I know it’s a weird connection but hear me out.

A couple of months ago, my dentist expressed concern over my gums. It was obvious I wasn’t flossing, and he warned me I might contract gum disease.

I don’t know what gum disease is, but after a quick search on Google Images, I know what it looks like. That’s a big cup of nope! So I started flossing.

After four months and a healthy set of gums, I learned some lessons that relate directly to money.

1. Punishment works better to start saving money.

When the dentist said I was at risk for gum disease, I Googled some pictures. Don’t do it if you’re squeamish. It’s nasty.

After seeing what would happen to my mouth if I didn’t change my wicked ways, I was instantly motivated to start flossing.

Starting a new habit takes a strong incentive, and losing money ranks toward the top of the list. There is a great website called Stickk that can charge your credit card if you don’t meet your goals.

If you’ve been procrastinating on starting a retirement fund or saving for something big, sign up for a Stickk account. Being charged $100 for not investing $100 makes you feel stupid. And that’s the whole point.

2. Terrible floss exists. Always look for better tools.

When I ran out of the free sample from the dentist, I bought store-brand dental floss. I used it for only three days. The floss was so bad, I thought about trying to return it.

But then I found the Listerine Flosser. It’s a sturdy handle the length of a toothbrush, and a replaceable, plastic “U” holds half an inch of floss at the end. If you hate flossing, buy a Listerine Flosser!

I’m four times faster, and I don’t risk permanently cutting off circulation to my fingertips.

The lesson is you should always be on the lookout for better tools or processes. For tracking my money, I love using Mint, but I also try each new app I can find. Eventually, a better app will be created, and I’ll be there waiting.

If you want to check out some other awesome money apps, read the Lifehack article, 25 Apps That Will Save You Lots of Money.

For great tools beyond money, be sure to buy a copy of Tim Ferriss’ new book, Tools of Titans.

3. Break a large goal into steps so small you’ll feel horrible for not trying.

In less than four months of flossing, I graduated from being lectured about gum disease to being lauded for my healthy gums. Flossing once a day does wonders.

The old saying is true: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. A daily habit that takes a tiny amount of time saves you terrible trouble and is completely manageable.

Saving for retirement seems to be a big, hairy, audacious goal for a lot of people. When I give advice to my clients, my goal is to break this giant number from the future down to a monthly or weekly number.

I spend thirty seconds a day flossing and a couple of hundred dollars a month saving for retirement. One habit saves me from gum disease. The other will make me a millionaire.

If you want to find out the monthly amount you need to be investing for retirement, check out my article, 6 Steps to Finally Start a Retirement Plan.

How long does it take to create a habit?

Depending on who you ask, creating a new habit takes anywhere between 21 and 30 days. When I start a habit, I like to give it four solid weeks. It’s enough time to work out the kinks, try new tactics, and still see results.

  1. Put your money where your mouth is and make a bet with someone to start your habit.
  2. Always be looking for better tools to make you better or faster.
  3. Break your goals into much smaller, manageable steps.

And if your credit score is a bigger problem than flossing or saving for retirement, I’ve got a free gift for you.

You can boost your credit score by 100 points or more before FICO updates their formulas.

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