Some of the same discipline we use to keep a physically healthy lifestyle can be applied to our finances too. Achieving our goals in both of these aspects of our lives takes a little structure, clear and motivating goals, and a detailed plan. We can learn a lot about our financial health applying the same lessons we practice in our physical wellness.
1. Your plan has to be customized
We all have that friend who swears by paleo, keto, the mediterranean diet, [insert whatever is the latest trend here]. They’re wildly passionate about it. They could be sure that it’s just the thing you need to get you to your goals. Someone else’s approach rarely works as perfectly for us. That’s because our exact food wellness success comes from a nuanced mix of our environments, inputs, genetics, and other external factors. Our financial success does too. And in a bit of the same way calling it a diet might doom us to fail, calling it a budget could too.
What type of budgeting style, or better yet, financial plan you employ has to work for you and only you. It’s super helpful to swap tips with friends, trade ideas on the latest apps you’re using to track your progress, and share in each other’s successes and goals. Even classic advice like keeping your housing expenses to 30 percent of your gross income isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. This might be hard for city dwellers, or students just starting out.
Instead of latching on to the latest craze, think about what types of habits stick for you. Do you have a fitstagram? Dedicate an afternoon to seeking out and following financial inspo and tips. Do you love seeing yourself rack up steps throughout the day and get nudges to take walk breaks? You’ll love an app that alerts you to your spending patterns and helps you track your money management efforts over time. Finding financial tools that fit with your existing lifestyle is a key step to achieving your money goals.
2. You need a “why” to motivate you
One of the major principles of keeping a healthy lifestyle is often termed as finding our “why.” Encouraging a bigger goal beyond something short-term like “look great in my swimsuit” puts us on a more sustainable path to reaching our goals. In health, that can be ideas like “wanting to be healthier for my kids” or “being well enough to hike the Amazon.”
The financial interpretation of this idea is important too. A bigger “why” is what keeps us on track when financial choices feel hard. That weekly deposit to your preferred saving account can feel like a slog in the same way that it does to get up at 5am every day for the gym. But, we all know how incredible it feels to keep that commitment. And when it’s in service of a larger goal, it feels much more meaningful.
3. And a “how” to meet your goal
It can be easy to quickly identify these major goals and motivators as a “why.” Harder, however, can be figuring out the how—and the how is an equally important part, because it’s the exact action steps we need to make the why come to fruition. For our health goals, this looks like making dates with ourselves and our friends for workouts, meal prepping, thoughtful grocery shopping, and tracking our progress. The finance translation of that is that a little structure and preparation goes a long way to achieving our goals.
If you dream of running a marathon, what do you do? Make weekly plans for how many miles you can knock out, how long it will take you, where you’re going to run, and any supporting changes to your schedule you’ll need to make along the way. Apply that same mindset to another major goal like a down payment for a home. What do you need to have in cash? How long will it take you if you start right now? Which accounts will you use to save? Dreaming about a financial goal doesn’t make it happen; mapping out how to get there will.
4. When in doubt, go back to the basics
Good nutrition is hard, but it’s not necessarily complicated. We’ve got two levers: calories in, and calories expended when it comes to tightening our (literal) belts. Finance is no different. The two sides of your personal financial statement are dollars in and dollars out.
When you need to create different outcomes in your finances, you have two options: bringing in new income streams or cutting back expenses. Which side you decide to shore up depends greatly on our current circumstances and needs. Is it the right time to think about starting your own business? Or, do you need to think about ways to trim some spending? Much like our health, it’s really the small changes over time that yield big results. Pick the place that feels best to prioritize, be it earning or spending, and set some concrete goals with action steps.
5. Lifestyle choices are key to sustaining success
Sometimes I find myself living day to day on a “celebration diet.” Cake? Couldn’t hurt! An extra appetizer for the table? Yes, please! These tiny indulgences add up, and while we’re all due an extra slice of cake every now and again, I know that I feel much better if cake isn’t a daily indulgence and instead, do a little more mindful eating.
Similarly, our tiny spending splurges add up. It’s a completely different reward mechanism for our brains when we’re enjoying a deliberate celebration. Mindlessly munching away in front of the refrigerator brings about the same amount of joy as thoughtless spending on fast fashion or money blown on unceremonious take out scarfed down from the couch. We can take away from this that planned, deliberate saving and budgeting for an indulgence makes it all the more satisfying. This structured approach is about making decisions that aren’t emotionally-based, but instead, are thoughtful and in line with our larger goals.
When we do decide to splurge, let’s enjoy it. Because in both food and finance all things should be taken in moderation… even moderation.