In a world dominated by gym memberships and flooded with financial advice on our screens, the relentless pursuit of self-improvement can become overwhelming. The demands to better ourselves are pervasive, leading many to feel daunted by the endless areas of “growth opportunities.” What if there was a way to enhance both your financial wellness and your fitness by practicing the same habits?
There appears to be a surprising conceptual overlap between improving our waistlines and our wallets. Despite our best efforts to plan workout routines or budget for the month, it’s common to find ourselves succumbing to comfort food or impulse purchases a week later. If this routine feels all too familiar, you’re not alone. The bridge between physical and financial wellness is laden with the complexities of habit, discipline, and the daunting task of maintaining motivation.
Before setting goals and embarking on a journey towards a healthier lifestyle, it’s crucial to understand the specific objectives you’re chasing. Here are 3 habits that can impact your relationship with health and money:
1. Plan Ahead
One major key to success in improving your overall wellness is planning ahead. While this practice may seem simple, organizing your schedule and establishing a routine to stay consistent with your goals is the most effective way to reach them. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by trying to accomplish too many goals at once, but what if you could improve your planning for fitness and financial wellness simultaneously?
Engaging in regular exercise is a cornerstone of good health. It boosts cardiovascular health, helps manage weight, and enhances overall well-being. However, integrating exercise into your daily routine can be challenging, given the demands of work, soccer practices, and household chores. Similarly, budgeting is something we all should incorporate into our regular routines, but it often takes a herculean effort to sit down with your various accounts and assess your financial progress.
Despite the difficulty of developing these habits, here are some helpful suggestions to save time in planning by looking at these goals side by side:
- Create a Clear Goal: Define specific and measurable goals for both fitness and finances, such as losing a certain amount of weight or saving a specific amount of money.
- Combine Activities: Find activities that align with both fitness and financial wellness goals, like biking or walking instead of driving to save money on transportation costs while contributing to your fitness routine.
- Financial Goal Rewards: Tie financial wellness goals to fitness rewards. For every financial wellness milestone achieved, treat yourself to a fitness-related reward like a new workout outfit or a session with a personal trainer.
- Establish a “Check-in” Routine: Schedule regular check-ins to evaluate your progress on your money and health goals. Some find it beneficial to turn these check-ins into a fun experience, referring to it as a “Money Date” and celebrating progress at a restaurant or coffee shop.
2. Rethink Your Food Habits
The grocery store is a significant intersection where fitness and financial wellness overlap. The average single American spends between $250-$550 a month on groceries, depending on location and dietary choices. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the cost of store-bought food has increased by 23.5% from February 2020 to May 2023. This means you are likely paying almost 40% more for common grocery items than you did pre-pandemic. In this economy, eating well and being frugal may seem like an impossible task.
However, the cost of food poses a challenge as both a fixed and variable expense. You have to eat, right? But how much you pay and the type of food you consume have significant implications for your waistline and wallet. Here are some tips to navigate the produce aisles with more confidence:
- Meal Planning: Plan your meals to ensure healthier food choices and avoid unnecessary spending on fast food or takeout. Buying groceries in bulk and preparing meals at home can save money and contribute to your fitness goals.
- Stick to Your List: One of the best ways to save money on food is never to darken the door of a grocery store without a list! This is a great way to avoid impulse purchases. Stores have expended millions of dollars on marketing to strategically place tempting items at eye level and near the checkout counter. By resisting these impulse buys, you can save money and make healthier food choices. Don’t be afraid to use technology to improve your processes. Some people prefer to order their groceries through “pick-up” options to avoid the temptations of the store altogether to save time and money.
- Choose Affordable, Nutrient-Dense Foods: Focus on purchasing nutrient-dense foods that provide more health benefits per dollar, such as whole grains, legumes, seasonal fruits, and vegetables. These foods contribute to your fitness goals and are often more cost-effective than processed or convenience items. Look for budget-friendly protein options like eggs, beans, lentils, canned tuna, and frozen chicken.
3. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a crucial element in developing new habits. Building thoughtfulness around eating and spending habits is a significant step to eliminate roadblocks that might not even be apparent. James Clear, an expert on habit-building and author of Atomic Habits, emphasizes, “By the time we become adults, we rarely notice the habits that are running our lives. Most of us never give a second thought to the fact that we tie the same shoe first each morning, or unplug the toaster after each use, or always change into comfortable clothes after getting home from work. After decades of mental programming, we automatically slip into these patterns of thinking and acting.”
Being mindful of the patterns that we fall into when we are presented with a stressful day at work or missing lunch is essential. Do these triggers make you have a desire to stop by the department store for retail therapy or swing by a fast-food chain for a “little treat” to cheer you up? While these mindless habits may not be harmful in small doses, over time they can build up to some undesirable outcomes. Here are some practical tips to be more mindful of your habits:
- Mindful Spending: Pause before making any purchases and ask yourself whether they align with your financial wellness goals. Distinguish between needs and wants to curb impulse purchases. Consider using the 24-hour rule for online purchases to prevent emotional spending.
- Conscious Eating: Extend mindfulness to your eating habits by savoring each bite and paying attention to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. Mindful eating promotes healthier choices and prevents overeating, benefiting both your physical well-being and your wallet. Additionally, take a look at your “eating out” budget or other food-related expenses. Ask yourself questions like what was the context of why you chose to eat out? Were you glad you made that choice? Were there any emotions of stress, boredom, or other undesirable emotions that caused you to spend that money? See if you can make any adjustments.
- Gratitude Practice: Cultivate mindfulness through a daily gratitude practice that encompasses both your financial wellness and fitness aspects. Reflect on the positive aspects of your financial situation and appreciate your body’s capabilities. Expressing gratitude can shift your focus from scarcity to abundance, fostering a positive mindset that positively influences both your financial and physical wellness.
In conclusion, the journey to improved financial and physical wellness is not an insurmountable challenge but an achievable lifestyle made possible through intentional practices. The three key principles outlined—Planning Ahead, Rethinking Your Food, and Practicing Mindfulness—help you cultivate positive habits holistically. By setting clear goals, aligning daily activities, and building in rewards, you create seamless synergy between your fitness and financial wellness objectives.