By Nathaniel Sillin
The end of the year is a perennial period of self-reflection, and I enjoy partaking in setting a few New Year’s resolutions. Unfortunately, I’ve (more than once) enthusiastically started a year with shiny optimism only to find myself falling short a few weeks later. I know I’m not alone, and I’m encouraged by people who challenge themselves time and time again.
Resolutions related to finances and health–two important components of everyone’s life–are especially common. Here are a few ways that you could tie physical activities to achieving your financial goals. Hopefully being able to tackle both resolutions at once can help keep you motivated for the entire year.
Compete with yourself, or others. If you’re up for a little friendly competition, consider creating or joining a challenge and putting money on the line.
There’s an online app that you can use to place a wager on how often you’ll work out. At the end of the week, you have to pay your preselected amount for each workout you miss. But if you complete your workouts for the week, you collect a portion of the amount paid out by everyone else.
Some people make an arrangement with a friend where you each agree to work out X times a week and to pay the other person $5 or $10 for each workout missed. Or, you could opt to make a donation to a charity of your friend’s choice rather than pay each other. The goal is to provide accountability, and the financial aspect can add a sense of urgency and be a great motivational tool.
Connect an activity tracker to rewards programs. Several services give you points each time you work out and let you redeem the points for cash, gift cards or other prizes. The real trick is to use multiple programs and maximize your rewards from every workout. Some employers also provide bonus points to employees who use these programs or have similar rewards programs of their own.
Make working out your work. If you’re looking to make a serious lifestyle change, and potentially some serious money, consider becoming a personal trainer or fitness instructor. While the certification process can be expensive and time-consuming, afterward you’ll be able to charge clients for classes or one-on-one training.
Or, you could try to find flexible and active work that suits your interests and experience. Gardener, referee or dog walker could be good fits to supplement your income.
Keep exercise-related expenses down. It can be tempting to buy new workout equipment or sign up for a gym when you’re excited about a New Year’s resolution. However, there are many ways to get fit without expensive equipment or a large gym.
For example, you can find videos of free instructor-led workouts or yoga sequences online or try an app that creates and leads you through workouts. If you want to take up an activity that requires facilities, look for inexpensive options at local community centers.
Raise money for a charity with every step. You may not have a strong desire to earn money but are still looking for a little extra motivation to work out. Similar to the programs that reward you with points, there are apps like Charity Miles that you can use to raise money for your favorite charities while exercising.
You could also sign up for a charity walk, run or ride and know that when you cross the finish line you’ll be helping a good cause.
Bottom line: By keeping costs down and looking for ways to make money while staying active you can make your budget (and body) more flexible. This approach could help you stay motivated for longer, and you can use the extra money to pursue your other goals for the year.
Perhaps you’re trying to save for a down payment or vacation, focused on building your retirement savings or looking to make a significant impact in your community by donating to non-profit organizations. Every extra dollar can bring you one step closer to achieving that goal.
Nathaniel Sillin directs Visa’s financial education programs. To follow Practical Money Skills on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PracticalMoney