If you’ve spent the last few months eating more greens and hitting that step count, and now you’re looking to whip your money into shape too — you’re in luck. That same routine you’ve honed to improve your health can also help you get your finances on track. Here are six easy habits to adopt.
1. Plan for the occasional “cheat”
When you’re on an overly restrictive diet and faced with one more kale salad, it’s almost inevitable that a pizza and ice cream binge will follow. To stave off poor choices and achieve long-term success, savvy dieters include a weekly treat in their eating plan, and you can apply the same concept to financial splurges.
If you’ve cut out all discretionary spending and are constantly depriving yourself, it can be easy to go on a spending bender when you just can’t take it anymore. Instead, plan some mindful mini-extravagances: Get a fancy coffee on the way to work or meet your friends at happy hour to celebrate a successful week. Just make sure to build these fun expenses into your budget.
2. Keep your progress in sight
You know what to do to reach your goal, whether it’s eating better and exercising or spending less and saving more — but if you’re not actually keeping track of your progress, you’ll never know how effective your efforts are. Scheduling regular check-ins can ensure you’re on the right track, or let you know when you need to course-correct.
Most financial institutions have apps that help you track your spending so you can see exactly where your money is going — and help you determine what expenses are derailing you.
3. Don’t check in too often
While you should keep an eye on your progress, it can be easy to go overboard. For instance, if you’re weighing yourself daily, you may feel frustrated when the numbers aren’t changing how you expected. But fluctuations happen and they’re normal.
Likewise, if you’re investing for a long-term goal and obsessively check in on the stock market, you’ll wind up stressing yourself out. Checking your investments for the effect of every tiny market move can make you crazy — and potentially lead to poor short-term decisions.
4. Track your input and output
Just like tracking what you eat in a day can help you quash that mindless afternoon snacking, tracking your spending can help you understand exactly where your money is going, as well as identify patterns that are inhibiting your progress.
For example, you may be surprised that your daily coffee or lunches out are adding up over the course of the month. Seeing how easily money can leak out of your wallet gives you clues to where you need to tighten up, and you may decide you’d rather put that money toward a savings goal, like a vacation fund.
5. Keep a long-term view
You’re surrounded by temptation every day, whether it’s a burger and fries as you drive home or a flash sale at your favorite store. And when you’ve been sticking to a budget for weeks, instant gratification can win out over the delayed gratification of your goal.
The best way to stay strong? Walk away. If you’re still thinking about it a few days later, it can be worth working into your budget. But chances are you’ll forget all about it once the initial urge to splurge has passed.
6. Enlist a buddy
Does your willpower wilt when you see your friends or coworkers indulging in weekly brunches or planning pricey vacations? Tell others about your goals — whether you’re trying to make healthier choices or save money.
You’ll most likely find your friends are more than willing to choose less expensive activities (because who doesn’t like saving money?). What's even better is if you can enlist an accountability partner — someone with similar goals who can keep you on track, and vice versa.