Labelled jars (travel, education, food) with money allocated into each.


My Weekly Money Routine for Better Financial Health

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.


Grocery $500
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.

Article Author Debbie King
Debbie King

Read more from Debbie here.

Debbie King (aka SUPAFITMAMA) is a Toronto-based masters athlete, influencer, freelance writer, wife and mother of one. At age 42, she is training toward her goal of becoming a 2020 World Masters Athletics track and field champion. In her work as a writer and influencer, Debbie creates powerful content and connections in female fitness, sport, wellness and culture. Body positivity, inclusion and representation are strong themes throughout. As a regular contributor for CBC Parents, she explores a range of healthy living topics for individuals and Canadian families. Follow her journey at and on Instagram and Twitter.

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