We often investigate ways to improve our finances—to make more money, have more money and have less debt. But often the path to financial independence has more to do with eliminating bad habits. Bad habits have a way of neutralizing improvements, and may be the reason why we don’t seem to make much progress even after making efforts in new directions.

What are some of those bad habits that may be hurting our finances?

Being passive about your career

When we talk about finances, careers and incomes are often left out of the discussion. But careers and income are the single most important parts of our financial situations. They’re the source of revenue to pay for living expenses, luxuries and savings. How well we live will rely more on income than any other single factor.

With most jobs in today’s economic climate, employers are paying us to get better at what we do—that’s how they increase productivity. In order to keep pace and to advance we need to take on new responsibilities and to get training where necessary. Always think of your career as your ultimate investment and be ready to make reasonable efforts to improve your skills and income potential. Always!

Trying to keep up with your friends and neighbors

Most of us unconsciously try to keep up with our friends and neighbors when it comes to possessions and lifestyles. We may not think so, but that’s what usually happens. In any group of people, be it a circle of friends or a community of neighbors, there are certain standards that dictate how each member lives. If one member of the group buys a new car, it’s usually just a matter of time before others will as well.

While adhering to group standards might make us feel more like full fledged members of the group, it’s also an expensive way to live. It’s a process of allowing others to make consumption and purchase decisions for us. But usually, the more you’re out of step with a group, the more control you have over your finances, and that means learning to ignore what others are buying and doing with their money.

Viewing debt as permanent arrangement

One of the biggest problems relating to debt is that people often get into it early in life, and then they start to see it as normal. Debt isn’t normal, and the minute you start thinking it is you doom yourself to a lifetime of indebtedness.

All debt—including your mortgage and student loans—should be viewed as temporary and paid off as soon as possible. The less money you have going toward debt, the more you have for everything else, and that includes saving, investing and all around living better.

Watching too much TV

It may sound crazy to connect TV with finances but it’s more valid than we think. The main purpose of TV is to sell us something—that’s why TV has commercials, and so many of them at that. While we may think of commercials as intrusions, there’s more going on there then we realize.

From a financial standpoint, TV trains us to be consumers. Its purpose is to introduce us to products and services, convince us we can’t live without them and then to move us to buy. Most of it happens subliminally, but rest assured it is happening.

The more time we spend watching TV, the more commercials we see, the more we buy and the less money we have. The solution? Watch less TV! Then watch your bank account grow.

Planning to save…later

Saving isn’t something most of us do naturally. We can blame TV and our consumer society for that, but in the end we have to be intentional about doing it otherwise it doesn’t ever happen. Saying we’ll do it later isn’t anything like actually doing it. That’s the hard part.

We can always come up with an endless list of “needs” to spend current income on, but the future will never get better until we have more money salted away. That will require doing without now so we can have more later. The sooner you begin saving, the faster your bank account will grow, and the larger it will be.

Can you think of other bad financial habits that may be sabotaging our finances?

Kevin Mercadante

Kevin Mercadante

Kevin Mercadante is professional personal finance blogger, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, OutOfYourRut.com. He has backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and two teenage kids and can be followed on Twitter at @OutOfYourRut.