Whether you’re running on the treadmill or running errands, exercising for financial fitness can feel like a chore. But it doesn’t have to. With regular practice and focus, you can reach both your physical and financial goals.
I recently went shopping with my family at the mall and of course my younger siblings wanted to buy some new toys while we were out. My parents said they should save their money rather than spend it on impulse buys. Yet, a few minutes later my parents turned around and made a few impulse purchases themselves.
We’re all guilty of a little self-indulgence, and there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself occasionally. Just like practicing for a fun run or trying a new diet, reaching financial fitness requires a set of goals, regular practice and a healthy amount of flexibility. So where should you start?
The first step is always the hardest and can be the smallest
When practicing for a fitness goal, like running a 5k, you may start by thinking you want to shave a whole minute off your time. But if you break it down into small steps, like shaving ten seconds off periodically, or even five, you’ll feel more accomplished and have a more reasonable set of goals than one big one.
The same can be said for lowering your expenses and increasing your savings. You may start off saving with a huge figure in mind, but if you can break that down into smaller chunks it can be much easier.
To get started, begin tracking impulse buys. Write down or keep the receipts of each time you buy a new shirt or cup of coffee. You’ll realize how quickly $3.00 twice a day adds up and see the potential for larger savings. Use an app, such as Mint, Empower or Wally to help track your spending.
Set a time to look at your finances each month
Between the rush of day-to-day life and the ease of credit cards or electronic payments, it’s easy to lose track of how much you’re spending. You don’t want to wait to see your bank statement to get the bigger picture of your month.
Take the time to sit down and review everything. This will help you recognize pesky pitfalls like going to the store for one thing, and buying more than you planned. You could also find you’re spending money on monthly subscriptions or services that you no longer use. Just like shaving off those seconds for a race, shaving off small expenses will add up.
Be flexible and keep your long-term goals in mind
Remembering that you are saving for a larger goal will help you stay motivated and keep exercising. The short-term goals are those important steps up the hill towards that finish line.
Just don’t be afraid to shake it up and understand that life happens. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. If at first you don’t reach your goals, adjust and keep exercising your financial muscle.