Whittle Your Waist, Fatten Your Wallet5 Goal-Setting Tips for Fitness and Finances
-- By Erin Whitehead, Health and Fitness Writer
Are you a genius at budgeting your finances but fall apart when it comes to setting aside time to work out (or vice versa)? Don't worry: Staying physically fit and managing a personal bank account actually have very distinct similarities. They're so similar, in fact, that you can easily use your skills from one area to boost your results in the other. Here are some simple tips to help you manage both your wallet and your waistline!
1. Financial Fit Tip: Plan for the big stuff. When you go on vacation, you don't just wake up one morning and decide to shell out thousands of dollars for last-minute flights and hotels, and you don't leave your co-workers unprepared for your absence. You plan. Planning your big expenditures ahead of time will save you serious dough. Whether it's a car, a vacation, or a home remodeling project, sock away money each month in an account set aside for that specific splurge. A couple hundred dollars set aside over the course of a year has much less impact than a couple of thousand does at the last minute.
Apply it to Physical Fitness: Just like you wouldn't go on a vacation at the last minute, you wouldn't wake up one morning and decide to run a marathon, either. If you're new to the exercise arena, take it slow when it comes to working out, and work up to greater challenges. You're more likely to avoid injuries and burnout if you ease into exercise. If distance running is your goal, find an online training plan that will help you build up gradually to your desired race length. If you want to do 20 push-ups or lose 100 pounds, start with five and go from there.
2. Financial Fit Tip: Make small changes for a big difference. A $3 coffee here, a $5 lottery tickets there--it's easy to brush off small expenses as purchases that don't really make a difference to your bottom line. But that $3 coffee several times a week comes close to $40 a month, which is enough to cover a full tank of gas for many drivers. See where your money goes on smaller purchases and decide which expenses you can nix that have little emotional impact--but big financial gains.
Apply it to Physical Fitness: Many people feel that working out isn't worth their time if they can't get to a gym for a solid hour. But it's time to rethink that mentality! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exercising for 10 minutes at a time still counts toward your weekly goal of 150 minutes of activity. So take that short walk to the post office, or climb the stairs at work instead of taking the elevator. The little things do matter and add up to something bigger!
3. Financial Fit Tip: Shop around and do your research. When you make purchases, know exactly what you need to buy to avoid impulse buys. Make lists--especially for the grocery store--and shop around for major purchases online to find the best deals before taking the plunge. When making large purchases like a house or car, look at interest rates and talk to various banks and financial advisers to negotiate the lowest rates you can get.
Apply it to Physical Fitness: As a consumer, you're powerful! So be picky when it comes to plunking down money on gadgets and gizmos that promise rock-hard abs in just minutes a day. Before making major fitness purchases like equipment or a treadmill, make sure you can test it out adequately, and try out different models before pulling out your credit card. If you're joining a gym, try a trial week so you can get a feel for the overall vibe of the place. You want to know if the place you plan to get your sweat on doesn't clean the locker rooms, or has dozens of out-of-order machines at a time. In addition, you wouldn't buy a house without having a home inspection or reading the contract, so why would you put the latest get-thin-quick supplement into your body without reading the fine print? If it sounds too good and too fast to be true, it probably is.
4. Financial Fit Tip: Keep track of it. Do you ever feel like you're just burning through money, despite consciously trying to spend less? If you're not tracking your purchases or following a budget, it's easy to forget about all those little expenditures--that is, until you start keeping track. Tracking every cent you earn, spend, or pay bills with can be very eye-opening. Using budget tracking software--or even just old-fashioned pen and paper--will help you see where your money goes and will help you plug any big leaks.
Apply it to Physical Fitness: Logging your meals, snacks and those tidbits of food stolen from the kids' dinner plates can serve as a huge eye-opener. It might even be able to explain surprise weight gain or a weight-loss plateau. Write down your intake or log it online, and you'll know for sure where those extra calories are hiding.
5. Financial Fit Tip: Make sacrifices. When you know you've got a big expense coming up--like that twice-yearly car insurance payment or an anniversary--you cut back on other areas to make up for it. You might nix a few lunches out with friends to pay for a fancy night out with the spouse, or you may skip buying those new shoes because you'd rather go see a Broadway show. Sacrificing one area makes room in another.
Apply it to Physical Fitness: Sometimes you have to make sacrifices in one area (like TV time) to make room for another (like a trip to the gym). Even though it can be a hard sell at first, you get used to it. Eventually, your desire to be fit and healthy will outweigh your desire to be a couch potato! Where can you cut back in order to make time for exercise?
Whether you're talking financial or physical fitness, both take discipline to stay on track. With a little strategy, planning and tracking, you can be fit both in body and at the bank!
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ''How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?,'' accessed July 2011. www.cdc.gov.