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4 ways to ditch bad money habits

Businessman checking money, Australian dollars, in the envelope
Breaking bad money habits can be like swimming against a rip tide, if you don't know what you're doing. (Source: Getty) (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

One of the advantages of growing up in a country with a plethora of gorgeous beaches is that if you live near the coast, you probably understand beach safety. Particularly, what to do when you’re caught in a rip tide. But what about when it comes to our money habits?

The thing about being caught in a rip, is the actions we need to take are counterintuitive. A visitor to our country might swim straight for shore. But most of us realise if you try to swim against the rip, you’re quickly going to fatigue and potentially end up in a situation where you, and anyone that attempts to save you, become endangered.


It’s an analogy presented by Kieran Flanagan, who explains that it’s much easier to set up systems that are designed for our success rather than try to fight against the currents in our daily lives.

Flanagan points out that, “It seems counter-intuitive to swim with a current when your goal is in another direction altogether. But this turns out to be the key to our survival. We don’t tire so easily from fighting a force we’re just not strong enough to beat and using the current actually helps us swim more effectively and swiftly.”

It’s the same with our behaviour when it comes to money.

We can beat ourselves up for not being disciplined, we can persist with investments that feel wrong for us, we can try and convince ourselves not to chase the herd or we can seek to understand ourselves, our behaviours and set up processes and systems that work towards (not against) that.

So, how do we ditch bad money habits and, most importantly, implement ones that will serve us?

1. Write out the financial behaviours or patterns you’re trying to swim against (your financial weaknesses)

For most of us that will be easy because we’re great at listing negatives.

These might include not being a great saver, being influenced into purchasing decisions and investments because of your fear of missing out, your lack of financial role models, friends who might be financial saboteurs and more.

2. Write out the financial behaviours or patterns that are pulling you along (your financial strengths)

These might be great at paying off debt, an ability to earn more income than a 9-5 job, being disciplined, being goals oriented, your creativity at finding financial options and more.

3. Look for where the gaps are

For example, if one of your weaknesses is a lack of financial knowledge, part of the solution will be finding a way to upskill yourself or finding professionals who can help.

4. Come up with a plan

Think about how you can create financial behaviours that factor what you’re swimming against and what is pulling you along.

If you’re terrible at saving but great at paying off debt you might use good debt such as investment loan to purchase assets such as shares or property which you know you’ll be motivated to pay down.

If you’re too influenced by the herd when it comes to making poor financial decisions, you might find a new online community to counteract this such as through a facebook group or via an online money course as well as unfollowing those on social media who are influencing you to spend.

If you have terrible willpower, it might be adopting great habit stacks such as habit stacking where you place an already implemented habit against a new one you’re wanting to adopt. Such as, when you make your cup of coffee, you check your bank accounts. Or one of mine, which is every time I spend $1 on clothes or shoes, I have to invest $1 in the share market.

It’s about creating a strong and robust system where you use your natural strengths and factor for your weaknesses so the current pulling you along is one that you can relax in, knowing you’ll end up where you’re meant to be going.

If we’re constantly trying to push against how we’re naturally designed to behave it’s exhausting and we’ll ultimately throw in the towel because it’s just too damn hard. Instead, why not consider designing a system that is so strong that it will pull you, with very little effort on your behalf, to the future that you have planned.

Melissa Browne is an ex-financial advisor & now financial educator. If you want more help, make sure to join the waitlist for her My Financial Adulting Plan at

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