I’m on two different self-improvement journeys in 2016. I’m working on my finances and my fitness. I have talked a lot about my plan to get financially fit, but I’m also working really hard at losing weight (and getting stronger too – it’s not just about the number on the scale). I was on the treadmill at the gym last night and I couldn’t help but think of how getting out of debt is like getting in shape!
There is no instant gratification
I’ll start with the biggest bummer. You won’t lose weight overnight. You won’t get washboard abs, or set a new personal weight lifting record overnight. You won’t increase your net worth, pay off all your debt, or double your income overnight either. It sucks.
My best advice here is to have a long term vision and look back often to see how far you’ve come.
You can do it solo but …
It’s better with friends! Have you ever had a workout buddy? Isn’t it so much more fun than sweating it out alone? I’m pretty introverted and am in my own world at the gym – alone on the treadmill or lifting weights, headphones in. But sometimes I break out of my shell and go to a group fitness class! Talking to other like minded people and working out with them is always refreshing and I leave class with a smile on my face.
Find a financial buddy if you can, or at the very least find someone you can share your goals with. If you don’t have many like minded people around when it comes to money – find some online! There are so many wonderful blogs and online communities to hang out in while you strive to be more frugal or to pay off debt. Search for what you need and it’s likely you’ll find it!
It’s easier to put on than take off.
If someone challenged me to gain 10 pounds I could easily accept! A few short weeks of lounging on the couch and indulging in all my guilty pleasures (looking at you pizza and chocolate cake!) and I’d hit my mark! Losing 10 pounds?! It is so. freaking. hard. Not nearly as fast, and not as fun!
Debt is the same. If you don’t pay attention to your financial fitness, you can easily slip on the debt weight by using credit cards, not paying attention to your budget or paying only the minimums toward your bills. And the same as above, you can get out of financial shape by indulging in your guilty pleasures – whether they are eating out frequently, expensive hobbies, Starbucks runs, or a closet full of clothes and shoes!
You need a mirror
Have you ever been to a gym that had no mirrors? Probably not. They do serve a purpose beyond checking out how good you look! 😉 Mirrors are there so we can check our form. We can see the alignment of our bodies during exercises and prevent injuries. Pretty crucial if we want to continue on our journey to get fitter.
Those of us on a financial journey need mirrors too. Dave Ramsey mentions fairly often on his show that the biggest problem we face is not usually the size of our car payment or our student loan balance, but the person in the mirror. We need to see that reflection of ourselves and check our form when it comes to money too!
We don’t all get in shape the same way
And that’s okay. I love running, weight lifting, yoga, and zumba. Those might not work for you! Maybe you need a walking program, or to swim. Find what feels good. Find your bliss!
We are all on our own journey and need to make our own best choices. Let’s just support each other along the way!
Education is a must!
There is so much to be learned about both fitness and finances! If you can – get yourself to an expert! For your health, it might be a physical therapist, yoga instructor, personal trainer or your medical doctor. For your finances it might be a financially savvy friend, an accountant, or a financial advisor. There are tons of excellent podcasts for learning about both health and money, and tons of books, blogs, and even videos on the subjects as well. Find and use good resources!
Education serves two purposes in my opinion – informed choices (what’s best for me?) and good form (am I doing this right?). Both apply to the gym and your wallet!
People might make fun of you
Sadly, even people you love. 🙁 Your friends might not understand why you want to go to the gym or for a walk instead of hitting up happy hour. Or why you’re eating a packed lunch with healthy food instead of joining them for fast food.
Your friends and family might not understand the sacrifices you make to get out of debt. They might take some of your lifestyle changes (like declining invites to social events) personally. They might laugh when you act like a total weirdo at the grocery store in the name of saving a buck.
Stay strong. You’re doing the right thing for you, and that’s all that matters.
It takes dedication
I go to the gym when I don’t want to. I go late at night when I’m tired, or early in the morning before my kids wake up.
I work on my budget when I don’t want to. I talk to my spouse about money even though it’s hard.
I could very easily go blow money on pizza and chocolate cake every night of the week and ruin both of my goals at the same time!
There’s no sugar coating this. Getting out of debt is HARD. Getting back into shape after having two babies is HARD. You don’t wander your way casually out of a financial mess, and you don’t improve your health casually either. Do the work. It’s worth it!
You have to set goals!
Set goals and have a plan! Don’t just show up at the gym and wander from machine to machine or halfheartedly step on the treadmill. I am lucky that my gym offered a free personal training session and my awesome trainer listened to my goals and outlined a plan for me. I have a solid financial fitness plan as well.
You need a way to measure your progress
Set your goals and then track your progress! Track your income, your spending, the levels of your debt. Track your credit score, your net worth, your money earned in side hustles. If you’re improving your finances get to know your numbers! I like weekly budget meetings and reporting my totals monthly (like here, here, and here).
If you’re getting fit there is so much to be tracked. I like to look at a bigger picture. I might want to lose 30 pounds this year, but what about how I feel? Or how my clothes fit? I do track my weight and calories, but I also loving tracking the weights I’ve lifted, how many push-ups I can do, and how far I can run. Seeing my strength and endurance improve is so much more fun than the numbers on the scale.
We all make ‘mistakes’
If you screw up, try not to beat yourself up for too long. Don’t dwell. We all need a cheat day occasionally (I have already mentioned my love of pizza and chocolate cake multiple times). And I’ve screwed up financially plenty of times as well.
We are all human. We can’t be perfect every single day. Have grace with yourself.
One positive life change leads to another
It’s a positive domino effect! I started the year very much focused on money, and then slowly added in my fitness and health goals. Now I’m enjoying both journeys and wondering what to tackle next (like reading more perhaps!). How can you try to better your life? Try improving your fitness, try improving your finances – grow, learn, be a better you!
Don’t give up
With both finances and fitness, you might have a bad day, week or month. You might hit a plateau and stop seeing progress. You might gain a pound or have an unexpected expense.
If you stick to the plan and keep pushing forward you will improve. I promise. You can do this. Do not give up!
Are you working on your fitness or your finances? Let me know in the comments so I can cheer you on! 🙂