Personal character is made of habits. Bad ones seem to just happen, while good habits are usually the result of considerable effort.
Some people act as if their habits were issued at birth and are not likely to ever change. There are a select few, however, who know and live by the truth: It is possible to learn good habits and unlearn bad ones, no matter how ingrained or deep-seated. It's all a matter of choice.
The secret of learning good habits or breaking bad ones is found in conscious repetition fueled by knowledge, skill and motivation. One must repeat an action over and over and over until it becomes a natural response — a habit.
To become more financially responsible, follow these seven habits, repeating them over and over until they become natural responses:
Habit 1: Financially responsible people regularly balance their checkbook and online accounts. They calculate a current balance after every transaction. Yes, after every transaction!
Habit 2: Financially responsible people think first and spend later. Thinking first means determining ahead of time whether the purchase is necessary or prudent. It means waiting. It means seeking out the best deal and being willing to walk away if necessary.
Habit 3: Financially responsible people save money consistently. They simply do not spend all the money they have. Financially responsible people save money first, before they pay everyone else. Saving is a long-term process, and, if necessary, sacrifices are made to achieve their savings goals.
Habit 4: Financially responsible people don't see the monthly payment but focus instead on the total price tag. These folks see through the marketing tactics and zero in on the true cost and bottom line.
Habit 5: Financially responsible people know precisely their financial condition. They usually know within a few bucks the current balance on their mortgage or other secured loans. They are keenly aware of and regularly update their net worth, and they habitually make each financial move in light of the effect it will have on their net worth.
Habit 6: Financially responsible people refuse to live under the fantasy of entitlement. They are not driven to keep up with their family, friends and neighbors. They are content to live joyfully within the limitations of their means.
Habit 7: Financially responsible people's actions are based on principles, not feelings. This compels them to pay their bills on time; to deal fairly and honestly with people; to give generously; and to restrain their compelling desires and find contentment in the things that really matter.
Becoming financially responsible is a process. In my case, it was a long process. I sabotaged myself for many years, convinced I could never change. But I was wrong. I have changed and continue to make progress every single day. And you can, too. I would consider it a privilege to walk the path of financial responsibility with you.
Would you like more information? Go to EverydayCheapskate.com for links and resources for recommended products and services in this column. Mary invites questions, comments and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, "Ask Mary." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a lifestyle blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."
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