How to get your money management fit and in shape

How to get your money management fit and in shape
Illustrative image | (Photos: Brett Hemmings / Getty Images | Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg)

Physical fitness tips that will help you to swiftly implement good financial habits.

It’s January and, as any regular gymgoer will tell you, it’s that time of the year when there are queues for the treadmills and other exercise machines as all the well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions get into full swing.

Usually around mid-February the numbers start dropping off, and by mid-March most of the new faces have stopped making regular appearances.

A 2009 study published by the European Journal of Social Psychology found that it takes from 18 to 254 days for a person to entrench a new habit fully.

This means you would have to go to the gym regularly from 1 January until possibly the end of July before you could be considered to have fully entrenched the exercise habit. The good news is that you can implement good financial habits much more quickly.

Let’s look at how you can take physical fitness tips and apply them to your money management.

1. Become a morning person. If you go to the gym before you start your day there is less of a chance for excuses. It also makes you more mindful of what you eat throughout the day.

Money lesson: Similarly, you should pay yourself first so that instead of trying to save “what is left, if anything”, you prioritise your saving.

2. Don’t skip a workout. Just as you can’t expect to make gym gains with sporadic workouts, you can’t expect maximum savings with minimal effort.

Money lesson: One way to do this is to set up a debit order for your savings and essential expenses to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.

3. Planning is everything. You’ve no doubt seen those people who arrive at the gym, chat with their friends, have coffee and drift around aimlessly, trying to figure out what to do next. Social media is loaded with thousands of free workout ideas. Scroll and select one before you get to the gym so that you are more focused.

Money lesson: You need a financial plan laying out where your finances currently stand, your goals, and how you plan to achieve them.

4. Fix your diet. They say the journey to a fit body is 80% diet and 20% fitness. Planning your meals mindfully with a focus on nutrients and calories boosts your chances of success.

Money lesson: Having a budget means you become more aware of your expenditure patterns so that you can rein in any bad spending habits.

5. Progress through the setbacks. No one is perfect (not even those incredibly toned hotties at the gym). You are going to have days where you end up eating chocolate cake, or you just can’t get to the gym because of that work deadline. It happens. The key is to pick yourself up and get back into the routine the next day.

Money lesson: Financial success, just like physical fitness, does not happen overnight or in absolute terms. You are bound to make mistakes along the way. However, as any asset manager (or gym trainer) will tell you, consistency is key and you have to commit for the long term.

The link between nutrition, fitness and money management

Farzana Botha, segment marketing manager at Sanlam Risk and Savings, says the key principles of fitness and nutrition can be applied equally well to money management.

“For example, I know the optimal number of calories I can eat to remain in my weight category. So, I also need to spend a particular amount of energy to keep the balance right.

“Similarly, you need to look at your salary and household income — this is what you have, and this is what you can afford. So, just as someone watching their weight has to keep their calorie intake in check, you have to keep your spending in check to make sure you keep your family’s finances healthy.”

Botha doesn’t just talk the talk, she walks the walk. She is a member of the South African powerlifting team and the current African deadlift and bench press champion in the women’s under-52kg weight category. Her top bench press is 75kg and she can deadlift 160.5kg. DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.

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