How to do the right thing – automatically
We all have our vices.
Vice: a practice, behavior, or habit generally considered immoral, sinful, criminal, rude, taboo, depraved, or degrading in the associated society. In more minor usage, vice can refer to a fault, a negative character trait, a defect, an infirmity, or a bad or unhealthy habit (such as an addiction to smoking).
We all know what they are (binge-watching TV, late night junk food pig-fests, impulse buys at the grocery store, drinking too much on occasion). I am the first to admit I am not perfect and I have many vices.
However, what I have learned over time to avoid committing these bad or harmful behaviors is to plan ahead. Pre-commit to resist the temptation.
Some examples of how I pre-commit:
I have a subscription service for my emails which “rolls up” the 50+ sale emails that flood my inbox everyday. This prevents me from opening my inbox, thinking, “oh man [insert favorite store here] is having a great sale: I NEED to BUY something."
I make a list when I go to the grocery store and only purchase what is on that list. I avoid going on an empty stomach, and if I have both kids with me I generally don’t waste time wandering through the aisles picking up things not on the list. (I typically just want to get out of there before one or both have a melt-down in the check-out line).
I don’t buy junk food (for the most part). If it’s not in the house I can’t eat it.
I sign up for exercise classes (or sports teams or memberships) - if I pre-pay I'm more tempted to commit and follow through. If I only plan to "drop-in" there always seems to be an excuse not to go.
I (should) avoid social media – I admit I’m not very good at this one but how often are you tempted to click on a link or sign up for a group selling things. You probably don’t shop on your phone while on vacation or out of cell service – Why? Because you aren’t tempted. Limiting screen time isn’t just for kids.
I commit to be a designated driver (sometimes). If I'm going out with friends and am the one in charge of getting everyone home safe I cannot indulge and therefore do not drink myself silly.
Now how does all of this relate to finances? Well, you can implement the same techniques in your financial life as well. You can remove the roadblocks to good behavior by setting yourself up to succeed. You can avoid negative behaviors that damage your financial health and automate the good ones.
Sit down with all of your financial statements.
Ask yourself, “What can I automate?” These can be: debt repayment, retirement savings, emergency savings, children’s education savings, mortgages, monthly bills, etc. ***
Think about where you may be weak with money (you should be looking at your financial statements – so this should give you a good idea). Do you spend way too much at restaurants, online, at the grocery store?
Brainstorm ideas of how you can avoid temptation and spending in these areas. (Meal plan, block certain websites, make a list for grocery shopping ahead of time)
Put these ideas into practice. Pre-commit to doing the right thing.
***You can direct-pay monthly bills such as hydro, gas, cell phones, and internet. You can automate student loan repayments, credit card bills and mortgage payments. You can also set up automatic contributions to savings accounts (for emergency funds) and investment accounts for retirement savings and children’s education. Contributions can be set up to align with your pay days whether that is monthly, semi-monthly or bi-weekly. Contributions can be as little as $25.
When you automate payments/savings/investing and align the dates with your pay periods you take care of the necessities immediately – what is left-over is your “free money” that way you are not scrounging around at the end of the month (or whenever) to find savings – they’ve already been made.
Avoidance and procrastination will lead you to commit the same “sins” over and over again. If you don’t address the problem you can’t fix it. We are all human, but “living for the now” and avoiding thinking of the future will not cause you any less stress – it will catch up with you eventually.
Make a commitment to do the right thing automatically and remove some of the financial stress from your life today, and in the future.
Brooklyn Scott is a Financial Advisor/Mutual Funds Representative for Lewis & Jones Group/Desjardins Financial Group/Desjardins Financial Security Investments Inc. in Killarney, Manitoba.
Mutual funds are distributed through Desjardins Financial Security Investments Inc. For insurance products, Desjardins Financial Security Investments Inc. acts as a national insurance brokerage agency.