I recently had a conversation with a coworker about how I like to run before work. It was a frigid morning, and they said they could never motivate to do it. If I don’t give myself a choice, and it’s something that I have to do, it will get done. It’s amazing what you can do if you don’t give yourself a choice.
Some people like to go to the gym. Some people like to exercise outside. Whatever it is that you enjoy doing, come up with a schedule, and stick to it.
If you want to work out in the morning, set your alarm for an earlier time, and get up.
If you want to go to the gym after work, bring your workout clothes with you, and go straight there after work.
It’s very easy to miss a workout, and say to yourself that you’ll make it up later (will you?) or that you need an extra rest day (do you?). Don’t give yourself a choice, and stick to your original plan.
(Unless you’re sick or injured, of course!)
Eating healthy in the new year is another common resolution, right up there with working out consistently, but bad eating habits can be hard to break.
One easy place to start is to stop impulsively eating out, and cook most of your meals at home. If you are shopping for your own foods, buy fresh ingredients and cook meals from scratch. A little bit of planning for the week can save you from stopping at a fast food restaurant because you’re in a rush. Your wallet and your body will thank you.
I love to eat soup in the winter and have been experimenting with a lot of new recipes. I’ll freeze extra portions in jars that are easy to bring to work for lunch, or microwave on a night that we don’t know what to cook.
Mr. Farmhouse Finance gets his lunch ingredients organized every Sunday (he brings a salad with chicken in to work every day), so it’s easier for him to pack his lunch the night before.
If you keep healthy foods in your house, and don’t give yourself the choice of going out to lunch or stopping at a fast food restaurant, it will be much easier to make healthy eating a habit.
The less money you spend on crappy restaurants, the more you could spend on a nice dinner out or on other financial goals.
Do you pay yourself first or do you wait until your bills and expenses have been taken care of before you put money into savings?
If you wait until you’ve paid for your expenses, chances are there won’t be much money left to save or invest at the end of the month.
On payday, create the illusion of scarcity by paying yourself first and making all of your transfers into your savings and investment accounts. Make it a priority to work towards reaching your financial goals, and you will achieve them that much faster.
You could talk to your HR department about having part of your paycheck direct deposited into your savings account. If it’s automatic, and you keep your savings account separate from your checking account, it will be harder for you to accidentally spend that money.
Planning for Retirement
Unless you plan on working until the day you die, you will need to plan for retirement. Whether you have an IRA, 401k, pension plan, or any other investment vehicle, you need to start utilizing it to begin investing money for retirement.
In my twenties, I listened to my mom’s good advice and joined the retirement system at a couple different jobs. Mr. Farmhouse Finance and I opened Roth IRAs and 403bs, and make it a priority to put money away each month for retirement.
Don’t give yourself a choice. Decide how much you can contribute to a retirement account each month, and do it.
Even if you can only budget for $100 a month, right now, start with that. You can always increase your contributions. Don’t delay planning for retirement.
Once again, if you lack the discipline to make these transfers yourself, you could set it up to make automatic contributions from your paycheck or schedule a recurring transfer.
The Power of Streaking
Recently, we completed the Holiday Running Streak for the fourth year and ran at least a mile a day between Thanksgiving and New Years. Every morning I went out to run, no matter what the temperature was. Many of my coworkers thought I was crazy for running when it was in the single digits outside, and claimed that they could never motivate to do it. I always responded with that I didn’t give myself a choice. The whole idea of a streak is to do something consistently day after day, no matter what.
This year, Mrs. Adventure Rich encouraged the blogging community to join her in streaking. Some people completed the running streak, while others did yoga or meditated every day. No matter what the goal was, for many people it was easier to complete the streak if they didn’t give themselves a choice.
It has been said that it takes at least 21 days to form a habit (although many people say 66 days is a better estimate), so what better way to get started than by completing a streak.
Telling yourself that you’re going to do something, and actually doing it, can be hard for some people to do. You can make it easier by not giving yourself a choice or a way to opt out of something that you’ve committed to.
If you have an illness or an injury and can’t work out, that’s one thing, but if you’re just cozy in bed and don’t want to get up, that’s a whole other thing.
Don’t give yourself a choice, and you may surprise yourself by how easy it becomes to do the things you set out to do.
What kinds of things do you not give yourself a choice about?
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Illusion of Scarcity Worksheet (PDF)
Download this free worksheet and start paying yourself first.
- Budget for financial obligations and recurring expenses
- Prioritize your financial goals
- Make all your transfers on payday