Good Money Habits: How Financial Fitness Is Like Physical Fitness
6 second take: Building financial muscles is no different from following an exercise routine. Here’s how you can develop good money habits (and big muscles).
If financial fitness is equated with physical fitness, Warren Buffett would be the Arnold Schwarzenegger of the financial world. Put aside the humor for a moment, and you can still cut a lean lifestyle by making a few small-but-wise decisions that will last you a lifetime.
Financial fitness has more in common with physical wellness than you may think. Physical fitness enthusiasts usually have a strict workout plan in place. They run a certain number of miles a day. They do so many push-ups or bench reps.
An ability to stick to a regimen like that is also the secret to preventing poor financial health. The structure may not change much, but as you get stronger, you can add more to it — do more pushups or run an extra mile. Same thing with working out financially.
An increase in muscle mass is like an increase in savings.
You save $2 each time you skip an indulgent dessert, just like you lose a pound each week when you stick to your exercise program. All good things happen in small increments.
The same is true for saving and investing.
How to Start Good Money Habits
If you have direct deposit at work, transfer a portion of it into a savings account or emergency fund. This is a smart way to save, even if it’s just $10 a week to start, since you won’t miss what you never get your hands on.
Personal Finance Apps can help you in this area by making it easy to set up funds and budgets for both your regular and your emergency needs.
Next, try placing a little more into savings and see how you feel until your next payday. Did you put too much in, only to later find out you can’t live without it? Or do you feel like you didn’t need that money in your wallet, anyway?
Know Your Limits in Both Physical and Financial Fitness
Imagine your budget is a bench press. It’s a workout, but you should know your limits. Overspending is like lifting too much weight — you’ll end up hurting yourself.
It’s better to know your limits and stay lean within your budget. Realize how many luxuries you really need, and maybe cut back on those you don’t need. Is it essential to eat out multiple times a week? Or spend time partying at clubs with overpriced drinks?
Food and fun are nice to have, but too much, and they can hurt your body — and, of course, your wallet.
The longer you work (out), the more money (or muscle) you gain. If you get a raise or bonus, or you move to a better-paying job, put your muscle or your money to work for you in the long term.
For college students faced with huge student loans, saving money can seem daunting. If you’re still in school, you may feel like the only jobs you can get are minimum wage — or worse, unpaid internships. That’s where you need a delayed gratification mentality.
Beware of Big Mistakes
Don’t make rash decisions for the benefit of instant gratification. A savings plan can fall apart because of a costly mistake, like deciding to buy an expensive sports car without thinking of extra expenses like gas and insurance.
A used car may be more suitable for you right now, so put off that red Corvette ’til sometime in the future. Resist the tiny temptations in the here and now to receive a much greater reward in the future.
I like to use the Corvette example for students who give up too early. The worst thing to do is to drop out or take a few semesters off due to financial stress. That hurts earning potential down the road, and you’ll still have to pay back the loans that you already accrued. Paying for an incomplete education is like buying the Corvette when you can’t afford the gas to run it.
Final Thoughts on Financial Fitness
Ultimately, you don’t need to be a billionaire like Warren Buffett to be successful with your money. Financial fitness means not having to worry about living paycheck to paycheck. Set clear and healthy financial goals that may be somewhat far off, but not so distant that you can’t see how to get there.