September 20th, 2012
4 Steps to Getting Financially Fit
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One major aspect of self-improvement is getting in shape, and let’s face it. It’s easy to slack off in that department if you don’t create a plan and stick to it.
Managing your personal finances is the same way. Follow these simple steps to get financially fit!
Take a good look in the mirror. Figuring out your starting point is an important first step before creating your workout plan. In terms of your finances, lay it all out: How much debt do you have? How much in savings? How much are you earning vs. spending? Track your financial progress using programs like SaveUp, where you can earn credits for every positive financial step you take.
2. Create attainable goals to stay motivated
Be honest with yourself and set realistic short-term and long-term goals. So yes, maybe looking at photos of supermodels may motivate you to stay away from that pint of Haagen-Dazs, but don’t expect to look like you belong in a Victoria’s Secret catalogue in 2 weeks. You need that same pragmatism when creating your financial goals. Set reasonable and attainable goals by actually calculating how much of your debt you can pay off and/or how much you can deposit into savings that is within your means. If cutting out those daily Starbucks lattes helps you reach your goals faster, do it! Or at least cut it down to once or twice a week. You’ll live.
3. Establish an easy plan that you’ll stick to
Set a workout schedule and make it a priority. The moment you say, “Eh, I can work out tomorrow instead,” you lose! Before you know it, you’ll be barreling down a shame spiral of chocolate and pizza. Also, try planning weekly menus so that you can stick to a healthy diet instead of reaching for junk food when you don’t know what to make for dinner.
As for your finances, once you set your goals and figure out how much you can pay off/save each month, automate it!
- Set up an automatic savings system and have that carefully calculated amount deducted from your account on a consistent basis. That way you don’t see the money, and you won’t be tempted to spend it. Many financial institutions now have the option to automatically withdraw money from your checking account and move it into your savings. Check your bank. If it doesn’t have that available, look into online savings accounts, which generally have this option as well as higher interest rates (ING Direct, Ally Bank, etc).
- Set up auto-payments for your bills and loans/credit cards so you don’t miss any payments. Make sure you budget for these auto-payments so you don’t overdraw from your checking account. If you want to improve your credit score–this will definitely help!
- Use technology to help you; smartphone apps like the Credit Karma App, Adaptu Wallet and PageOnce can help you budget and keep track of your saving and spending. Take a look at the Credit Karma site or my blog post on these apps for more information.
4. Make sure you reward yourself along the way
This part may seem counter-productive, but giving yourself a cheat day to relax and not worry about your diet can really take some of the pressure off. Now you won’t feel guilty about eating one cupcake, give up, and then revert to your old patterns.
Finally, create financial milestones (like finally paying off that credit card), and once you achieve them, treat yourself! You’ve worked hard to get here, so you should definitely celebrate. And use programs like SaveUp to reward yourself and keep you motivated along the way. SaveUp is a free rewards program where you can earn chances to win prizes like vacations, car and even a $2 million jackpot, just for saving money and paying down debt.
Self-improvement–whether in your finances or personal health–is a journey, not a destination. Hope these guidelines help you get on your way to fitness both for your body and your wallet!
This post was written by Euna Kim from SaveUp, the first free rewards program for saving money and paying down debt. Earn credits for your financial progress and play for prizes like vacations, cars and even a $2 million jackpot! Euna is the editor for the SaveUp Blog, where she also writes about her experience with personal finance. She studied English at the University of Michigan and enjoys finding fun ways to integrate saving money into everyday life.
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