Training to Budget: Three-Step Guide to Planning Your Finances Like You Plan Your Fitness
I found this great quote last week for the subject line of our weekly newsletter, “A goal is just a wish until you have a plan.” Good, right? Well, it’s stuck with me through the last seven days. Mainly because, honey, I am a planner. Ask anyone on my team. Plans, strategies, and a good spreadsheet are the things that really get me going. I say, knowing I’ve probably lost 75% of my audience.
What’s my favorite thing to plan? My fitness routine, of course.
That’s why I’m going to tell you how building a budget is like planning your training regimen. If your goal is to enjoy the fruits of your fitness, it should also be to enjoy the results of your budgeting.
Step 1- Identify Future-You
This might already be obvious, but I love starting a new routine by mapping out my goals. If I’m pre-season for my favorite winter sport, skate skiing, I sit down with myself in August and consider what went super well last season and what didn’t go so well. I hit a new split goal, but my average time/kilometer for a distance race wasn’t what I had hoped. This was likely a two-fold issue:
I started the race too quickly
I was hesitant during a few of the steep descents
Now I know what I need to improve on and my goal: improve 30K+ distance time.
Do the same with your budget.
First ask yourself: what does your future look like as a budget queen? Are you slaying spreadsheets and taking money left on ‘the table’ to invest or save?
Of course you are.
Is there a specific goal you want to achieve, and therefore setting this budget is ESSENTIAL to attaining that goal? Awesome. Now visualize future-you and what you look like meeting that goal.
Behavioral expert and my partner-in-crime, Erin Papworth, would also tell you to snap a pic and put it on the fridge. That way, you are constantly (and pleasantly) reminded that your budgeting work will pay off soon.
Now- let’s also think through the last time you set a budget. Did you stick to it? What was the end result? And, if you didn’t stick with it long, what threw you off? We’ve all been there. Sure, bombing my last race wasn’t the ideal result. But what was the reason for failure (failure to pace + fear of falling on my butt)? The result of not preparing myself properly.
Now that you have a goal and you’ve addressed the elephant in the room that helps you steer clear of any past shortcomings, you’re ready to execute a budgeting routine. This brings me to Step #2.
Step 2- Recognize Current-You
When I start any new workout program, I first ensure I have:
All the equipment I need
The bandwidth to execute
Say I’m about to tackle a power phase, a duration of training when you focus on explosive movements. My movement of choice might be single-leg box jumps to improve the time it takes to get from rest to movement. Well, I need to be sure I have a box to jump on.
Equipment = Expenses
I equate this process to the ‘categorization’ part of your budget planning. You start thinking about what expenses you MUST pay each month and what costs you can do without.
Think: Using your Hulu membership to access Disney+ and a lot more.
You need Hulu; you don’t need Hulu + Netflix + Prime + ESPN +,+,+. Or a more adult perspective: you need your house and the rent that comes with it. You might not need Hulu + Netflix + Prime + ESPN +,+,+. Write these categories down, then ensure each expense from your last 3 months of bills fits into one of these categories.
Next up is bandwidth, otherwise known as effort. So, I won’t get very far if I only allow myself one workout day a week. Try as I might, fitness does not manifest itself the more you wish for it. You need to put in the work to meet a fitness goal. The same goes for your budget.
Effort = Effort
Many Navigators I speak to claim to loath budgeting because they find the day-to-day tracking of expenses across many accounts and apps time-consuming. Noted; they’re right. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t find a ‘workaround.’
Look no further; I have your workaround: Download Nav.it for Android or Apple.
Just like a workout schedule, plan when you review your expenses. I like to do it Monday and Thursday. Monday = post-weekend spend, and Thursday = prep weekend spend. Because, pre-COVID, the only time I truly got myself into trouble was on the weekend. Now, in times of COVID pivoting, I still keep up with Monday and Thursday, but my occasional splurge is likely around a needless dog purchase rather than a late-nighter.
A second key tip to effort- try gamifying it! Just like striving to hit a ‘PR’ (personal record) in your training every once in a while, team up with a friend, loved one, or random stranger on Hinge (on second thought, avoid that last one) and set a goal. The first one to come in with $50 left in their budget next month treats the other one to an hour-long, unobstructed foot massage. See why I said to avoid Hinge?
Step 3 –Prepare to fail every once and a while
This is maybe the most critical aspect of your budget planning process. It’s also essential to my training routine. There will inevitably be days when I feel sick, tired, or just too overwhelmed. When I’m feeling this way, I identify why I feel this way and write down what I plan to do about it. I know, I know… I’m a planner. But even the best athletes undergo this process. Identifying the cause of our failures is even more important than recording our wins. It teaches us resilience. It shows us that while we might fall down sometimes, we always know how to get back up because we’ve done it before.
Prepare to grow financial resilience
The same is true for your budget plan. If you acknowledge you’ll stumble along the way and have a plan to continue forward, you’ll bounce back from the setbacks stronger and more determined to meet your financial goals.
Pro Tip – Keep a journal to document:
How you feel after the setback
What drove you to make the purchase decision
What you plan to do to control for a future setback (if it was an avoidable one!)
Again, keeping a record of your decision-making can provide invaluable insight into your purchasing power and the things you might not have valued at the onset of identifying those fixed expenses. Always set yourself up for success by recognizing what you want and what you can improve incrementally, over time, to the best of your ability.