Leg day. 5K. Namaste.
When we talk about fitness, it’s usually in reference to moving our bodies. We work hard, set goals, and navigate obstacles in the name of growing stronger.
Financial fitness isn’t really that different from physical fitness. It’s just our money, not our muscles, that we’re working to strengthen. Much like your routine at the gym, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach, but here are three tips to help you get started on your financial fitness journey.
1. Download a budgeting app.
Using an app to build a budget and track your spending is a good idea because:
• It increases accountability.
• It can reveal “invisible” expenses, like subscriptions or memberships you might not even use anymore but have forgotten to cancel.
• Breaking things down into categories shows you where your money is actually going, which is the first step to identifying and breaking bad spending habits.
Not sure which app to download? Check out this helpful list!
2. Don’t skimp on insurance.
Psychologically, insurance can be a challenging thing for which to budget. We don’t want to pay for something we feel like we’re not using, and the scenarios in which we would need to use insurance aren’t much fun to think about either. However, being underinsured can leave families extremely vulnerable…and life insurance in particular is a protection that too many people lack.
Here are a few compelling reasons to consider getting life insurance coverage (or adding to the coverage you have):
• 35% of households would feel the financial impact within just one month if the primary wage earner died.
• 1 in 5 people who have life insurance say that they don’t have enough.
• According to the 2018 LIMRA/Life Happens Insurance Barometer Study, most people think life insurance costs about three times more than it actually does.
3. Take a creative approach to saving.
If you’re already on a tight monthly budget, saving more might feel impossible…or at least really hard. We all know it’s important to prepare for the future, but we also want to enjoy life in the present, and it can be tough to strike a balance. With a little creativity, though, you can find ways to save more and sacrifice less!
• Do you need multiple cars?
Many families truly do, but maybe you live in an urban area with great public transportation and walkability. Maybe you and/or your partner have the option to work remotely instead of commuting every day. If you only require a second vehicle occasionally, consider using Uber or Lyft or even renting a car when necessary. It costs an average of over $8,000 per year to own and operate a vehicle, so even with the cost of rentals and ride services, you may still save money.
• Are you sure you’re getting the best deal on the services you use?
It can be a pain to do frequent price comparisons for things like Internet, cable, phones, and car insurance. However, taking the time monthly, or at least quarterly, to reevaluate is a fairly minor inconvenience that could result in significant savings.
• Are you tapping into all the free/discounted recreational resources in your area?
Entertaining your family can get expensive. Amusement parks, concerts, plays, laser tag…even going to the movies can rack up a pretty big tab by the time you add up all the popcorn and Icees and Sour Patch Kids. Try integrating more outdoor activities into your routine, like hiking, biking, or even just heading to a nearby park for a picnic.
When the weather isn’t so great, check out your local museums (you might be surprised how many of them offer free or very affordable admission) or see what’s going on at the public library! If there’s an activity that your family loves, like going to the zoo or the aquarium, consider investing in a membership…sometimes it only takes two or three visits to make the annual fee a better deal!
What’s the plan?
When you resolve to get in shape, whether it’s your bod or your bank account that needs some love, the first thing you should probably do is start looking for a plan. You’ll probably be met by wildly divergent and mostly unrealistic promises. Chances are, you won’t be sauntering down a runway a month and a half after you start the 6 Week Model Body Workout Plan. And chances are, you’re not going to achieve total financial fitness in 10 days.
Does that mean you shouldn’t try? Heck no! Enthusiasm is what will get you started. But once you’ve decided which excessively optimistic path to take, the tricky part is adjusting expectations and staying on that path for the long haul.
Spoiler alert: you won’t always stay on it. Sometimes, you’ll sleep through that 6am spinning class you signed up for. Sometimes, you’ll go crazy in the home decor section at Target and exceed your throw pillow budget. (Which, let’s face it, is probably $0, because who actually plans on buying throw pillows?)
The best way to manage these moments is to expect them. Take care of the big things first so you have a solid foundation to rely on if the small things crumble periodically.
Fitness that fits your sitch.
You might think that financial fitness is something only wealthy people can accomplish…you know, the people who are doing a better job of adulting than you are. But that’s a little bit like saying that physical fitness isn’t a worthwhile goal because you’re probably never going to be an Olympic athlete. Staying financially fit is important no matter what tax bracket you’re in, because it’s more about what you do with your money than how much of it you have.
So just approach it the same way you would any other fitness plan. Only instead of checking your Fitbit, you’ll check your budget app. Your “personal trainer” might give you investment advice instead of making you do squats. The numbers you’ll obsess over are your credit score and your account balances instead of the ones on the scale.
And that feeling of accomplishment you have right after a great workout will be matched by the one you feel after making a great financial decision…you know, like visiting Our Life Covered℠ to start protecting your family with life insurance!