Just about everyone wants to make more money. It’s a fact of life. You’ve seen those best-sellers in the bookstore promising to help you get rich quick, but the honest truth is that improving one’s financial situation is like losing weight or building a great relationship: there’s no substitute for time and hard work. At the same time, there are undoubtedly “cheat codes” to building wealth, a set of tips and tricks that can kick-start your bright financial future or flip your current good progress into high gear. It sounds like your standard-issue Internet wisdom, but these habits truly can change your life.
1. Schedule weekly money dates.
According to business theorist Thomas Stanley, millionaires spend an average of 8.4 hours per month managing and planning their finances. Set a recurring “money date” in your calendar each week and allocate at least one hour to your finances. During your money date you should update your budget, review any upcoming expenses, pay bills (having automated as many as possible), review your accounts for accuracy, and handle any other pressing financial matters. Make your money date as enjoyable as possible — listen to music, light candles, or sip a glass of wine — so that you are likely to continue doing it.
2. Commit 20 minutes a week to reading about personal finance.
Don't try to learn everything about personal finance all at once. Instead, break up your financial education into digestible chunks. Allocate 20 minutes a week (as part of or in addition to your money date) and read about personal finance topics. Choose one topic at a time and study until you understand it, then move on to something else. Some great books to start with: I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi, On My Own Two Feet by Manisha Thakor, and Soldier of Finance by Jeff Rose.
3. Have clear goals.
Having clearly defined goals will help you stay motivated with your savings plan. Want to save for a home down payment? Great, figure out how much you need, by when, and how much you need to save every month in order to reach that goal. When your goals are S.M.A.R.T. — that is, Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely — you will be able to stay motivated for the long haul and less likely to spend frivolously.
4. Automate your savings.
Many people go about saving all wrong, and consequently fail to save enough … if anything at all! They follow the conventional savings strategy, which is spending first and saving whatever is left. Let’s be honest, though: When you do it this way, there is rarely money left over. Instead, treat your savings like any other bill and set up automated payments. Spend whatever is left after you save. Not only will your savings steadily increase, but you needn’t trouble yourself with the “decision” to put money away. It’s done for you.
5. Calculate the cost of your time.
One of the best things I ever did for myself financially was calculate my hourly rate. Now when I am out shopping and I see a nice pair of yoga pants at Lululemon, I ask myself how many hours I will need to work to pay for them. For example, if your hourly rate is $15 and you see a pair of shoes for $120, that pair of shoes will cost you eight hours of work. If that’s worth it to you, you can buy them. If not, you can move on, knowing you made a mindful financial decision.
As you can see, some basic changes are all that’s necessary to shake up your financial situation and kick-start a wealthier lifestyle — nothing too crazy! It’s easy to overlook these small pieces of the big “money picture,” but you’ll be surprised how your life is impacted by increasing your awareness and changing your habits.
Brittney Castro is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.