One of the most common goals for individuals at the start of a new year is to get their finances in order – finally.  Money is on everyone’s mind even when they don’t talk about it. People stress over it, worry about it, and try to figure out how much of it they should spend and on what.

According to some reports, roughly half of all adults are struggling with their finances, barely breaking even each month. and roughly a third have little or no savings. We all know that we should be saving more and spending less, but how can we make this happen?

According to Tom Curley, author of Change Your Habits, Change Your Life, some of our habits are directly responsible for our financial duress.

Here are a few (12) habits that may be keeping you broke and hindering you from achieving your goals.

1. Impulse Buying

Buying something on the spur of the moment can give us a big emotional boost, but, like coffee, the emotional high will quickly drop again. Even as little as 5 minutes later we will find that we have lost “that lovin’ feeling” about our purchase. It doesn’t even have to be big purchases either. With all spending, the eureka moment wears off. And these little purchases can add up over the course of a month if we are not careful.

One effective tip to counter impulse buying is to wait 48 hours before buying and for bigger purchases of $50 wait 30 days to see if you really need to buy the item.  A 30-day period is a good way to get your emotions in check and think pragmatically.

2. Trying to Keep up with the Jones

We all know the Jones family.  From our perspective, they have “made it”. They have it all together. But what we may not realize is that the Jones family may be drowning in debt. These days it is so hard not to compare ourselves or our situation with others. With the Internet and social media bombarding us every day about what we need to have and do, we can end up feeling woefully inadequate and behind everyone else. We are constantly fed messages about what we need to feel happy, fulfilled, accomplished and rich. All of this messaging is unrealistic and detrimental.  What we need to do is be thankful and content with what we have and this is the antidote to trying to keep up with the Jones.

We do not need to impress others and we do not need to keep step with them or even one step ahead. Having a grateful attitude will shield against the Jones trap.

3. Convincing Ourselves that We Deserve It

We have a hard week. Everything is going wrong. Our boss is on our back and the home is in chaos. Whatever the situation is we like to coddle ourselves by telling ourselves that we deserve a reward for having gone through all this hardship.  We tell ourselves that we “have earned it”. Actually, though, No, we haven’t earned a reward; we have just had a bad week and everyone has bad weeks. Splurging money to pamper ourselves with money we don’t have or can’t afford to spend is not a reward. We like to justify that it is, though.

The mindset of “I deserve this” is prevalent in our culture. It is a mindset that is completely opposite to having a grateful attitude. When we are grateful for what we have we don’t feel that we deserve to be pampered; we simply recognize our blessings and we can save money by not giving in to the “I deserve it” dogma.

4. Not Talking about Money

Many of us grew up in homes where money was never ever talked about. It was always a taboo subject that no one dared discuss. Children had no idea what money was, or where it came from. It was always this mysterious substance that we told: “didn’t grow on trees”. Many of us did not grow up with a healthy view of money. We often heard things such as ” We can’t afford it” or “we don’t have enough money”.  Money seemed to be something that determined whether we were happy or not, whether we were secure or not, or whether we would have food and a place to live. People fight over it, but often they don’t talk about it in healthy ways.

The key to understanding money and managing it well is to learn about it and talk about it just as with any other aspect of life. Not talking about money only reinforces negative and debilitating views of money.

5. Not Saving

This may sound like a no-brainer to many.  Who would not want to save money?  But, surprisingly, many people do not save their money or they begin a savings plan later in life – well past 30 years of age. Many people in their 20’s, though not all, for sure, focus on short term objectives of fun, entertainment, and the accumulation of possessions without paying much attention to putting money aside to save and invest.

The goal should be, even as early as your 20’s, to start putting money aside into a savings plan and to do this consistently, no matter what.

6. Turning a Blind Eye to Debt

Debt is something that can easily be forgotten about. We don’t see it on a daily basis, even if we know it is there, so we selectively choose to ignore it hoping it will somehow disappear. But debt does not only not disappear; it grows by itself like a weed. Avoidance will not solve the problem, but avoidance is a coping mechanism that people have to protect themselves from the pain of reality and in this case, having to face the mounting debt.

Make every effort to pay off debt as quickly as possible. Make it a priority. The debt is not doing you any good and it can even hinder any future financial plans or goals you may have. Most certainly it will hinder your credit score.

7. Not Having a Budget

It has been reported that 1 in 5 households do not have a budget or keep one regularly. And even those households that do have a budget will probably not stick to it faithfully. It is crazy when you think about it. How can you know what is coming in and what is going out of your finances if you don’t keep regular tabs? How can you monitor and allocate funds if you have no idea how much you have or how much you are spending?

A household is a business and needs good accounting done in order to thrive. Without a budget, you are setting yourself up for financial stress and anxiety. You are also shooting yourself in the foot and preventing yourself from gaining freedom and well being that good budgeting can bring you.

8. Not Having an Emergency Fund

Having money put aside – money to cover 3-6 months of expenses (roughly $6,000 -$12,000)  provides a safety cushion to fall back on when times are tough financially. The unexpected will always happen – that you can count on. The problem when we do not have an emergency fund put aside is that financial problems (job loss, car break down, illness etc.) can come crashing down on us and bring on even more stress because we feel blindsided by the fact that we are short on cash in an unexpected emergency.

Building an emergency fund is a crucial part of being proactive and prepared for the unexpected.

9. Making Excuses

Rather than facing reality and having a solid understanding of our finances, we play mind games with ourselves. We convince ourselves that everything is ok and that we are in control of our money (even though this may be far from the truth). We set goals to reward ourselves (or to escape) with something we “deserve” (but probably don’t). If we are in debt and continue to be so we justify it by saying that debt is normal and most people have debt rather than addressing and fixing the problem. We find short term excuses for long term problems.

It is time to stop making excuses for our choices and situations and start taking action to correct the money problems. Every time we justify our situation or make excuses we are taking a step back from accomplishing our goals.

10. Not Tracking Your Spending

Going right along with budgeting is the practice of tracking our spending. We can do this on an ongoing basis or for a period of time to get a picture of where our money is going each month. Many people have absolutely no clue as to where their money is going. If you were to ask the average person what he or she spends money on in the course of a month, he or she would probably have no idea how much they spend or on what.

Not tracking your spending is like pouring water into a cracked cup. The cup is leaking little by little, but because you don’t see the leak, you have no idea that you are losing water or even how much. When you track your spending, you become aware of the money “leaks” and can patch them up so that money doesn’t flow out indiscriminately.

11. Spending Money too Frequently

Another very common contributor to money problems is the perceived need to spend frequently, even every day. Some people have the idea that because they have money in their wallet or a credit card that they should spend it or use it. After all, they reason, money is for spending, isn’t it? Actually, no, money is not for spending only; it is for investing.  Just because we have money or a paycheck does not mean we need to go out and spend it. Money is a tool of exchange.

Put your financial priorities in order. Pay off any debt, pay all bills and focus on needs, not wants.

12. Not Using Credit Cards Wisely

This is a huge problem in our culture today: plastic money. Because the money is not physical, but digital, it can be hard to realize how much we are spending. With cash, we can easily see when we have spent all our money. Some people tend to see credit cards as money freely handed out to them (many students are guilty of this) and fail to take the interest rates seriously. The interest rates can quickly add up since they are compounded (in favor of the bank).  Many people choose to pay the minimum fee, but we need to understand that what is being paid us only the interest plus a few extra dollars. No dent is being made into paying off the actual credit card balance.

Not being responsible with credit cards by monitoring spending, and paying off the full balance can send you into a never-ending vicious cycle of mounting debt. Not only this, but it will also hurt your credit score and hinder any future financial goals you may have.

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Diana Lynne’s passions are family, traveling, learning, and pursuing a debt-free life. She also loves hanging out with family, friends and being with her dog Skye. Diana is a Quebec City girl. who loves living life.  You can connect with her through