Save. Spend. Splurge.

Habits: Learning what makes you tick

We all have habits.

Mine, is to wake up, check on my iPod Touch what I have to get done for that day, all while still lying in bed.

A new habit I saw forming, was wanting to buy a drink — hot or cold — any time I went out. If I left the house, I felt like I deserved a drink of some sort.

I’ve sort of broken myself of it (it was so hard in the summer, sweating like a pig!), and I am now aware of this urge that almost became habit-forming.

Not all habits are bad however, some can be good, such as getting into the habit of going to yoga every week.

It all became clearer when I read: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

It’s a fast read, and a great book.

How to recognize and change a habit

All habits start in the same way.

There is a CUE, a ROUTINE to address the CUE and the REWARD.

  • CUE = Cookie craving at 4 p.m.
  • ROUTINE = Walk to cafeteria at 4 p.m. to eat cookie
  • REWARD = Cookie
  • SIDE EFFECT = Bad for your wallet and waistline

If you notice yourself receiving a cue, such as in my case, going out of the house and seeing a Starbucks, my routine would be stop by the Starbucks so I can grab a green tea latte to hold in my hands while I walk around downtown, and my reward is the drink itself, although the side effect of this bad habit was it was starting to cost a lot of money.

To change this habit, you have to recognize the cue and change the routine to obtain a different reward.

Give yourself another reward.

In my case, when I went out and DIDN’T buy a drink, my routine changed and my reward was to allow myself to feel good about not buying the drink.

I would open my budgeting and expense tracking spreadsheet, feel good that I didn’t spend $3 on a drink (I like expensive organic stuff), and feel much better about my net worth staying stable.

It worked even better if I had a goal, like a dinner coming up I’d have to pay for. I’d calculate that in 10 times I didn’t buy a $3 drink, I more than paid for that dinner.

I also mentally felt better (less sugar in my body), and had money for other more useful things.

A treat is best left as a treat, not as a routine.

Where to learn more about this

If you want a preview (or maybe don’t want to buy or borrow the book), here are some videos you can watch instead.

This video by Mr. Duhigg is 40 minutes long.

….but a shorter version (4 minutes) is here:


  • The Asian Pear

    Thanks for posting this. This book is on my To Read list for awhile now. I appreciate the synopsis. I’ll try to get it soon. Seems like an interesting read. Right now, I’m reading Made to Stick by Dan & Chip Heath. It’s a good book as well and would recommend it.

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