How to Break Bad Habits

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Our habits may be based on our core principles, but the surrounding elements will often change them on a daily basis. Be it frugality, way of life or our morals, people around us slowly change our behaviors in a big way.

When we were young, our parents help shape our values by setting examples. Once school started, we start learning from our friends and classmates. Then as we grow older, the sum of our experiences act as the ultimate trial and error experiment that forms our habits.

  • Do you have spending problems that cannot seem to be controlled?
  • Are you always in a rut and can’t seem to be able to get out?
  • Do you want to increase your motivation to do better?

If you want to break your bad habits, you should surround yourself with people who don’t have that habit in question.

My Spending Buddy

One of our friends came to visit us for a few days and let me tell you why he’s special. Every time he comes over, both of us end up buying something we otherwise wouldn’t have bought. There’s a tiny portion of peer pressure involved, but it’s mostly because we fuel each other’s enthusiasm when we talk about our shopping wish list. We seem to like the same stuff, and we get excited every time we discuss why we should make another purchase. We laugh about it, because the stuff we buy are affordable but you can see how it could potentially get out of control.

Mentoring Without Knowledge

There are a few people I always have lunch with. I cherish their friendship, but they also unknowingly helped steer me towards a successful path. There are big ah-ha moment I can share with you today, but the questions they ask, the way they act and the attitude they portray all stimulate my mind and improve me in every way.

The Frugality in Me

If my parents never cared about money, it would be very difficult for me to develop my frugal habits. If Emma thinks of nothing but which handbag she wants to buy next, it will tempt me to buy everything I ever wanted without regard to finances as well.

What I’m Trying to Say

The people closest to you will always affect how you think and act. If you want to save money, then hang around people who also appreciate the value of a dollar. If you want to climb up the corporate ladder, then strike up a conversation with people who are enthusiastic about the company you’re working at. If you want to have a better relationship, then make friends with people who seem to be loved by everyone around them.

Our behaviors are shaped by people we are closed to. The good news is that there is always a way to improve. Evaluate, come up with a plan and take action. It works every time.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • dani says:

    So true. People around us have the biggest effect on breaking bad habits. I successfully break my spending habit in my late 20 with one of my friend who also tried to get the habit gone. Great post! 🙂

    • David @ says:

      Hearing how you broke your spending habit puts a smile on my face 🙂

      Now start saving and you’ll be well on your path to financial freedom!

  • Finance Solver says:

    This is so true. Reminds me of thegreenswan’s post about “show me your friends and I will show you your future.” I’m also a firm believer in the environment affecting a lot of one’s choices (as brilliantly argued by Malcolm Gladwell) so this was a great post adding to that argument!

    • David @ says:

      Thank you for the kind words. On the flip side, you can be a positive influence to your friends by acting in a positive manner too. Start saving and your peers will start to slowly do the same!

  • FinanceSuperhero says:

    The accountability factor cannot be overvalued when considering the act of breaking and forming habits. Great piece, David!

    • David @ says:

      Thanks FinanceSuperhero! Keep tabs on yourself in whatever way you can and you’ll find success.

  • Mike @ Blogsofstuff says:

    David – I’ve been a follower for a few months and enjoy your writing. I also think about breaking bad habits.

  • Brian Lund says:

    Crazy to think how much our habits are shaped by the people we interact with on a daily basis. I know that once I started following finance blogs, I became more conscious of improvements I could make. It’s cool to see what others are doing and how I might apply it to my own situation.

    • David @ says:

      Good for you to apply everything to your own life. Take action is the key to success!

  • Carol Kennedy says:

    I have a question. What’s the difference between being frugal and down right cheap?

    • Stephen says:

      I’ve heard it said that being frugal usually involves some self-control. Even if you’re used to being frugal and there is not much self-control at a conscious level, the point is, being frugal mainly affects oneself. But being cheap affects others.

      • JJ says:

        That’s the truth! I’ve watched “Extreme Cheapskates” often enough to be able to agree with that. I’ve seen people who feed their friends road kill and food scrounged from a dumpster—yuck!—because they were cheap. Gross! Thank you, but I’m not a scavenger.

  • Mark Lindstrom says:

    I spent $20.00 on my watch. I would not spend a penny over that on a watch.

  • KASHIF says:

    I think parents role is very important for children, and i have seen many of my friends who has bad habits and they say may our parents stop us that time when they knew we are doing wrong but in love they never discouraged us, any way if you have a target you can achieve that after hard work and bad habit as same as, t you must target your bad habits its not difficult.

  • Casey says:

    I know a person that has practically every bad habit imaginable. I feel bad for those that get sucked into his orbit and I watch as they take on the same terrible habits as him. It seems as if every person that comes into contact with him is worse off than they were before. I don’t know what to do. I wish he would just “go away”…permanently.

  • coaches247 says:

    Thanks for the article, I agree with it and most of the posters have good points also. It is often easy to know what to do but hard to actually do it because you are arguing against yourself.

  • David@DINKS Finance says:

    Your close friends and community will ALWAYS affect the way you live. When I hang around friends who don’t have the same interests as me (politics, business, investing, etc.) I don’t find as much enjoyment in our conversation as those who are also very curious about the subjects. If I want to become better at investing, it is best for me to connect with others who are interested in investing or who WANT to get better at investing.

  • Wilson Pon says:

    Ning, have you ever heard that a bad habit is formed, once we’re practiced a habit daily for over 3 weeks? In order to lose the bad habit away, we cannot repeat our bad habit for the consecutive 6 weeks of time. However, if you have the inner strength, you’ll be able to lose the bad habit away…

  • Save Money Hound says:

    It takes time to change a habit but i think being driven by a goal and giving it time, as they say it takes at least 21 days to change a habit, will help your mindset shift to achieve what you want.

    Being brought up in a frugal family certainly has a good influence on your spending patterns and financial sense as you grow up.

  • Nick says:

    Well put. My parents always strived to surround me with people who were successful. From a young age, I was guided by people who set a good example and had the right mindset to be successful. As a result, I’m able to succeed far quicker than most and I’m grateful of everyone I was closed with.

  • Craig says:

    Find people with similar styles and mentalities to you and help each other break the habits together. Same way people have work out buddies to motivate themselves.

  • Jen says:

    Like you pointed out, parents have to teach children the value of money from a young age, so that they can manage their expenses once they step into the real world. As a child, I always used to odd jobs around the house to earn a little extra pocket money, and since this was money I had earned with hard work, I was very careful of what I spent it on.

  • Macy says:

    This is so very very true. Our peers affect the way we think and feel about everything daily.

    That’s why people will go to great lengths to have their kids go to a pricey private school. It’s not so much for the education but it’s for the connections their kids can have.

    • Steve says:

      I always thought of this as the parents being influenced by a kind of peer pressure or “keeping up with the Jonses” attitude. To me it shows a competitive spirit where the winner of the competition is whoever has kids who go to the most expensive (or maybe “exclusive”) school.

  • Matthew says:

    I started hanging around successful people a few years ago and I’m so glad to see this post because I always thought it was a little crafty. 🙂 It did help me a lot but I always had doubts of whether it was the right thing to do.

    At least now I know it’s common as I’m not the only one who does this.

  • Evolution of Wealth says:

    You are the average of your 5 closest friends. Think about it. In a lot of ways it’s true. Whether it’s spending, success, lifestyle, etc.

    Great relevant post.

  • Matt Jabs says:

    This is great information, but not always as simple as it sounds. I’m not really sure why people do not naturally surround themselves with those who are where they want to be… perhaps it is a confidence issue? It seems so many of our shortcomings are.

    Within the last year, I have made it a point to stop spending time in “dead end friendships” and instead begin fostering relationships with people who have achieved the successes I am looking to achieve. Again, the concept is very simple, but can be hard to personally grasp and implement into our lives.

    Now that I have been able to do this… I reap the benefits daily.

  • Billy says:

    It’s hard enough to break bad habits on your own, but it’s impossible if all your friends would tempt you to go back. I used to smoke, and it was extremely difficult to quit when all my friends smoked. At the end, I had to stop going out with my friends unless they promised not to smoke in front of me.

    • JJ says:

      Great idea! I just wish that would work for me. I don’t smoke, but all that secondhand smoke makes me sick. Unfortunately, my friends don’t seem to have enough courtesy not to smoke in front of me, so I’m torn between my health and my friends. I’m not sure what to do. I detest their smoke, but it makes me feel even worse to think about leaving them because of it.

  • SEO David says:

    The buddy system really works. Fitness. Dieting. Spending. Self-improvement. Whatever lifestyle change you want to make, teamwork makes the difference. AA understands this, as does every other support group.

  • Issac says:

    So true. When I was in college, all my friends were spenders and we ended up being in so much debt. Once I got out and moved to the west coast because of my job, I started spending much less because I met a few people who were pretty frugal.

    This seems to extend to non-financial areas too. Our studying habits, hobbies that we like and interests etc are all influenced by people around us.

  • AJ says:

    This is true. I am doing all of these things right now to improve myself. I am hanging out with high GRE score testers, I am hanging out with PF people. I am finding places all over the internet to help me with my goals and I am immersing myself in the various communities.

    • MoneyNing says:

      Good for you. Most of the benefit will not be the direct help that they provide but the mindset that will translate to good results for you.

  • Financial Samurai says:

    I agree completely about how your friends affect your spending. However, hopefully one doesn’t dump their friends just b/c of excessive spending. 🙂

    My buddy bought a $6,000 Panerai watch one day, and that influenced me to go out and buy something similar too. If I never saw his watch I never would have thought to spend such a crazy amount. But I do enjoy it. It’s a rare Rolex Milgauss GV (Green Crystal Sapphire) that once traded up to $15,000 during the boom and is now back down to $8,000. Retail is $6,500 if you can get it. Nuts.

    Best investments I made are: $75 hiking boots, and a $500 second hand full suspension mountain bike. These gifts keep giving and giving.

    • MoneyNing says:

      My SpendingBuddy’s a keeper, so no worries.

      Watches can get extremely expensive (I think you already know), and almost everyone I know have more than one watch, so be careful about spending way too much money than you should.

      • Bev says:

        I think people who spend on this kind of stuff are hilarious and also just a wee bit sad. There’s a HUGE difference between looking like a rich guy and being a rich guy. One of the wealthiest men in the world has a policy of never wearing a watch or carrying a phone. If he needs to know the time there’s always someone he can ask. If someone needs to contact him, they do so in his office during work hours. Makes you think a lot of this amazing ‘stuff’ people feel the need to own is really about overdeveloped egos and underdeveloped, er, everything else 🙂

    • JJ says:

      Ouch! And I thought the “Rocky Mountain” brand jeans I bought once a few years back were expensive! I’d never pay that for a watch. All I ask for is something that tells me what time it is, no fancy bells & whistles.

  • DDFD @ DivorcedDadFrugalDad says:

    Time to make your Spending Buddy your Frugal Buddy or leave the wallets at home . . .

    • MoneyNing says:

      I don’t think people really change that drastically, but so far it’s manageable so I’m not complaining. It’s fun when he visits 🙂

  • Miranda says:

    Great post. Sometimes we all need a little help breaking bad spending habits. The fact that my husband and I try to be accountable to each other for purchases also helps me think about what I’m spending money on.

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