Linking credit debt to your fitness routine seems like a stretch, but it’s a claim New York Times’ writer Charles Duhigg champions in his new book The Power of Habit. In the book, Duhigg explores the impact our everyday habits have on our health, jobs, social lives and even our own finances. Once we begin eliminating a routine that triggers waste – whether it’s indulging in junk food or chain smoking on lunch breaks – other areas of our life begin to shift for the better as well.
“What’s totally fascinating to me about this is that when you start exercising in the morning you stop using your credit card quite as frequently. And the question would be ‘Why?’ And the reason why is because what we’ve learned from laboratory experiments is some habits are known as keystone habits. They have this kind of disproportionate influence where once you start changing that pattern, it makes all the other behaviours in someone’s life more open to change.”
Duhigg’s idea for the book came from his own bad habit: heading up to the Times’ cafeteria for a gut-inflating chocolate chip cookie every afternoon.
The key to kicking his habit was to examine three key elements: the cue (mid-afternoon break), the bad behaviour (cookie time), and the reward he received in return (social time with coworkers). Once he identified all three, he could start finding new ways to achieve the same reward, like chatting up coworkers outside the lunchroom.
The same technique can be used, Duhigg says, to examine our poor financial choices. Think about what triggers a spending spree. It could be a stressful workday or that pile of discount emails retailers pump to your inbox each morning. Rather than heading to the mall, you could break the routine and get the same reward – stress relief – by investing in a kickboxing class or starting a walking group after work.
And keep this in mind: A recent TD Ameritrade study found the vast majority of savvy spenders actually practice healthy eating habits and were sure to get a physical exam each year.