“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” – Alan Lakein

ACCOMPLISHING financial goals does not happen by chance. It requires adequate preparation, beginning with a well-thought-out plan. The importance of preparing for economic and financial success is evident in this year’s Economic and Financial Literacy Week with the theme, “ISAPLANO: Bagong Philippine Development Plan para sa Patuloy na Pagsulong.”

Since continuous economic and financial progress can take place over an extended period, financial plans need to be long-term as well. On a personal level, one of the most important considerations when planning for sustained progress is developing good habits.

The power of habits

Tying your shoelaces, looking both ways before crossing the street, having coffee in the morning, taking a bath daily. What do these seemingly simple actions all have in common?

They are automatic. They do not need willpower to perform. Well, maybe except for daily baths, which some people loathe. But for the most part, doing these things requires neither excruciating effort nor daily reminding.

In other words, they are habits.

Habits are the decisions people make or the acts they regularly perform, such that one hardly thinks of them. In other words, they have become second nature.

Habits are important because people become what they repeatedly do. If they regularly give to the church, community, or the needy, they become naturally generous. If they exercise regularly, they become—and stay—fit.

But habits go both ways. Unhealthy eating practices will make one sluggish and sick. If they regularly report to work late, their career growth may also be delayed because their performance and output inevitably suffer.

As the late Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Habits become values and in turn, become our destiny.” Hence, the need to be intentional with one’s habits.

Developing the habit of saving in banks

More than just ensuring available funds for one’s future needs and wants, saving money in banks provides key benefits such as safe and convenient financial transactions, and deposit protection provided by the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation (PDIC). But despite these advantages, plenty of Filipinos still struggle with developing the habit of saving money in banks because of insufficient funds and perceived difficulties in opening and maintaining a bank account, among others.

Fortunately, one can develop the habit of saving in banks just like any other habit, particularly by applying the four rules of behavioral change that bestselling author James Clear taught in his book, “Atomic Habits.”

Rule #1: Make it obvious (Clear and easy to remember)

Two reasons why one fails to achieve goals, particularly habit-forming ones, are ambiguity and forgetfulness.

When a goal is not clear, it is hard to objectively determine success or failure. For example, how does one know they are on the right path toward developing the habit of saving money in banks? Some of the things one needs to define are the amount, timing, and frequency.

A particularly helpful tool for this is what Clear refers to in “Atomic Habits” as “implementation intentions,” which are statements that clearly identify cues or triggers and resulting actions related to identified goals. Savings-related examples of these include:
  1. “As soon as I get home, I will put all the coins in my pocket into my coin jar.”
  2. “On every last banking day of the month or when my coin jar is already full, whichever comes first, I will go to the bank and deposit the jar’s contents to my savings account.”
  3. “I will put P50 in my savings envelope every weekday as soon as I get home from work.”
  4. “I will deposit the money inside my savings envelope to my bank account on the last working day of every month.”
To help yourself remember to perform specific actions regularly, you will need very obvious habit cues or triggers. For examples one and three above, you can put the coin jar or savings envelope in a highly visible area of your home to constantly remind you of the intended habit. You can also set automated reminders using apps like iCalendar, Google Calendar, or MS Calendar to make sure you do not forget to implement your plan to save.

Rule #2: Make the habit attractive

The more attractive an action is, the more likely one is to do it. But if an action is not that appealing yet, one can use a strategy that Clear calls “temptation bundling,” in other words, partnering an unenticing action with an appealing one for added motivation. For example, you can drop by your bank’s cash deposit terminal on your way to the gym for your after-office workouts or visit your bank before taking a hearty lunch break in the office. There is nothing like a back to-back combo of feeding your savings and your stomach.

Rule #3: Make it as easy as possible

In developing a savings habit, “how often” is more important than “how much.” Consistency is more important than amount because what one really wants is to make the action automatic. The easier it is to do, the higher one’s chances of successfully developing the habit of saving in banks.

Here are some bank saving hacks to make developing the habit as easy as possible:
  1. Setting a low minimum amount for every deposit. Many banks today offer Basic Deposit Accounts with required initial deposits of up to P100 only and no maintaining balance.
  2. Designating a trusted person (e.g., spouse, family member, etc.) to make regular deposits to the account if going to the bank during business hours is not feasible.
  3. Automating fund transfers to a savings-designated bank account via mobile banking apps or online banking platforms, where available.

Rule #4: Make the habit satisfying

Finally, one needs to make their habit of saving in banks satisfying in order to make it stick. The more fulfilling it is, the more likely you are to repeat the actions until they become automatic. Some of the ways you can do this include:
  1. Tracking deposit transactions and running balances. When you see your deposit slips or transaction confirmations pile up and your current balances increase, you can feel satisfied and encouraged to continue depositing regularly to your bank account.
  2. Rewarding yourself when you perform savings habit-related actions, e.g., buying a book, getting a massage, or watching an extra episode of your favorite series. The reward can be simple as long as the satisfaction it brings is genuine and the cost of the reward is less than the amount you save.

A non-negotiable habit

Saving money in banks is a behavior that everyone must learn and constantly practice to ensure a bright future. Fortunately, you can develop and embody this habit by applying the four rules of behavioral change identified by Clear in his book: Make it obvious (clear and easy to remember), attractive, easy, and satisfying.

To learn more wise habits to save in banks, check out the PDIC’s “7 Ugali ng Wais na Mag-Iimpok” video at https://bit.ly/PDIC7Ugali. (SPONSORED CONTENT)