I used to be a competitive runner.
That’s me, third from the back (just kidding).
But I was on the Track Team in High School. I ran a 5 minute mile at 14 years old and got my personal best time down somewhere close to 4:45. Don’t ask me how good that is, I have no idea, at my one and only track meet I pulled a muscle rounding the second curve and never finished. I gave up running shortly after that but have always fancied myself a great long distance runner.
I’ve returned to it a few times over the years as a way to get and stay in shape. About 4 years ago I started running in the spring and managed to run 5k just about every day for 6 months. I lost 10lbs and got my time down to under 30 minutes. Then it got cold outside and since I’m too cheap for a gym membership I took the winter off and never returned.
Since then I’ve gained 20lbs and developed Sleep Apnea so my wife tells me it’s time to try again before she smothers me in my sleep. I am of the firm opinion that there is no better way to get into an exercise routine that to start running. It is both physically demanding, and rewarding, you can stop and start as you go while building up your stamina (interval training) and it’s inexpensive which is great for a cheap-skate like me, see above. In short anybody can do it.
So I’ve been running every morning for about a week now and I feel great except for one little thing. My right calf muscle ceased up on day two and it still hasn’t completely let go.
I was thinking about my sore leg when I sat down to do my budget for this week and I realized that managing money is a lot like running, or any physical training for that matter. If done properly, with a clear plan, some goals and a little grace for how out of shape you are you can transform your life in immeasurable ways. It might be painful at first. There might be areas of your life that need special attention and that take longer to bring in line, like my leg. You might need to be massaged, stretched and even rested from time to time but through consistency and care your money muscle will get stronger. That’s what training is all about.
Here are my 4 steps to exercising your money muscle and building an effective budget.
1 – Change your thinking.
Budgeting is not scary, it’s fun. With an effective budget you get to tell your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.
2 – Track every penny.
I mean it. Forget about trying to allocate money to specific categories at first. Just be conscious of where it’s going and write it down. You’ll be amazed at how much that morning Latte adds up to over the course of a couple of weeks, or even just a few days.
3 – Give ever dollar a job.
Now consciously spend every penny, on paper, on purpose before you receive it. Now as the money comes in you’ve already spent it once so it’s easier to spend it again to obtain the things you said you needed. If there is money left over put that first toward paying down debt and second to savings.
4 – Celebrate successes.
When I cracked the 5 minute mile I was ecstatic and I told everyone who cared to listen. Same thing when I cracked the 30 minute 5k, when you reach personal milestones like paying off a debt or buying a new car for cash that’s a big deal, tell the world! Winning is fun and inspiring, just ask any Olympic Athlete!
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