There isn't any one-size-fits-all magic approach. There are, however, different strategies you can try out until you hit on something that works well for you.
Here are three such strategies that can help you change your financial habits. Figure out which is likely to work best for you:
1. Try a spending detox
If spending is one of your big problems, you can try breaking the habit by going on a spending detox. Try to go a month without spending on anything that isn't absolutely necessary. You can retrain yourself to dislike spending and keep your money as a by-product.
I know because the strategy works with other preferences too. After quite some time eating dark chocolate, I have a hard time with sugary milk chocolate. I can't even drink hot chocolate anymore. I retrained my taste buds so that I didn't care as much for sugar. It's the same with spending.
This approach can even work with your long-term and short-term savings goals. Make sure you automatically contribute to retirement savings or to your travel fund during this time, but avoid spending money on unnecessary household goods, gadgets or other items that do little more than clutter things up.
You might be surprised at how quickly you adjust to the new normal and develop new habits that are less about spending money.
2. Make small changes
Taking drastic steps don't work as well for some people. If this describes you, then consider making incremental changes instead of doing something dramatic. This reduces the pain involved and can help you make forward progress.
It's a slower approach, but it can help you ease into new habits. Making small changes is ideal when it comes to saving habits. If you want to get to the point where you are setting aside $400 a month toward retirement, you aren't likely to be able to sustain that change all at once because finding an extra $400 is going to seem too painful.
Instead, you can start with a smaller amount. Can you set aside $10 a week? This adds up to roughly $40 a month. Look to take that first small step. Once you free up that money and become comfortable with the change, then start looking for ways to free up another $10 a week. Work your way up. It takes a little more time than if you jump all the way in, but you will eventually reach your goal. You'll also be more likely to keep it up over the long term.
From freeing up money to paying down debt or putting money toward a family vacation, the start-small approach can work well and help you change the way you manage your money.
3. Plan ahead
One of the best ways to prepare your finances and change your habits is to plan ahead. Get in the habit of checking in with your finances once a week. Set aside time to look ahead to the bills you will need to pay and other financial realities.
When you get in the habit of planning ahead, you will track your spending better, be able to create budgets more easily, and naturally start to change some of your financial habits in a way that can benefit you in the long run. You'll also end up saving yourself a ton of time and headaches in the future because you'll spend less of your resources putting out fires.
It really works. Give these a try today.