I’m someone who can be – If I’m being totally honest with myself – very lazy when it comes to fitness. I’ve always been someone for whom physical activity was a byproduct of other hobbies or obligations I had going on in my life. And living in a city like New York requires enough baseline movement to justify almost any otherwise-sedentary lifestyle.
But for the past few months in particular, I’ve been finding myself more and more interested in maintaining a higher level of overall health. I generally eat pretty well (cooking most of my meals at home and always getting in plenty of fruit and vegetables), but I would be lying to myself if I said that my fitness was at the same level.
Sitting Can Lead to Spending
A less-active life simply costs more money. It’s so easy to slip into routines of sitting or standing around in places that cost money (restaurants, bars, movie theaters, stores) when you’re aimlessly window-shopping. And this problem is only exacerbated when you realize just how much saying no to things can cost you, socially. Simply put, constantly being the person to say no to some of these not-so-healthy-or-cheap activities can make friends simply stop inviting you, or take it personally.
I’m someone who has always struggled with that – with the feeling that turning something down because I want to save money or calories will automatically result in some kind of judgment. On more occasions than I’d like to admit, I’ve made up reasons for not being able to do something because “I’ve already blown up my budget and eating habits this month” sounds bad in my head.
Be Radically Honest About Your Goals
So, in order to be more diligent about saving, and more accountable about my own health, I’ve been following a simple rule when it comes to my social calendar: radical honesty. I’ve essentially enlisted most of my friends in a kind of buddy system for my own goals.
Basically, I am working towards trying to hit 500,000 steps a month, and I’m also working on cutting down my budget to the point that my fiancé and I are able to make serious savings by the end of the year. Both of these are not going to happen without a serious reduction in my social spending, as well as a restructuring of how I spend my days. The only way to accomplish this, I’m finding, is to get ahead of the conversation at every turn.
I’m letting my friends into these projects, warning them ahead of time that part of my Saturday must include a long walk around the park and/or that I can only go to places with solid happy hour deals. And while I’m not overly-serious about every individual day’s spending, I’ve found that the only way to make sure there is no awkwardness and no turning back is to tell everyone before it comes up. The more I put myself on the hook with the people around me, the more I find it easy to reach my goals. And while my personal criteria may be too specific for one buddy to join me in tandem to reach them, allowing everyone to participate here and there is huge to helping make things manageable. No one is going to walk 20,000 steps a day with me for days on end, but dividing those steps between different friends on different days, as well as using the time to make it through podcasts and audiobooks, helps me get it done.
I’m still not someone who I would consider to be serious about fitness. Every day I find myself more in-tune with it, and definitely more energetic, but I’m still far from the place I would like to be with my own body. But gaining control over my physical activity has made the reductions in my spending feel more manageable, and vice versa. The more one is in charge of one’s own destiny, the easier it becomes to mold yourself to the person you want to be. And the person I want to be isn’t so far off from who I am now — she’s just a little bit lighter, in her step and in her wallet.
Chelsea Fagan is the co-founder of The Financial Diet and the author of several personal finance books, including 2018’s “The Financial Diet.” She lives in Manhattan where she spends her time on her three loves: talking incessantly about money, hosting elaborate dinner parties that stress her out, and spending time with her fiancé and her dog, Mona.