Financial Self-Care for ABA Professionals

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by Tania Duarte, M.S. BCBA

Securing and taking care of your financial health is an important part of self-care. Setting goals is a key component when working towards creating and maintaining a successful budget. It is always a good idea to break your long-term goals into smaller, easily obtainable short-term goals. The best way to improve your odds of success is to use the “S.M.A.R.T” method.

“S.M.A.R.T.” goals have five characteristics: (S)pecific, (M)easurable, (A)chievable, (R)elevant, and (T)ime-bound. Each part contributes to why this method is effective in the goal-setting process.


A specific goal has a much greater chance of success than a general one because it provides something defined to reach for.


You should be able to track your progress toward meeting the goal. Otherwise, it will be difficult to determine if you are going to achieve it. For example, saving $5 per week is measurable. Saving more money is not.


Your goal should be within your reach, but that does not mean it should be easy. Your goal may be challenging for you, but it should not be impossible. If the goal feels like too much of a stretch, try breaking it down into smaller, more achievable goals. This helps you remain motivated by highlighting short-term goals you achieve while working towards your long-term goals.


Set goals that matter to you and are a priority in your life. This makes it more likely that you will prioritize the time and effort it takes to achieve them.


Goals should have a clearly defined timeframe, including a target or deadline date. This helps ensure that they are measurable and that steps are taken to reach the goal by the target date.

Strategies for Financial Self-Care

piggy bank

Digital Budgeting

A good way to track your spending is through digital budgeting. Yodlee and are two free services that allow you to establish budget goals for your spending, which it categorizes automatically. The app will monitor budget goals and email you when you are close to reaching your spending cap. The service also sends you a status report at the end of each month.

Building Savings

We never know what the future holds, whether it be job loss, car repair, or unexpected medical bills. One day, you may be in great health with a great job, and the next you might be unable to work. A big step in saving is starting an emergency fund so that you have a safety net for rainy days. Initially, your goal should consist of having enough funds to cover at least three to six months of living expenses. Once you accomplish that goal, continue to increase this amount so that you have enough for a year.

You can try these methods to save money:

  • For one month, write down everything you spend. This includes small expenses like cups of coffee; however, these can add up to a lot of money. When you know where you are spending your money, you can decide what you might not want to buy.
  • Pay with your credit card only if you can pay the full amount when the bill arrives so that you do not pay interest on what you owe.
  • Pay your bills when they are due so that you will not owe late fees or other charges.
  • Keep the money you are saving separate from the money you spend.
  • Consider opening a savings account at a bank or credit union. Read more about opening a bank account.
  • If you keep cash at home, keep the money you are saving separate from your spending money. Keep all of your cash somewhere safe.

Key Take Aways

As behavior analysts, we naturally desire all behavior repertoires, such as self-care, to be operationally defined, observable, and measurable so that it is easy to create an individualized behavioral plan. Research has shown how self-care is not an easy task to define across practitioners, yet there is consensus that self-care is related to improved health outcomes. We explored one key aspect of self care: the financial well being of ABA professionals.

Want to explore other self-care topics? We updated our Self-Care Guide for 2022. It’s full of useful information, checklists, and more. Download yours below.

self-care guide


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