Budgeting

Simply Changing These 3 Habits Can Help You Save a Lot of Money and Lead a Happier Life

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Joanne Poh

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Money doesn’t climb out of your wallet all by itself. If you’re finding it darned hard to save money, instead of staring at your wallet, look in the mirror instead. Instead of beating yourself up for waking up in the morning with an empty wallet barely remembering your own name, work on some simple habit and lifestyle changes to help yourself save money without even thining about it. Here’s how.

 

1. Sleep and wake up earlier

Often, we get careless with our spending when we don’t feel in control of our lives. If you stay out until 5am on Friday night and then wake up at 2pm on Saturday afternoon, that feeling of having wasted half the day makes you lose a sense of control over the rest of the day. Before you know it, you’ve spent the rest of the afternoon shopping online or vegetating in front of the couch.

If you make it a habit to sleep and wake earlier, chances are you’ll be working a lot more efficiently, exercising a lot more and drinking a lot less. As someone who works from home and is not a morning person, I personally find it impossible to summon the discipline to wake up at 8am, but just sleeping and waking up a few hours earlier makes a world of difference to my self-discipline.

Benjamin, a 32-year-old entrepreneur, used to spend thousands of dollars a month on alcohol and taxi fare. Whether it was an all-night KTV session or a raucuous evening at a club, so long as the sun wasn’t up the night was young. These days, he is usually in bed by 1am, and often gets up early to go to the gym or have breakfast with his mother. His spending has decreased as a result of his now more balanced lifestyle.

 

2. Exercising regularly

The first thing a psychiatrist tells a depressive patient is to exercise daily. Exercise increases your serotonin levels so you feel happier. If the only exercise you get each day are those daily walks from your office cubicle to the toilet, you’re probably feeling a lot worse mentally and emotionally than you have to. If you don’t believe me, sign up for a twice-weekly yoga class or take up muay thai, and then tell me if you don’t feel distinct difference beyond the obvious physical benefits.

Most impulse spending is an emotional reaction. Hardly anyone who buys a handbag worth a whole month’s salary has seriously done a cost-benefit analysis or brainstormed for alternative ways the money could be used. We spend on massages when we’re feeling frazzled at work, splash out unexpectedly on a new outfit to treat ourselves after having gone through a stressful week.

Exercise regularly—and we don’t mean once every two weeks—and see if your impulse spending doesn’t dramatically decrease. You might also find you’re binge eating or binge drinking a lot less, or even buying fewer clothes when you develop a healthier body image.

Marissa, a 31-year-old bank executive, used to go to the gym regularly but has stopped due to long working hours. Now she finds herself treating herself to late-night supper snacks and buying more clothes to counter work stress. “The year I had a gym membership, although I didn’t really like working out I felt better in the evenings when I went home from the gym. Nowadays, I turn to comfort food instead,” she says.

 

3. Getting rid of toxic people

How many times have you muttered, “I need a beer,” because your boss had really crossed the line with her bitchy comments? Constant contact with toxic people leads to greater stress, which can then lead to impulse spending and an overall sense of not being in control with your life.

If you spend a lot of time with snarky frenemies or expend a lot of energy participating in office gossip, be aware that it’s not making you any happier and could even be making you spend money to cope, as well as to keep up appearances in front of people you don’t like anyway.

Victor, a 31-year-old legal counsel, used to smoke heavily during his days as a lawyer in private practice. “The job was very stressful due in part to a partner who was infamous for terrorising the associates. Everytime her voice rang through the office my hair would stand. Smoking was our way of taking a a bit of a time-out in the middle of the work day to try to regain our sanity.” He spent at least $200 a month on cigarettes. He has since successfully quit smoking, which was possible due to lower stress levels and an understanding boss at his current job.

(Names have been changed to protect the identities of respondents.)

Which of your habits or lifestyle choices have an impact on how much money you spend? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.