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Whether we make the right financial decisions depends on the habits we have — both good and bad. Pixabay

Good habits are hard to cultivate, but bad habits are even harder to break. We are bombarded with financial decisions each day, and whether we make the right ones depends on the habits we have — both good and bad.

Developing good financial habits has never been more important. Shockingly, 63 percent of Americans do not have enough savings to cover a $500 emergency. While there are plenty of economic and cultural factors that shape this statistic, this percentage might be decreased if more Americans adhered to tried-and-true rules of saving and spending.

While changing how you handle your finances is often a difficult process fraught with mistakes, investing in better financial practices will — quite literally — pay dividends. With that in mind, there are six notable ways that you can improve your financial health.

Live Below Your Means

Sadly, 54 percent of middle-class Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck. Too many people spend their income first on necessary expenses before spending what’s left on luxury items and then throwing the remainder into savings (if there’s anything left at all). Try to reverse this thinking. Allocate funds for your savings first and adjust your spending accordingly.

Instead of stretching your funds to meet your lifestyle, adjust your lifestyle to fit your budget. Eating through your entire paycheck — or, worse, overspending — means you won’t be able to build up anything in your savings. You can account for the future by putting away as little as $50 a month, which is easy to accumulate if you consciously save.

Evaluate Your Monthly Expenses

Go through your monthly expenses, line-by-line, and trim the fat. Likely, you’ll have unused subscriptions to cut. You may also find that certain recurring expenses are eating up too much of your monthly budget, such as going out to the movies or buying expensive lattes and lunches. Or maybe your electric bill has been unusually steep in recent months. Identify the major drains in your monthly bills and reduce them as much as possible.

Avoid Unnecessary Debt

There is a such thing as good debt, but it is quite rare. Loans on homes and cars are usually in the realm of good debt, but anything else is up for debate. A good rule of thumb is to avoid applying for credit to buy things you don’t strictly need.

If you can’t afford a new cutting-edge laptop, it’s best not to procure it with credit, for example. While it’s tempting to give in to impulse buys with a fresh line of credit at your disposal, it could put your wallet in a whole lot of pain down the line — particularly if you have nothing to fall back on.

Pay Bills Early

Paying bills late can trick you into thinking you have more liquidity than you really have. Doing this, however, means you’ll constantly have to catch up on payments instead of building a healthy savings account. Pay your bills early to avoid the trap of spending more than you actually earn.

Start Saving for Retirement

If you’re just entering the workforce, you may feel like it’s too early to start saving. Thirty or 40 years may feel infinitely far away, but your money needs time to grow in your investment accounts as you’ll be spending, on average, 20 to 30 years while out of the workforce. You’ll need to start allocating a small percentage of your paycheck to have a sizeable amount of cash available to you when you reach retirement age.

Investing in a 401(k) plan in your twenties is a fabulous way to set yourself up for a relatively worry-free retirement. If your employer does not offer a plan, do not hesitate to start one yourself, preferably with the help of a financial advisor. Incredibly, less than half of pre-retirees work with financial consultants or planners. Financial consultants have the expertise and experience to help you reach your retirement goals on time, which is absolutely crucial to your financial health.


One person can only work so many hours. Investing is the process by which your money works for you. You don’t have to work longer hours or take on a second job to save more, you only need to invest prudently. Investing in CDs, brokerage accounts and stock portfolios can help you bolster your worth without sacrificing your leisure time.

It’s best if you have time on your side as this is the biggest contributing factor to your money’s growth. So, just like saving for retirement, it’s never too early to begin investing.

Managing your money today will help you create wealth tomorrow. Living below your means, evaluating your expenses regularly, avoiding unnecessary debt and paying bills early are habits that promote staying out of the red in the present. Saving for retirement and investing will ensure your financial health in the future.

Adjusting your everyday spending routine is difficult, but following these six habits and continually educating yourself about personal finance will set you on to the path of wealth creation (as opposed to depletion).