Accomplishing big money goals requires a lot of willpower. But willpower is a finite resource. And if you use up all of your willpower reaching for stretch money goals, you’re more likely to burnout, quit, or “cheat” and sabotage your efforts.
Focusing instead on your money management systems can help you make easy, sustainable changes that get you closer to your goals. By working on your systems for money management, you build the day-to-day habits necessary for achieving big money goals.
Here’s how to manage your money using systems that optimize healthy financial habits, minimize poor choices, and do more with your cash each day.
Money goals vs. money management systems
The idea of working on systems instead of goals was one I came across recently while reading “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life” by Scott Adams.
It spoke to me in a big way. Here’s what he says:
“A goal is a specific objective that you either achieve or don’t sometime in the future. A system is something you do on a regular basis that increases your odds of happiness in the long run. If you do something every day, it’s a system.”
On his blog, Adams give some examples of systems centered on losing weight for readers to take note of.
“Compare the goal of exercising 3-4 times a week with a system of being active every day at a level that feels good, while continuously learning about the best methods of exercise,” he writes.
“Before long your body will be trained, like Pavlov’s dogs, to crave the psychological lift you get from being active every day,” he adds. “It will soon become easier to exercise than to skip it — no willpower required.”
The same principle can be applied to help improve your finances. Setting long-term money goals that require painful sacrifices to achieve can feel like setting yourself up for failure.
“With many financial goals, we fail to achieve them because humans are wired to think short term and we have to set up systems to actively get around that,” says Ryan Frailich, a financial coach and founder of Deliberate Finances.
How to improve your money management system
At the end of the day, focusing on your money management systems can help you make small improvements that feel easy but have big payoffs.
Here are four ways to change your money systems so that financial achievement is easy, simple and painless.
1. Focus on daily money habits
“For people who do want to achieve their goals, they need to make the process of working towards those goals into a habit,” says Alex Genadinik, a entrepreneur coach and founder of Problemio.
“There is only so much of ‘forcing ourselves’ that we can do in a day,” Genadinik adds. “So if something isn’t a natural behavior as a habit is, people naturally stop doing it.”
To start a healthy money habit, set up a system that is easy, simple, and can be achieved daily. A habit to help curb missed payments or off-budget spending could be checking your account balances each day.
Or, if you’re trying to save money, you might look for one small opportunity to spend a little less — like getting a $2 coffee instead of a $4 latte.
These small, noticeable results will start reinforcing positive money behaviors. They will strengthen the mental pathways that make money management feel easy and natural. A slow build with small changes will give you chances to build a lasting money habit.
2. Improve your financial knowledge
An important money management tip is improving your financial literacy. As Adams puts it, “gradually replace willpower with knowledge.”
Many money mistakes simply come down to not knowing how to do better or ignorance of better options. Get more informed about personal finance, and you’ll be able to steer clear of money mistakes and risks. And you’ll more easily recognize smarter money choices and financial opportunities.
Learning about money and how personal finance concepts work naturally makes beneficial changes easier. Or as the saying goes, when you know better, you do better.
So pick up a book on personal finance, listen to a money-related podcast episode, or bookmark a blog like Student Loan Hero to learn more.
3. Automate your money management
Automating any financial tasks that you can is another effective strategy for creating a smart money management system.
“This way you’re only deciding once to make that difficult choice, rather than having to do so every pay period or every month,” Frailich points out.
Automating your finances removes the cost of mental effort and willpower it would take to manually take those actions.
Say “you have a goal of building a $1,000 emergency fund by the end of 2017,” Frailich says. “You’re far more likely to achieve it if you automate $42 per paycheck to go straight to that fund than if you have a strategy of ‘I’ll move what’s left at the end of the month to the emergency fund.’”
Automate debt payments or savings transfers with schedule, online payments. Even better, make sure your money never even hits your checking account by splitting your paychecks into separate accounts earmarked for different funds. You can also automate retirement savings through paycheck contributions.
4. Create a feedback loop that rewards positive behaviors
Instead of feeling like your money maintenance is a boring hassle or painful sacrifice, you can set it up to be rewarding. You can create a feedback loop that makes the positive effects of your efforts more visible. And that will, in turn, reinforce your healthy money habits.
Your social circle can create a feedback system that provides those feelings of reward. For instance, maybe you start sharing your debt payoff progress on social media. Those likes and comments you receive in exchange will give your brain the positive feedback and rewards it craves.
Another way to get this positive feedback is to visibly track your progress. You can get an app that shows your saving balance inching up. Or maybe you can set up an automatic alert for each $50 you knock off of your credit card balance.
Money goals can help you plan and get moving in the right direction. But how to manage money better comes down to your systems and money habits. Start with improving money management better, and you’ll do more than accomplish your money goals — you’ll master them.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2020!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|1.99% – 5.64%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.89% – 5.90%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.25% – 6.28%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|1.89% – 6.77%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.39% – 6.01%||Undergrad |
|1.99% – 5.61%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
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1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 2.98% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.79% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 1.99% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.64% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of July 31, 2020, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 7/31/2020. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at [email protected], or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.
© 2020 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
All credit products are subject to credit approval.
Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.
As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.
Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.
Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.
Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.
Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.
KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.
This information is current as of September 9, 2020. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.
Splash Financial Disclosures
Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount.
The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.
To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.
Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of September 10, 2020.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.16% effective Sep 1, 2020 and may increase after consummation.