Do you have the necessary money habits to quit your job? A few years ago, I definitely did not.
I remember one day at my old job particularly well. I was sitting at my desk, dreaming about the day I’d be able to hand in my notice and never come back, sneakily looking at a spreadsheet I had created to track my spending.
You see, due to sheer boredom and unhappiness, I had mastered the art of looking like I was working when I really wasn’t. The key, I found, was to put whatever I was reading or doing into the format that was used by company documents. If I found an interesting article to read I’d quickly copy and paste it into a professional-looking Word document – making sure to “paste as plain text”.
I feel kinda bad revealing this, like I cheated on an exam – but this just goes to show that working in an office just wasn’t for me. Maybe this rule-dodging was my dormant sense of creativity trying to pry itself free.
Working out how much money you need
So this particular afternoon, I had been filling in my expenses, when I had a thought: “how much money would I have to make in order to cover my lifestyle in case I lost/quit my job?”.
I started playing around with the numbers on the spreadsheet, trying to arrive at a lower amount than my expenses at the time. I wanted to take out expenses that I knew weren’t vital and could be easily cut.
I started by taking some money off the “bills” category – thinking I could renegotiate my gas, water and electricity, and get cheaper phone and internet contracts. I also lowered the “fun” and “food” categories before getting to a significantly lower expenses number.
All I needed next was a plan of action, and enough willpower to follow through with it. Thankfully, we humans have a way to make sticking to a pattern much easier.
The 7 Money Habits That Let Me Quit My Job
Our incredible human brains come pre-installed with this software called Habits 1.0. It’s a tool that lowers the RAM and CPU requirements to perform repeatable tasks. In non-nerdy terms, – also known as normal terms 😉 – we’re able to train our minds to make difficult stuff easy.
You know how utterly impossible the concept of exercising 3 times a week seems at the start? Once you’ve done it two or three times it suddenly becomes very achievable. After a couple of weeks, it’s easy. You’ve created a habit.
Money habits are no different – they only take repetition. I knew that if I wanted to quit my job I would need:
- Enough money saved to cover my expenses for at east a year without a job, while I worked on starting and monetising a business. This ended up being around $20,000.
- To lower my expenses enough to be able to save a big chunk of my paycheck every month. This would also lower the amount of money I’d need to save in the first place. Two birds – one stone
Whether you want to do what I did and plan on quitting your job, or you simply want to get financially fitter, here are some of the most powerful money habits that I encourage you to start as soon as you can – like next paycheck soon.
1 – Start an Emergency Fund
Everyone should always, always, ALWAYS have some cash ready for any emergency. According to a study conducted by Bankrate, 62% of Americans would not be able to pay for a $500 unexpected expense without borrowing money.
This is staggeringly awful, and I hope you’re better than those stats and save up an emergency fund. I’ve always had around $1,000 sitting in my bank account, ready for any unexpected – but likely – expense.
Besides, having savings will bring you the freedom to have more control over your life.
2 – Pay Down Debt First
Debt shouldn’t be seen as normal – it’s an emergency. Borrowing money means you don’t have enough, and that’s bad news – unless you can’t get out of it, like buying a house or paying for college.
Debt is almost always going to carry a hefty interest tag, so it should be the very first thing you tackle – after building a 1k emergency fund!
3 – Live Like a Student
Remember when you were in college and survived on ramen noodles, frozen pizza and home-made quesadillas? No? Was that just me?
I spent the least when I was in University, barely budgeting anything for food and bills. It was great.
Then I started earning money and my lifestyle expenses crept up. I got used to nicer things and a more comfortable lifestyle.
Was I happier? Nope.
I wish I had lived like a student for longer, spending just over the bare minimum before I got a taste of the sweet nectar of nice things!
4 – Sleep on Big Purchases
As a rule of thumb, you should never impulse-buy anything bigger than $50. Ideally, you should never impulse buy. Period.
If you can go to sleep – or better yet, wait a few days – and you still want the big purchase, then you’ll know it was worthwhile and not just a passing desire.
Seriously, this habit will save you a lot of money -and space!- over the years.
5 – Pay Yourself First
One of my favourite books is The Richest Man in Babylon. It opened my eyes to what was possible when you save and invest money on a regular basis. It’s famous for coining the phrase “pay yourself first”.
Before you pay the landlord, the butcher or the mobile phone provider, pay yourself.
Get into the habit of saving a certain amount as soon as you get paid. This will make it impossible to waste money on unnecessary things and will ensure that you meet your target savings.
I can guarantee that you’ll save more this way than if you just save what’s left at the end of the month. Prove me wrong! 😉
6 – Embrace The Tupperware
One of my biggest expenses when I worked 9-5 was food.
I spent lots on coffee and lunch at work and ate at restaurants a little too often. It wasn’t anything crazy, but it was all adding up quickly.
If you look into your eating habits I bet you’ll find a few ways you can reduce your food expenses, especially if you use one of mankind’s best inventions; The Tupperware.
As soon as you start cooking larger meals and saving the leftovers in Tupperwares, you’ll be able to take them to work as lunch and save a lot of money. If you cook in bulk you’ll even be able to freeze some portions to be eaten on another day.
It’s so much easier to prevent eating out or ordering takeaways when you know you have a tasty meal ready to be heated up and enjoyed.
7 – Track What You Spend
I’ve had months when I’ve tracked my expenses religiously and others when I’ve completely ignored my bank account. The correlation between a high savings rate and tracking my expenses is incredible.
If you don’t track your expenses, start now. You don’t even have to budget, just see where your money is going. You’ll then be armed with the power of making great financial decisions.
You can use any free excel spreadsheet out there or use paid software. I personally use You Need a Budget (YNAB) which I got for 20 bucks during a Steam Summer Sale. It’s been money well spent.
You can do it!
The road to developing good money habits is tough, but it gets easier every day. If you keep your goal in mind – whether it’s quitting your job or getting out of debt – it’ll help you in times when you feel like giving up. If you don’t quit you can’t fail!
I hope you’ll put some of these into practice – if you aren’t already. Let me know about your best money habits in the comment below!
Lastly, If you want a step-by-step guide that shows you a plan to quit your job (which includes getting your finances in order!) sign up below for free instant access.
Great tips! I keep an emergency fund of 3 months of living expenses, just in case. I do have a bit of debt as I have a couple mortgages and am looking to get a third here soon. However, on is my home and the other cash flows so I am ok with the debt. I totally agree with paying yourself first. Saving is the fastest way to financial freedom. I save about 40% of my income right now.For as long as I can remember, I have tracked my expenses, brought my own lunch, and made my own coffee. However, I don’t live like a student; I have had some lifestyle expenses creep up, and I’m not sure I’m ready to make those sacrifices! Great job on getting out of a job you hated to do what you enjoy.
Ricard Torres says
Thanks, Danielle! Mortgages are probably an exception to the debt rule – I still think they should be paid ASAP to minimise the overall interest being paid, but they aren’t as bad as something like credit cards and their stupidly high interest!
40% is a solid savings rate! It’s also pretty doable for most people without having to go crazy-frugal and go “full-student” 😉 After all, some expenses that aren’t essential can bring such happiness to our lives that they are worth every penny.
Financial Shaper says
My wife and I steadily increased our savings rate well above 50 % in the last years and set a new target at 65 % in order to become financially independent in about five to six years.
The seven money habits in your post are good tips and could/should be combined with investing on a regular basis to use the compound effect.
Another important aspect: making saving and investing fun.
Ricard Torres says
Wow, some mighty saving rates!!
I absolutely agree: investing is a huge part of the equation to wealth, and so is not losing interest in it. For me, tracking helps a lot. It’s easy to stay motivated when you see constant progress.
I dream of the day I am able to escape the pits of hell aka my cubicle. I’m a month away from $1000 in my emergency fund so I am slowly crawling towards my goal. Thank you for these tips.
Ricard Torres says
Hey Dyana. Great job on amassing that vital emergency fund! Now it’s time to start preparing an exit strategy so you can be much happier than it sounds you are now. If you follow these tips (and even the free guide that I offer just above the comments) you’ll be where you wanna be within a few months. Keep motivated, I’m sure you can do it! 🙂
Great points you mention. I’d add to start questioning everything. What are your habits and how often do you really need to do them? What do they really cost? I think most peoples bad financial situations are self inflicted. Its not about being greedy, super frugal or obsessive about money. Its about coming to your senses about what your are really spending your money on. In many ways we have been brainwashed by society and the media to require a certain lifestyle and posesions. Get some self discipline and control and you will be surprised how much further your money will go. 2 more tips: automate your investments and learn to negotiate.