9 financial tips for developing healthy financial habits
Each financial decision you make reinforces a habit. With help on how to get ahead financially you can build good money habits. Our friends at the Davidson Institute, Westpac’s financial education specialists, cover 9 good money habits that may help you improve your financial responsibility and to get ahead.
With the right effort it's in your power to develop good financial habits. When you have your finances under control, your financial health improves, and you can increase the likelihood of achieving your dreams and goals. Here are some tips you can start with today.
A change in our financial situation starts with a change in how we think about money. Clearing out any negative feelings like insecurity or fear about money can help remove the blockages that may prevent improving your financial wellbeing.
Australians worry about money more than anything else in life. Finances regularly top our list of concerns according to research from the Australian Psychological Society[i].
Your relationship with money is not fixed, it’s one that can evolve over your lifetime. Here are three important things about the psychology behind your relationship with money:
With awareness, insight, and knowledge you can start working to make empowered decisions about your money.
Taking small manageable steps can help you to develop a new behaviour or habit. Try tracking everything you spend for a short period of time, like over the next month. Why? It can give you insights into how you spend money now and may highlight how spending even small amounts adds up over time.
For example, if you bought a $4 coffee five days a week for a year that would cost over $1,000. Tracking it may also reveal those areas of spending that otherwise go unchecked, such as paying for subscriptions to multiple digital streaming services, that you may not use. Try jotting down every transaction in your preferred money diary – it could be on paper, a journal, a document or your computer or an app, for example Pocketboo[ii]. The choice of money diary is yours. To help get you started on tracking your spending, consider using this downloadable Money Diary from the Davidson Institute.
Goal setting starts with seeing something in the future that doesn’t yet exist. To get an idea of what this future looks like, visualise it in as much detail as possible. By visualising what your goals are and the timeline within which you would like to achieve them, it is easier to create realistic steps to chip away at them over time.
When planning your goals, it is important to consider:
An effective way to help you to achieve your goals is to set Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound (SMART) goals.
A simple budget can help you reach your financial and lifestyle goals, allowing you to make considered choices about how you spend your money. It can help you allocate your spending to live within your means and work towards achieving goals like buying a new car Give this new money habit a go by completing the following sentence: “If I create and stick to a budget, I will be able to_____________________.”
Thinking about specific goals aligned to different stages or events in your life, can be a source of motivation.
One of the keys to a successful budget is to keep it simple. First, you’ll need to know how much is coming in – which may be through your after-tax income from work or investments such as interest income from your savings. Then you need to see where your money is going out – your expenses. When you look at your expenses, there are three important categories:
1. Commitments: This includes payments you have very little control over as they represent a legal obligation to pay, such as your rent, loan repayments, phone plan, plus utilities like your electricity bill.
2. Everyday expenses: Include things like your groceries spent on food.
3. Occasional expenses: Everything besides your commitments and everyday expenses falls into this third category. It represents expenses that we can control with our behaviours. It includes money you spend on fashion, gifts, and entertainment.
The three-category expense budget is simple to use and with the right action may have a positive impact on your financial wellbeing. To find out more about budgeting check out the available from the Davidson Institute.
Once you've set goals, identified your income and expenses, and considered areas of your budget, you would like to manage, like savings, now it’s time to put your plan into action.
To minimise your occasional expenses, try ask yourself, “Do I really need this?” If the answer to this question is “No, but I want it”. Then ask yourself, “Do I want it enough, to go without something else?” You can then make the choice, whether you buy the thing you want and go without something else, or decide that even though you want this thing, it will have to wait until another time.
Saving on a regular basis is one of the most powerful savings tips to help you become more financially resilient and achieve your lifestyle and financial goals. One of best ways to do this is to pay yourself first. This means automatically putting aside a specified savings amount from each paycheck at the time you receive it into a separate savings account. In other words, you are paying yourself before you begin paying your monthly everyday expenses.
By using an effective budget, you may be able to begin a savings plan with your leftover monthly cash, after your expenses. Most savings accounts generally offer a higher interest rate than transaction accounts and can help you save by giving you less access to your money. And, if you leave the interest earned in your savings account it can grow through compounding interest. Compounding can create a snowball effect, as the original investments plus the income earned from those investments grow together. View this compound interest jargon buster film below to learn more.
Saving plans can be established so that a set amount is automatically withdrawn from your transaction account or pay and deposited directly into your savings account.
Some call it ‘saving for a rainy day’, but it’s essentially planning for the unexpected by having an emergency fund set aside. This is the money to give you peace of mind that if something unexpected crops up – the car break-down or you chip your front tooth - then you’re able to deal with it. Choose an amount that will cover your lifestyle and an allowance for mishaps and once you have that amount set aside continue to save for your other goals.
Find out more to be prepared with an emergency fund
Debts may not always be a bad thing, especially when you are leveraging it to invest in yourself or your financial future. However, over the course of your life, you might be amazed by how easy it is to get into debt, and how difficult, it can be to reduce it. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics[iii], in 2018 74% of Australians held some form of debt, the most common forms were credit card debt and home loans.
Some tips on what to consider when paying off your debt:
Also a credit card balance transfer may help. This involves moving balances that you owe from a high-rate credit card to one with a no-interest or low-interest rate to reduce the amount of interest you’re paying. The main advantages to consider with a balance transfer credit card are that it can help you to:
It is important to remember that the 0% rate is usually valid for 12 or 18 months, sometimes more. Can you pay off the transferred balance during that period? If not, you’ll need to note that a higher interest rate will apply after the promotional rate has ended on any unpaid balance.
What’s your retirement plan? Let’s face it, retirement may be a long way off and feels even longer for someone who has recently started their working years. With life expectancy increasing and the desire to maintain current lifestyles into retirement the amount needed to support your retirement is growing. That’s why the need to plan, and to do so sooner rather than later, is important.
Superannuation can be a tax effective way to save for your retirement, for those on the higher income tax bracket. The superannuation guarantee is the amount an employer is required to pay into a super fund on behalf of an employee.
There are ways you may be able to boost your retirement savings:
When it comes to financial investments, if you contribute to your superannuation and already have a regular savings plan, and you still have some spare money, then you might want to consider putting it into other investments to maximise your long term returns.
When you start looking at investing options, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the information. Therefore, it helps to get expert advice. The more informed you are the more confidently you can make decisions. A great source of information and expertise is a professional financial planner.
With the right help you can invest to either grow your assets and create long term capital gains or create more cash flow or both. Regardless when it comes to money, time is your most valuable asset. The most successful investors know that, to achieve a good quality result, investing takes time. So, one of the best investment decisions you can make is to start investing sooner rather than later so you have a better chance of reaching your goals. When considering your investment plan, it is important to consider two things:
Success in your financial life, comes down to your financial habits. Will they set you up for success, or not? The good news is you have the choice and the power to change your money habits forever.
No matter where you are on your financial journey, the Davidson Institute is here to help you to build your financial confidence.
[ii] Pocketbook available at: https://getpocketbook.com
[iii] Household Income and Wealth, Australia 2015 available from the Australian Bureau of Statistics: https://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/6523.02015-16
Written by Westpac's financial education specialists, the Davidson Institute.
This information is general in nature and has been prepared without taking your objectives, needs and overall financial situation into account. For this reason, you should consider the appropriateness for the information to your own circumstances and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.
The taxation position described is a general statement and should only be used as a guide. It does not constitute tax advice and is based on current tax laws and their interpretation.