My Weekly Money Routine for Better Financial Health
BY DEBBIE KING, Supafitmama
Photo © tiumentseva/123RF
Nov 8, 2017
I’m in the business of fitness, not finance. Ask me how to get stronger, faster, leaner or more mobile and I have a wealth of information to share. Ask me how to improve personal money matters and I have one game-changing exercise to offer — one that turned my own financial health around.
Years ago, I was working for a personal training studio and competing in bodybuilding. Remarking on my impossibly strict training and diet, clients would often say, “I wish I had your discipline.”
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“I’m sure you do”, I’d return. “You probably apply similar discipline in other areas of your life, like your career or finances.” I said this knowing the highly educated, higher-earning class of women in the changeroom had monthly personal training expenses, that at the time, exceeded my savings.
Looking back, I could describe my financial state as death by $20 debit. I incurred ATM fees as unmindfully as some people consumed calories. In both cases, our everyday choices can add up and become heavy burdens.
Overdrawn and frustrated, I was finally ready for change. With one thrifty trip to the library, I got my hands on Money Rules by Canadian money expert, Gail Vaz-Oxlade. And within it, invaluable advice that I still use today.
Step 1: Track Spending
Following her expert advice, my husband and I began by logging all of our spending for one month. Coffees, toiletries, gum: Everything, big or small, was written in the binder. Taxing as it was, the completed pages provided a startling snapshot of our regular consumption — much like a food log does.
Step 2: Budget
Having a clear picture of our actual spending allowed us to budget based on our monthly income and needs. We identified regular categories of spending and assigned a budget to each.
Some areas were fine but in others we were overspending. For instance, our modest beer budget was okay, but those ATM fees had to go.
|Transportation (taxis, bus fare)||$150|
|Charity (church collection, donations)||$50|
I liken this stage to meal planning, whereby a trainer matches macros or calories to a client’s daily activity and goals. For instance, after reviewing the food log, a nutritious 500-calorie breakfast might stay, but an indulgent dinner exceeding caloric needs would be modified.
Step 3: Cash Out
If you watched ‘Til Debt Do Us Part, hosted by Gail Vaz-Oxlade, you’ll recall that as a final step, she had each couple label jars by spending category then fill them with the budgeted amount in cash.
Instead of jars, we use envelopes.
Each pay day, I walk into the bank to withdraw the exact amount of cash, in specific denominations, to fill each envelope. The staff at nearest branches know my routine, so nobody flinches when I approach the counter holding a sheet of handwritten notes and figures.
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My regular trip into the bank is the equivalent of Sunday meal prep (a practice many trainers swear by). With each day’s meals pre-cooked, portioned and packed, it’s much easier to stay on plan throughout the week. Likewise, having a budgeted amount of cash on-hand, reduces the chance of unplanned or overspending.
It’s been three years and this routine is as useful now as it was then. My husband and I both spend more mindfully, with a better sense of our needs and a better sense of control.
If you’d like to control your spending as a step to better financial health, I highly recommended trying this game-changing exercise for yourself.