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From lockdown to long-term, kicking the money habits holding us back

Noticed that your money life has changed? In this piece we find that lockdown might actually save us from the money habits we had. And help us create whole new ones, without us even thinking too much about it. 

By Alex Holder

Alex Holder is a journalist and author, who writes for The Guardian, The Telegraph, GraziaRefinery29 and Elle among others. Her book, Open Up - Why Talking About Money Will Change Your Life, was released this year. We’re big fans.  

Time to read: 8 minutes

How quarantine has helped us give up behaviours that keep us in the red.

We’re going to discuss habits – you know, the things we do often and repetitively like brushing our teeth or reaching for a beer after work.

We don’t think about spending as a habit, but it is; from sleep walking into a coffee shop first thing in the morning to buying a snack for the train ride home from work, spending money is hard wired into our daily lives.

Paying attention to what your money habits are can be the first step to money confidence. Is there a shop you used to find difficult to pass without popping in? When are you more likely to order a take-away? Which friends encourage you to spend money? What do you buy daily that adds up?

Experts say the easiest way to change a habit is when a bigger change of routine occurs like moving house, changing jobs…or being asked to stay at home for two months.

Thinking about everything I’ve not spent money on in the last eight weeks has helped me realise the spending habits I’d become pretty rooted to – no taxis, no take-out coffee, no yoga classes, no rounds in the pub, no gel nails, no fast-fashion. Even if you’re still going to work every day the shops you would normally pass have their shutters down – we’re all spending differently.

I’ve realised that a walk doesn’t need a take-out coffee to be enjoyable. I’ve seen that my four-year-old son is as happy pouring water from one bucket to another or sticking pasta to paper as he is with a new toy. Lockdown has been the money reset I never asked for.

Many of us have been forced to readdress our spending through sheer necessity, ‘I realise how reckless I have been pretty much my whole life - Never respecting what I had, always living in the moment and pay cheque to pay cheque,’ says Grungia a retail assistant from Leeds currently furloughed. ‘Now that I’ve taken a pay-cut and don’t feel secure about my job I can see how destructive my shopping addiction is - how much I shop when I’m unhappy. I think I will live a much simpler life moving forward, I mean I really don’t miss half of the stuff I used to buy.’

Another quarantine realisation is that those seemingly small daily purchases do add up, ‘I’m really lucky to still be working and earning, so I’ve seen how much I could save if I didn’t go to the pub every time my friends invited me,’ says Dan a HR Executive working 5 days a week but from home. ‘Big ticket items I used to think I could never afford, like a car, might be more achievable than I thought.’

As much as we all want ‘normal’ life to resume - hugs! high-fives! trips to the pub! -there are things we’ve learned in lockdown that if we can carry forward might change our lives, and at the very least save us all some money.

So how can take stock of our money habits, and use this time to make positive changes?

Everyone loves free stuff!

What’s brought you pleasure in the last couple of months that was free? You might have enjoyed a YouTube cardio class or read a book you already had on your shelf. Have you had a moment of realisation that making pizza from scratch is actually quite fun? Or that you probably don’t need to fly somewhere to have some down time? Maybe you feel as good after an afternoon bath as you would after a massage? Treating yourself doesn’t always mean spending money. 

The new improved you

Maybe you’ve learned a new skill during the stay-at-home orders, like how to whiz up hummus from a can of chickpeas or the art of meal-planning. Experts say it takes 28 days to change a habit, which means the new routines or behaviours you establish in lockdown have time to stick going forward. So that home exercise routine you’ve created might allow you to skip the gym membership (even if you do miss the miniature towels).

Small habits, big changes

Have a think about what small routines you’ve started that might help cool expensive ones. I’ll definitely be opting for a glass of wine on my doorstep over an evening in pub this summer. 

Identify your real world triggers

Have you noticed you’re saving money because there aren’t as many opportunities to spend? Real world triggers like the newsagents you have to walk through to get to your train platform make us spend more than we originally planned. Planning how you want to spend your money before our commutes and school runs resume will help you not be so susceptible to spending triggers. 

Name your target

Anything that disrupts old routines can help you create new ones, so take a moment to understand what new spending habits you would like to stick to. Name your target now before the new normal starts. It could be a small thing - like when you return to work you’ll only buy a takeout sandwich on a Friday rather than every other day or it could be larger like resolving to pay off a credit card this year.

Let’s take your lockdown ah-ha moment into the long-term. You’ve got this.

 

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