Maybe you’ve vowed to get your health and fitness on track. You’re fed up with not being happy with how things are right now and you’re set to do something about it.
This pretty much sums up how I felt about finances. I’d been in debt for as long as I’d had a bank account. So several years ago I decided to man up and confront my money issues.
You’d be surprised how many parallels there are between making good food choices and getting out of debt. So I wanted to share a few insights I had along the way.
At first I’d juggle balances around, transferring debt from one place to another. I’d spend time deciding the best way to pay off credit cards. I asked questions like which card should I pay off first? Should I still be saving? And is investing a good idea?
All the options made it hard to get started.
And what’s worse, I was glad I couldn’t decide. Because deep down I knew all the time I was deliberating over the detail I had an excuse for not actually doing anything. I was still deciding, right? So it was fine that I wasn’t making progress. Or so I told myself.
I finally knuckled down, realising that the biggest result would come from just getting started.
Once up and running I could fine tune along the way. So I picked the card with the lowest balance and started to pay that off.
I didn’t want to rely on something as flimsy as my willpower. So I set up a monthly automatic transfer that paid as much as I could afford off the card. That way I never had the chance to get my mits on the cash. I also didn’t have to decide each month whether I was going to stick with the plan.
At times I definately felt like I was treading water. No, make that drowning. It felt like I had so far to go. And constantly fighting the urge to spend was hard.
I’d gotten used to having what I wanted. And having access to credit meant that I’d acquired a taste for some of the finer things in life. In reality I couldn’t afford such luxuries.
Something that really helped control the spending was the delaying game. Anytime I felt the urge to buy something I’d take a moment and tell myself that if I still wanted it tomorrow I could have it.
Then I’d distract myself and get busy doing something else to take my mind off the impulse.
While I was playing mental jujitsu with myself on a daily basis my first balance gradually got paid off. Seeing this small success gave me hope and kept me motivated. So I moved onto the next card, and then the next (yeah, it was that bad).
I didn’t have unlimited cash to spend. After all the essentials had been taken care of there was only a small % of my income left for ‘stuff’.
I realized I had to be choosy; to only buy things that really mattered to me, rather than just buying anything I thought I wanted in the moment.
Since I couldn’t have it all I made conscious decisions about what I was willing to compromise on and what I wasn’t. That way I didn’t feel guilty when I spent money on the things that were important to me.
It’s easy to debate whether you should eat fat or treat it as the devil. Whether to eat potatoes or not. And whether fasting two days a week is really the way to go.
Sure it’s important to be doing the right thing. But don’t be like me and get caught in the debate stage and delay getting to the do something stage.
Just pick the ‘smallest balance’, the thing that’ll be easiest to do and start there. We can fine tune as you go.
If you struggle with getting enough healthy food in each day, try automating your food shopping the way I automated my credit card payments.
Do your weekly shop online, set your delivery day and you’re good to go (I use Ocado reserved for this).
It ensures you’ll at least have all the right ingredients for good health delivered to your door at the beginning of each week. You don’t have to deliberate over how healthy you want to be. The decision’s already made.
And because your shopping won’t have any of the things that tempt you from the straight and narrow you won’t be relying on willpower to get you by.
Sure you can still have something that doesn’t move you closer to your goal. But you’d have to go out of your way to get it.
The good news is that you don’t have to live in total deprivation. But it is going to take a little compromise.
We want at least 80% of what you eat to be stuff that your body needs to keep you lean and healthy. Once you’ve got that then you’ve got 20% left to spend on whatever you want. Guilt free.
If you’ve only got 20% of your daily intake to spend on less than ideal choices what would you spend it on? pastry for breakfast? cake with your mid morning coffee? glass of wine in the evening? dessert after dinner?
If reaching your goals meant you didn’t have to cut all these out, but had to choose between them which one would you keep?
By being conscious of your food quota and only spending your reamining 20% on things you really enjoy, rather than wasting it on things you have out of habit means you can still enjoy the journey to your ideal health and fitness.
You probably have a good idea of what’s holding you back right now. Just pick one thing you feel you need to do differently and get started with that.
Be that person who comes to me and says “I’ve lost 5lbs doing this and now I’m stuck what should I do now?” I know you’ll do much better than that person who’s sat at home debating whether to go for long steady runs or sprint intervals.
Don’t rely on willpower or motivation to get you through. Try having everything you need to be healthy delivered to your door at the beginning of the week.
With online shopping services like Ocado you can set up a reoccuring order that has all the essentials you’d need to eat in a week to be at your best.
Unfortunately there’s only so much you can have and still make progress. The cool thing is there are probably things you have out of habit that you aren’t that bothered about.
Make sure it’s these things you cut, allowing you to keep the things you actually love AND make progress towards your goal.