If you’re someone who struggles with financial anxiety and stress, practicing a financial self-care routine could help. Just like other areas of your life, the more consistent you are about financial self-care, the better. This is why I am emphasizing the idea of building habits. The reality is that anxiety and stress are life’s constants. We ourselves don’t have the luxury of removing those factors from our environment, but what we do have are tools to help manage and reduce them.
Before I get into it, I want to note that there’s a pretty extensive list of financial-self care options available, but what I’ve realized is that when we are struggling, we often overcommit ourselves to perfectionism instead of trying to be a little less imperfect. I’m the first to admit that it’s really tough not to go all-in when reading advice that sounds life-changing. Often, we find ourselves trying out anything and everything to feel in control, and it is for this reason that I won’t offer you the extensive list today. Instead, I hope to help you focus on taking things slow for once so that you don’t set yourself up for failure (and ultimately right back in the anxiety-ridden state you first found yourself in). You can view these three foundational habits as a starting point for a long-term financial self-care routine that you will work to enhance over the course of your life. With this in mind, let’s dive in.
HABIT # 1: REVIEW & CATEGORIZE YOUR TRANSACTIONS DAILY
Building awareness of what and how much you’ve spent can be a game-changer. This habit not only takes the dreaded guessing game out of your end-of-month leftover income and total spending, but it can help you course-correct throughout the month to ensure you hit budgeting goals, cut back in areas you may find yourself regretting, or even upping your spend in areas that bring you joy. A few added bonuses of this habit include saving time at the end of the month if you’re someone that typically sits down for 4-5 hours to get yourself organized, in addition to helping you catch fraudulent transactions faster!
Pro tips for building this habit:
- Make it easy: If you don’t already use Mint, download the app today to have all of your transactions organized and easily viewable in one place.
- Make it obvious: Set a calendar reminder on your phone to check Mint each day at the same time. I’d recommend early morning before your day gets busy.
- Make it attractive: Check your spending after a ritual or habit you enjoy doing. For example, after you sit down to drink your coffee, open up Mint to review your transactions.
- Make it satisfying: After reviewing your transactions, do something rewarding. For example, after categorizing and reviewing, consider checking it off your to-do list for the day to feel progress.
HABIT # 2: CHECK YOUR SAVINGS ACCOUNT(S) DAILY
Checking your savings accounts is a great way to flood your brain with positivity about your financial situation. Having savings is a rewarding feeling, and even more rewarding, is seeing your savings progress over time. Getting in this habit will also be a good reminder to actively save for each of your financial goals.
Pro tips for building this habit:
- Make it easy: Connect your savings accounts to Mint and use the goal-setting feature that allows you to customize your savings goals and connect your savings account to easily track your progress.
- Make it obvious: Consider setting your phone’s background to a photo of something you’re saving for so that everytime you check your phone, you’ll be reminded of saving. Mint also allows you to add photos of your goals in the web version and in the app.
- Make it attractive: In addition to checking your savings right after reviewing your transactions in Mint, consider starting a savings group with your friends and family. No need to talk about how much you’ve saved, but you can talk about your goals and turn to the group for motivation when you’re tempted to spend what you would normally save.
- Make it satisfying: Make sure to give yourself credit for doing this habit by also crossing it off as a separate to-do list item. Try to also make it a rule to never miss checking your savings twice in a row. Skipping a day here and there because life gets in the way is totally normal, just make sure to commit yourself to doing it the next day.
HABIT # 3: REWARD YOURSELF 1X PER WEEK
I saved the best for last. Rewarding yourself is a critical step that most skip when trying to become more disciplined. Self-control can be a draining experience, especially at first. Make sure to set aside “free time” each week to do something for yourself. It doesn’t have to be big, and it doesn’t have to require a lot of money. Think of it as a way of telling yourself good job for working hard and trying to improve.
Pro tips for building this habit*:
- Make it easy: Consider making your reward something that takes less than 2 minutes to start doing. Perhaps it’s turning on a Netflix show, making an easy dessert, grabbing a coffee at the Starbucks you just walked by, or even dancing in your living room to your favorite song.
- Make it obvious: As I write this, it sounds weird, but for some of us, setting aside time for ourselves isn’t something we’re good at, so commit yourself to a consistent day and time that’s for you to do what you want.
*Making it attractive and satisfying isn’t necessary here because the reward in and of itself will reinforce the habit.
With that, you now have 3 habits to start building a financial self-care routine. Give this a shot, and let me know how it goes in the comments below.
Jackie Porter, M.S. is a behavioral scientist at Intuit, and previously a writer for Intuit’s Mint and Turbo products. She is earning her PsyD in Psychology and is a health and fitness fanatic.