How to change your spending habits

24 July 2017
How do you change bad money habits? It’s not as easy as just saving a bit more here and there, or cutting back on one or two habits. Our behaviours in one area don’t happen in isolation to the rest of our lifestyle – we need to look at our overall beliefs and behaviours in order to make lasting change.

A few months out from Christmas is a terrific time to take a step back and look at your Big Picture finances. If nothing else, it’s a good way to avoid future summer holiday stress!

A recent Canstar Blue survey of more than 2,500 New Zealand adults in April 2016 found that some of us do have some money habits that could do with a bit of change. For example:

  • 60% of us don’t stick to a budget
  • 23% feel uncomfortable when we think about our long-term future
  • 27% of us live payday to payday
  • 55% of us aren’t currently saving for our retirement

Being stressed about money can lead to feeling stressed about the rest of our life, too. So if a mental money detox is what you need, here are some tips to get you started.

1. Understand your background

Money-detox: Understand your backgroundThe way we were brought up and the friends that we choose can have an impact on our attitudes and beliefs. For example, the way that our parents managed money while we were growing up can influence how we manage money as adults. Likewise, the way that we observed the relationship between our peers and money while we were growing up can influence our attitudes towards money as adults. Understand how your life up to this point may be subconsciously influencing the money beliefs that you hold and decisions that you make.

2. Acknowledge your inner rebel!

Money detox: Acknowledge your inner rebelWe don’t always mimic what our parents (or peers) do. Our observations and sometimes unspoken criticisms of our parents’ behaviour and values can lead us to take an opposite path in life. This can also hold true with regards to money and can be an equally powerful influencer of our attitudes.

3. Recognise your vices

Money detox: Recognise your vicesWe all have vices – including financial ones. Understand your financial trigger points so that you can avoid them where possible. For example, are you competitive – keeping up with the spending habits of your friends, to your financial detriment? Or are you timid – allowing investment opportunities to bypass you through fear of failure? Also be aware of specific financial habits (for example, spending) that may have an emotional basis.

4. Recognise your strengths

Money-detox: Recognise your strengthsWhilst everyone has weaknesses, everyone has strengths as well. You may be a very organised person, able to monitor a terrific written budget, or you may be a “big-picture” person, able to take a step back and assess your entire financial situation. Learn to recognise your financial strengths so that you can use them effectively.

5. Address what money means to you

Money-detox: Address what money means to youIs money important to be happy in life? Is it a means to an end, or a symbol of power? It is important to understand what money means to you so that you can work out how best to spend (and save) it.

6. Take responsibility for your behaviour

Money-detox: Take responsibility for your behaviourUnderstanding the way that upbringing affects your current attitudes and beliefs are important – but equally important is for you to acknowledge that your behaviour ultimately is your responsibility.

7. Write a budget

A budget records all the money coming in to your household (and where it comes from) and all the money going out (and where it goes to). It?s the number one building block that everyone needs. Once you have your budget, and understand what is happening to your money, your next step will depend on what sort of bad habit you have.

8. Stop using your credit card

If your main bad habit is overuse of the credit card (and by the way, Canstar calculates that we?re collectively paying $16.2 million per day in credit card interest) then ditch the plastic. Cancel your cards, transfer any debt to a low-interest personal loan and start to gradually pay it off. Live off your earnings instead.

9. Don’t gamble your money away

Enjoying a bet now and then isn?t a problem, but if you?re spending more than you can afford then you need help. There are plenty of free, independent gambling counsellors available; go to for more information.

10. Stay motivated

If you don?t have a serious money problem as much as just lacking the motivation to improve, then get someone to give you a verbal kick up the behind. Go to and download the new “Track my Goals” app. Set yourself some goals – then share them with your mates on social media. Making a public promise to improve makes you publicly accountable. Share your success and failures and ask your mates to help you stay on track. With any luck, they might even join you!

11. Be prepared to change…

Money-detox: Be prepared to changeIt is one thing to recognise your current beliefs, but it’s another thing to be prepared to change some of them. Our own procrastination prevents us from doing so many things in life. Make a commitment to positive change now.

You can’t change habits overnight, of course, but the most important thing is working out what you need to do and getting on with it. And the best time to start is today.

Share this article