I love money.

Not in a Scrooge-McDuck-swimming-through-a-vault-filled-with-gold kind of way, though. More like a money-is-a-tool-to-use-wisely kind of way.

So because I love and respect money, I’ve fine-tuned how I manage it.

That’s helped me to:

  • Save half my income consistently for the last four years
  • Contribute money regularly to my retirement account
  • Build college savings for my kids
  • Buy a home
  • Pay off all my debt, except my mortgage
  • Grow my freelance writing income to multiple six figures
  • Go from negative net worth to a six-figure one

Does any of that sound good to you?

If you said yes, then start putting these genius money habits to work!

1. Track Your Spending

This is such a simple thing but 59% of Americans don’t keep track of their expenses.

That is just insane to me. I mean, how are you going to manage your money and grow wealth if you have no idea where it’s going?

So, the first money habit you need to develop if you haven’t yet is tracking your spending.

That means every dollar you spend, even for small purchases.

Here are some different ways you can track spending:

  • Recording your expenses in a spreadsheet
  • Writing them down an expense tracking worksheet
  • Using an app or software

It doesn’t matter so much which one you choose. What’s really important is getting into the habit of tracking what you spend consistently.

This can help you with tackling money habit #2.

You might also like: Take the No-Spend Challenge to Get Your Budget Back on Track

2. Budget, Budget, Budget

Budgeting gets such a bad reputation and I really don’t understand why.

A budget is just a plan for how you spend the money that comes in each month. Having one was super important when I became a single mom and was living on a tiny income.

(And if you’re clueless about how to make a budget, check out this step by step tutorial.)

There are a ton of different budgeting systems you can use. For example, you might try:

  • Cash envelopes (or if you prefer digital, you can use an app like Mvelopes)
  • 50/30/20 budgeting (budget 50% of income for necessities, 30% for wants and 20% to savings/debt)
  • Zero-based budgeting
  • Budgeting with a spreadsheet
  • Using an app to budget

Again, the budget system you choose isn’t as important as sticking with it.

Pick a day each month to sit down and review your budget. Block off at least an hour you can devote to going over your income and spending. Then add a reminder to your calendar.

As you review your budget, compare your last month’s income to the current month’s. Then, go over your spending line by line to see what’s changed.

piggy bank with money3. Make Saving Part of Your Budget

“Pay yourself first” is the mantra of many a financial expert (myself included).

When you pay yourself first–meaning, putting money into savings before you pay bills or spend on wants–you can’t shortchange yourself, literally.

Because listen, nobody’s going to save money for you. So taking money right off the top every payday is one of the best money habits to get into to grow wealth.

Go back to your budget again. Did you add in a line for savings?

If you said no, then let’s see where you can find some money to save.

Go over every expense in your budget. Where can you cut back or cut out expenses?

Here’s a tip: it’s not always the big expenses like rent or utilities that are the budget-killers.

Sometimes it’s the small things that get you, like subscription services or bank fees. Luckily, you can use an app like Trim Financial Manager to avoid getting nickel and dimed.

Trim reviews your spending habits, cancels subscriptions you don’t need and helps you find better deals on your other expenses. Easy peasy!

Look at it this way: every penny you don’t spend is money you can add to savings. And even small amounts can add up.

Say you’re able to cut your spending down by $100 every month. You stick that cash in a savings account earning 2%. After 20 years, you’d have just shy of $30,000.

Not too shabby, right?

Those are 30,000 reasons to make paying yourself first one of your go-to money habits.

4. Automate Your Savings

Automation is the best thing ever, seriously.

All of my bills except one are on autopilot. (And of course, without fail I forget to pay it on time every month.)

Automating also works great for saving money and (hopefully) growing richer.

There are some crazy simple ways to automate your savings:

  • Ask your employer to direct deposit part of your paycheck into your savings account.
  • Schedule a recurring transfer from checking to savings every payday.
  • Use a money-saving app.

Now, I don’t get direct deposit from an employer since I run a business. But if you do, then it’s definitely something to consider. It’ll make your efforts to save so much easier.

Scheduling recurring transfers is also a great, low-stress way to build up your savings. When I was a married SAHM and my husband was the breadwinner, I had savings transfers set up so every payday we were stashing a little something away.

Apps are my personal favorite for managing money. I like to be able to see what I have coming in, what’s going out and where it’s going from my phone.

There are two apps that can help you get into the savings habit automatically:

Digit

Digit makes saving money totally painless.

Here’s how it works:

  • You link your checking account to the Digit app.
  • The app analyzes your spending patterns to find small amounts of money you can safely save.
  • Once those amounts are found, the app transfers the money to a Digit savings account.

Simple enough, right? And if you’re struggling to get into the swing of savings, easy is your best friend.

Acorns

So, here’s a big mistake you might be making when it comes to your money:

Assuming that saving and investing are the same thing.

Both of them involve putting money away for later but investing is the better way to grow wealth. Sure, investing can be riskier than just sticking money in a savings account but you could see a bigger return for your efforts.

Cue the Acorns app.

Acorns is a spare change investing app. You link your bank account and Acorns rounds up purchases, then invests the difference.

You can invest with pennies and grow a portfolio. To me, that’s genius considering how many people don’t invest because they think they don’t have the money.

Acorns doesn’t charge any trade fees or account minimums. If that sounds good, head here to open your account and get $5 to start investing!

5. Follow the 48-Hour Rule

Impulse spending is one of the worst money habits you can fall into. Because it’s so easy to spend money without planning it or even thinking about it.

The bad news is that impulse spending can eat away at your budget, leaving you with nothing to save.

And nobody’s going to get rich that way, right? (Well, except maybe whoever you’re handing your money over to.)

So, how do you break the impulse spending habit?

One trick that works well for me is imposing a 48-hour wait period on bigger purchases.

It’s a simple enough rule. If there’s something you want to buy, you wait 48 hours before pulling the trigger.

That’s long enough to decide whether you truly need, want and can afford whatever it is you’ve got your eye on.

I’m not the type of person who’s super into stuff anyway (other than books) so this rule works well for me.

If you’re still overspending even with the rule, here’s a tip I picked up from Kari at Money for the Mamas: calculate your real hourly wage.

What’s Real Hourly Wage?

Your real hourly wage is what you make after taking out taxes and any expenses you have to pay to go to work, like daycare or gas.

So if your job pays you $20 an hour and half of that goes to taxes and expenses, then your real hourly wage is $10. You then use that as a guide for spending.

Specifically, before you buy something you ask yourself how many hours you’d need to work at your real hourly wage to afford it. So, a purse that costs $100 would require 10 hours of work, using the $10/hour example.

It really helps put your spending in perspective and figure out the difference between needs and wants.

6. Use Banking Alerts

Banking alerts can be a lifesaver and a money-saver.

I’ve sidestepped credit card fraud more than once thanks to alerts. But you can also use them to help you grow your savings.

First, you can set up alerts to track debit and credit card purchases.

This is helpful because spending with a debit or credit card doesn’t have the same psychological impact as spending cash. Spending cash is painful but swiping a card doesn’t have the same sting.

Setting up an alert for every purchase is a reminder that you’re spending actual money, not pretend money floating around in the ether.

Next, you can set up balance alerts on your cards.

With your debit card, you want to set up a low balance alert. This can let you know when your balance drops below a  certain point so you know to put the brakes on spending.

With your credit card, you’d want to set up a high balance alert. That’s also a signal to stop spending and work on paying down some of what you owe.

Together, these alerts can help you keep your spending in check. And those kinds of money habits are what you want if you’re trying to pile up savings.

smart money habits

7. Boost Your Money IQ

So, as a freelance writer, I’m a recognized expert in the finance niche. Big companies pay me gobs of cash to write about money.

But that doesn’t mean I know everything there is to know about it.

I’m still learning about money and finance all the time. For example, I recently got a crash course in trading options for a piece I had to write for an investing platform.

And if you’re serious about making the most of your money, learning about it should be one of the money habits you cultivate.

My favorite way to learn about money is by reading finance blogs and websites. But you might prefer finance books or podcasts about money.

It really doesn’t matter how you learn as much as it does that you learn.

So try to block off 30 minutes to an hour every week that you can spend learning about money. If you feel like you don’t have time for it, think of it as a kind of financial self-care.

8. Be a Money Goal-Setter

If you’re not setting goals for your money, you’re completely missing out.

Because it’s not enough to just say you want to save more money or grow wealth. There has to be some action that goes along with it.

That’s where goals come in.

When you have a goal (or two, or three or 10) for your money, it’s easier to define the action steps you need to take to get there.

And you want to make those steps as specific as possible.

So if you’re trying to save $10,000 for emergencies or pay off $5,000 in debt, break it down.

  • How much money can you put towards your goal each month right now?
  • Can you find any extra money in your budget to help your goal along?
  • What’s your time frame for achieving your goal?
  • How will you measure your progress towards your goal?

Digging into the details makes you more invested in your goal. (Pun totally intended.)

And when you’ve got the steps laid out right in front of you, it’s so much easier to stay motivated.

9. Get Creative With Your Income

Whoever invented this whole making money online thing is honestly a genius.

I, for one, am all about running businesses from home and working online side hustles to make money.

And paying attention to what you make is important if you want to really get on the path to riches.

Listen, I know money isn’t everything but it definitely makes having the kind of lifestyle you want easier.

So, if you’re not into growing your income and making more money, then just skip on to the end. But if you’re cool with earning a bigger paycheck, then think about what you can do to make it a reality.

Could you start a side hustle?

Maybe freelance writing or being a virtual assistant could be your thing?

Or you have some completely different idea for an online business?

I like online money-making ideas because working from home is an absolute dream. But if you’re committed to a career path in the real world, then consider how you could level up your earnings.

That might mean asking for a raise or promotion at your current job. Or maybe you’re thinking of looking for a new job altogether.

Earning more money, whether you do it online or off, can help you get one step closer to wealth.

piggy bank

Which Money Habits Do You Use to Improve Your Finances?

I hope you’ll put some of these tips to work if you aren’t already–I know from experience what a difference they can make in your financial life.

Do you have a killer money practice you follow? Head to the comments and tell me about!

And please pin and share this post if it helped you!

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Hi there, I'm Rebecca, homeschooling single mom of two. I built a six-figure freelance writing business from home and now I teach busy moms how to save money, make money and master their time! Follow me on Pinterest and Twitter and don't forget to check out the Resource Library--it's packed with tons of free tools to help make the busy mom life easier!

Comments

  1. Great advice and beautiful blog!! I love the 48-hour rule! It’s so true that buying is impulsive and giving it sometime can help you kick that urge.

    I will be sharing as well.

    Nicole @ nicolestone.com

    • Thanks Nicole! Impulse buying is definitely a budget-killer and sometimes, just waiting a couple of days can help you get perspective on whether you should really be spending money or not.

  2. Wow! We recently began to be more fiscally conscious and I think we do MOST of the activities you suggest here. We are certainly more careful about how we spend, because we have designated some specific savings goals. We like traveling now, so when we are tempted to spend on something that is not absolutely necessary, we ask ourselves if it’s worth cutting into our travel money to purchase it. We usually decide that it is not. This has helped us save more and spend less overall. Thanks for reminding us how far we’ve come.

    • That’s so great that you’re working on improving your money situation! Definitely paying attention to your money habits is important and I think people often make financial choices without really thinking them through. Keeping your main goal (travel) in sight as a way to manage spending is really smart!

    • Thanks Blake! Saving is a hard money habit to develop if you’re not used to it but once you start saving, it’s really motivating to watch your money pile up.

  3. I’m a notorious impulse spender… It’s definitely gotten me into trouble many times. I’ve started adhering to a budget about a year ago and it has helped tremendously. I love the idea of making money online to help payoff debt and create extra income. It’s a great opportunity available to just about everyone! It’s why I decided to start blogging! Digit sounds like something I could totally benefit from. I will have to look into that!

    • Sticking with a budget can really make a difference and keep you from giving in to those impulse buys. Making money online is great and I think everybody should be looking into that. Even if you don’t want to start a business, there’s plenty you can do to make extra cash as a side hustle. And Digit is awesome, definitely check it out!

    • You’re welcome Sarah! Money is what I know best because it’s what I write about as a freelancer day in and day out. But it can be a little intimidating so reading and learning about money can definitely help!

  4. Great post, which reminded me how much budgeting is important. I need to get back on track in order to manage my finances.

    • Thanks so much! Putting savings into your budget as an expense is a great money habit to get into. Once you start treating saving like a bill that has to be paid every month, it becomes a lot easier to follow through with it.

    • Thanks John! Pay yourself first is great money advice and I wish more people followed it. It’s a simple thing but it can make a huge difference to your financial outlook!

  5. These are great tips! I totally agree that saving money is so important. My husband and I put off a honeymoon and a vacation for nearly three years so that we could continue saving, and paying off most debts that we had. It was very much worth it!
    Ashley recently posted…3 Ways to Make Your Day SuccessfulMy Profile

    • Thanks Ashley! Saving is always worth it in my opinion, even if it means delaying some of your other money goals. It’s a hard habit to get into sometimes but once you commit to saving regularly, it does get a lot easier.

  6. Great post! You seem to really know your stuff, and I like your presentation style too. I will definitely be checking out the rest of your blog some more! I love the “real hourly wage” idea… that seems like the one that would hit home the most. And I also like the idea of putting alerts on the balance of your banking or credit accounts. I don’t know how to set that up though. Do you have a post about that?
    Rebecca | rebeccaspianokeys.com recently posted…Why Your Brain Loves Daily Piano PracticeMy Profile

    • Thanks Rebecca! That real hourly wage thing is definitely an eye-opener and a great way to get perspective on how to value your time when it comes to spending. Alerts can be a huge time- and money-saver and it’s not that difficult to set them up. I don’t have a post on that, no but if you have online or mobile banking, it’s super easy to do. With my bank, for example, I can do it through the mobile app. You just login and go to your notification settings and from there, you can set up any of the alerts your bank offers. Same thing with your credit cards!

  7. I love the 48 hour rule! There have definitely been times when my hubby and I made an impulse buy that we regretted down the road. Had we known about this then, we could have prevented that roadblock, haha. I will definitely be keeping this in mind for future reference!

    • Me too! It’s a simple rule to follow but it can be really effective for managing what you do or don’t decide to spend. Helps avoid that pesky buyer’s remorse later, which is always good for your bottom line!

  8. Love this post. I made the mistake of not budgeting for years and it really hurt me. Budgeting helps me to not be broke, but still be able to have fun and do things that I want. Moderation is key.

    • Thanks! I love what you said about budgeting helping you to not be broke, that’s a great way to look at it! And yes, balancing both against each other is essential for your financial health.

    • Thanks Petra! It’s amazing how much of a difference just waiting a day or two can have on your attitude to spending. Definitely give it a try and see what kind of results you get!

    • Hi Lanae, Acorns and Digit both are good ways to ease into saving if you’re not used to it. They basically do the work for you so you don’t really have to think about saving or investing.

  9. The 48-hour rule is genius! I’m an impulse buyer, and I end up buying way too many cute clothes for my daughter. It adds up! I’m going to try the 48-hour rule next time! Thanks for the great tips 😄

    • Thanks Kellie! Definitely try it out. From my experience, there have been so many times that I haven’t bought something because I waited and in the end, I realized I didn’t really need whatever it was I was looking at. It’s been a real money-saver!

    • That’s awesome Kimberlie! Definitely give Digit a try, or Acorns too for that matter. If you’re not used to the savings habit, both of those apps can make it easier to get started.

  10. Hi Rebecca,

    Great advice. I so agree that budgets get a bad rap! It almost seems like people have an aversion to budgeting. My guess is because everyone wants everything. And being on a budget means you have to control your spending impulses.
    But I can attest that a budget is my BFF. It has saved me from the gripping jaws of debt. And now I am 1 month away to being 100% Debt Free!!

    • Hi DeShena, thanks! I don’t know why people get so down on budgeting, I guess it’s a control thing. But budgeting really puts you in control of your money. That’s so awesome that you’re almost debt-free! My only debt is my mortgage but I’ve still got a way to go with paying it off.

  11. Thanks for sharing this – some great advice we can all learn from to try and save a little more. I particularly like the 48hour rule!

    • You’re welcome! The 48-hour rule is good because it makes you really think about whether you want to spend. Helps cut down on impulse buys that you might regret later.

    • You’re welcome! The 48-hour rule is so helpful–even if you just use a 24-hour rule, that’s enough to decide if you really want to spend. And definitely check out Acorns, it’s great!

  12. These are amazing tips. I’m quite frugal with my money but I really need to start automating savings and I really love your 48-hour rule and I try to abide by that one when I do consider something more of a luxury than a necessity. Thanks for the great tips!

    • You’re welcome, Jenn. Automating makes life so much easier and giving yourself some time to cool down so to speak when you want to buy something is really helpful for saving money.

  13. This is such a great list! I agree with all of them but my favorite is #8. Goal setting had changed our lives. I used to set goals in other aspect of my life and never thought to do money goals and when I did, I should have started sooner. Thanks for sharing these comprehensive money habits.

    • You’re welcome Charity! Goal-setting is great, especially for your money. It’s just so much easier to take control of your money and do what you want with it when you have a clear purpose in mind.

  14. I love it that you highlighted to make saving a part of the budget! It seems that if you wait, and try and save what is “leftover”, there’s never anything left over to save! Such a smart move to save first!

    • Thanks, Kari! I learned the hard way that if you don’t make a point of including saving in your budget then you’ll just never get around to it. When you make saving part of your regular monthly budgeting routine it becomes so much easier to stick to the habit.

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