Aligning financial habits and goals

A habit forming turnaround strategy

I don’t like the credit card, but the credit card loves me.

Don’t we all hate those times when we fall into temptation? We buy that chocolate cake and eat it. and gain 230kg overnight. We try and try again to say no to the chocolate cake, but it loves me so much. Needless to say, I buy it just to put it on display in the house – the purpose is never to eat it.

How about not buying the chocolate cake in the first place…? What a profound thought! If we can stop something from happening or put ourselves in a place where we do what we need to do, it would greatly increase our chances of being successful.

In my first post in a series on goals, I would like to explore ideas that’s been playing out in my head, including achieving something (often anything), positioning yourself for greatness and spending money on things you value.

I have been greatly influenced by James Clear and his book “Atomic Habits”, which I can highly recommend, as well as other sources – so let’s dig in.

Don't underestimate the power of habits

“People overestimate what they can accomplish in a year–and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade (Quote by Bill Gates)”

Let’s continue on our story of the chocolate cake. So you fall once and decide to dig in and finish the whole cake all by yourself. It wasn’t a huge thing, and you couldn’t feel it in your budget really. So you do it again the next day. And the next. And suddenly you find yourself mobidly obese, flat broke with loads of credit card debt and your teeth seems to be looking quite smashing. Habits compound – today it’s not an issue, but over time, it can be powerful – so never underestimate the power of habits.

Make goals achievable

How many times have you heard someone tell you to “just stop”..? We all know that things don’t just happen, but we can make a plan to make it a bit simpler – and it’s a lot less effort than what you may think.

Obviously the first step would be to define the goals. No one will be able to tell you what you want to achieve, but I can advise that you should pick goals that are in line with your personality. I do realise that you might want to stretch yourself, and this is also good.

Once you have goals in place, you can change your habits to make it easier to achieve them. Here’s four things James clear points out in his book:

Make it easy

Sticking with the cake example, if you make it easy for yourself to eat the cake, you’ll make it more difficult for yourself to resist it. 

Oscar Wilde famously said: “I can resist everything, except temptation”.

You can make good habits easier to follow. Here’s some examples:

  • If your goal is to save money – Automate: Make a recurring payment the day after you get your salary that pays money into a savings account
    • Make it pay into a 32 day deposit account to make it difficult to withdraw
  • If your goal is to know what’s going on in your money – get an app and put it prominently on your phone’s screen, that you can easily access it. 

Make it attractive

Financial goals are often not so attractive. But you can bundle it with other habits, to make it awesome. I use this a lot with my monthly KPI and goals meeting with my wife. We hate the idea of talking about issues and crisis, but we put ourselves in an awesome setting – in Woollies with a large expensive coffee. This sets an awesome scene to discuss really difficult financial and other matters, and makes it easier.

Here’s another example:

  • If your goal is to buy a property – make it attractive by adding a picture in your wallet of the house, with your bank card so that you can be reminded about your goal – bundle the spending on your card with the dream of owning a house.

Make it obvious

Don’t put the chocolate cake in a place where you can see it. In the same line, make the next step that you need to take the ‘next obvious move’.

Here’s more examples:

  • If your goal is to gym: put your gym clothes in the car and conveniently drive past the gym on your way home.
  • If your goal is to be generous – always have change in your wallet, it will force you in a way to give money to the car guards and people like waiters.

Make it satisfying

I cannot tell you the feeling after I had my first paid off property – it’s so satisfying, that I was quickly planning and calculating when I would have my next one paid off. 

I will confess, that this is one of the most difficult things to get right: rewarding yourself for a job well done or a goal reached. 

Here’s some examples:

  • Reward yourself for paying off your credit card with the first amount of money that you receive – just don’t spend it all and make more debt!
  • If you’re trying out eat out less, make delicious food at home that was worth the time and money. 
  • If you’re trying to lose weight, make food that’s tasty (go do a pinterest for diet food) – not just cellery sticks with salt. Don’t starve yourself, as the dissatisfaction will kill you.

Tips to pinning down goals

Have your goals visible

We have our goals up on our fridge. When we go to get food, we have it visible and there for us to see. We also mark off the items we have done – e..g. if we come back from the gym and hit the fridge, we can mark off our goal. It’s really awesome to see progress!

Be realistic about your goals

Being realistic about your goals and dreams is a way to save your dream.


Dream big and start small

You need to start somewhere. Why not here? I know that this might be daunting at first, but it’s worth achieving something. And it’s so satisfying when your habits changes your lifestyle to fit into your dream. 

People will tell you they don’t have control over their money, their lives or their eating habits – but this too can pass.

Good luck with getting your habits in place to move yourself forward 🙂

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