One Step at a Time

How you attempt to start positive financial changes in your life makes a difference.

Why do so many people have a difficult time managing their money when they know their current path of mismanagement will eventually lead financial disaster?

Most people know the basics. They know they need to spend less than they earn. They know all about budgeting and tracking their expenses. They know it is imperative to save. Yet, they always run out of money before they receive their next paycheck. Why?

Poor habits are the primary reason.

When it comes to money, many people have far more bad habits than they have good habits. They become overwhelmed with all the things they need to do to get on a successful path to financial stability and well-being.

In short, you need to replace your bad habits with good habits. How do you do this so that it becomes natural to you? One step at a time. Or better stated, one habit at a time. How do you go about doing this?


Let’s say Suzie is determined to save $500 a month in 2021. That’s great!

However, she needs to be honest with herself and admit that it really doesn’t mean all that much until she has a detailed plan on how she is going to do that and then commit to implementing that plan. Without a plan, she’ll have no more success in saving money in 2021 than she had in 2020, 2019 or 2018 and so on.

If she is going to be successful in saving money in 2021, she must break the habits that prevented her from saving money up to this point. After analyzing it, Suzie realized there are three bad money habits she has that are preventing her from saving any money:

  • After going through her credit card statements for the year, she realized that she was spending an average of $360 a month on new clothes and accessories.
  • She was spending an average of $12 every day for lunch by eating out.
  • She was paying an average of $40 a week on having groceries and other items delivered to her home.

These three expenses add up to $9,520 for the year! While all of this expense cannot be eliminated, Suzie knows that a large portion of it can be reduced by:

  • Starting to wear many articles of clothing in her large two walk-in closets that still have the original price tags on them.
  • Go on a new clothing and accessories moratorium for 6-12 months.
  • Shop at consignment stores, thrift shops and garage sales first before heading to her favorite boutiques.
  • Taking home-prepared meals to work for lunch except for a few special occasions with her co-workers.
  • Schedule time to do the shopping herself so she’ll be able to compare products and prices.

All these changes amount to replacing bad money habits with good money habits.

For Suzie to be successful in her goal of saving $500 a month, she must make these changes in such a way that the changes aren’t so overwhelming that she gives up after a month or two. This is done by taking it one step at a time.

Action Plan for Suzie

Suzie’s action plan calls for her to:

  1. Greatly reduce her spending on new clothes and accessories
  2. Take home-prepared meals to work for lunch
  3. Do the grocery shopping herself

Suzie needs to prioritize these according to ease-of-change. Suzie rearranged the list to look like this:

  1. Do the grocery shopping herself (easiest to change)
  2. Take home-prepared meals to work for lunch (moderately easy to change)
  3. Greatly reduce her spending on new clothes and accessories (more difficult to change)

Here is the secret to these changes being successful … Suzie will implement the easiest change first. She will do the grocery shopping for 30 days before she moves to the moderately easy change.

Suzie will build upon her successes as she moves on to more difficult changes.

It takes 30 days for a new activity to become a habit. This is why Suzie must limit herself to changing one habit at a time (one step at a time.)

Suzie will then move on to taking home-prepared meals to work for lunch while continuing to do the grocery shopping herself. She will do this for 30 days before moving on to her most difficult change.

Finally, Suzie will move on to reducing her expenses for new clothing and accessories by putting a 6-month moratorium on buying any new clothes or accessories (one option of several choices) while continuing to do the grocery shopping herself and taking home-prepared lunches to work.

At the end of 90 days, Suzie will have replaced three bad money habits with three good money habits, and she did it without being stressed to make three habit changes all at once. By spreading the changes over time, Suzie greatly improved her chances of long-term success.

Besides Suzie being successful at gaining three new money habits, she will also have learned that:

  • Self-discipline itself is a habit.
  • The 30-day process of replacing a bad habit with a good habit can be used in any area of her life.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution 4.0 International License.

Published by W. M. Brown

I am a retired U.S. expat living in Ecuador. I was a business owner for 32 years before retiring in 2012.

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