Understanding and Changing Spending Habits


Everyone wants to cultivate better money habits, but people often forget that spending habits are just that: spending habits. A habit is an acquired behavior pattern that is followed so regularly it’s almost involuntary.

Examples of spending habits might include spending a lot of money right after you get paid—like taking your family out to dinner every payday. These habits could even include things like always waiting until the last minute to buy a plane ticket or buying a souvenir t-shirt every time you go on vacation. Better money habits could also include positive things like saving 10% of your pay and donating to a charity.

How do spending habits form?

We are largely influenced by what’s around us. This includes:

  • Parents or other significant people around us: If your mother always brought flowers when visiting a relative, you might find yourself doing that, too without questioning if it is always necessary or even appropriate.
  • Culture and society: Different cultural norms dictate what’s normal. One culture might spend lavishly on weddings while another doesn’t spend much at all. Someone who was raised in an Asian culture might see spending differently than someone raised in a Latino culture. Someone raised in great wealth might have spending habits that are very different from someone raised in poverty.
  • Religion and spiritual beliefs: Religion can have a strong impact on spending habits, such as tithing, giving alms, donating to charity and participating in traditional celebrations that require significant expenses.
  • Unique personalities and experiences: Two siblings raised in the same environment might have very different spending habits. One might be a saver while the other might be a free-spirited spender. This uniqueness also encompasses other forces such as gender and gender roles.
  • The media: Think about the spending habits of the characters you saw on TV when you were growing up. Did those characters eat out often? Did they often go shopping? Did they forgo what they wanted in order to save for retirement?We see hundreds to thousands of ads every day. How may those affect what we want and what we perceive is a need?

Why is it hard to break spending habits?

Over time, it becomes more and more difficult to change a habit because that habit has become more and more natural to who we are and how we act. And research shows that we automatically favor what is familiar to us—even if we know it’s not to our benefit. The challenge is creating a new normal, which involves behavior change. Think about dieting: If you’ve spent years and years eating the same way, it’s obviously very tough to change that pattern. That’s true even if you want to change, know you should and understand what the new pattern would look like.

How to understand your spending habits better with Money Habitudes

An important part of forging better money habits is not just understanding what you spend but why you spend the way you do. After all, you can’t change what you don’t understand. Money Habitudes helps people understand their money habits and attitudes by making it fun and easy to understand how we spend, save, invest, go into debt, give to others and so on. It’s also nonjudgmental; many people are reluctant to confront their money history because they’re worried about being judged—or judging themselves. With Money Habitudes, there is no right or wrong answer.