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. It's admirable that people will 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 to each other, 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. Once you accrue enough, you can redeem the points for cash, gift cards or other prizes. The real trick is to use multiple programs and earn a few points in each one whenever you exercise. Some employers also provide bonus points to employees that 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 an investment in your skills and body. For example, you could look into 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, getting out of a gym contract can be difficult if you change your mind later and there are many ways to get fit without expensive equipment.
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 swimming, tennis or another 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 raise money from friends and family. Take your training seriously and know that when you cross the finish line you'll be helping out a good cause.
Use the extra money to help achieve your other goals for the year. By keeping costs down and making your physical activity a potential source of extra income you can make your budget (and body) more flexible. Consider your other goals for the year and how the money can help you achieve them.
Perhaps you're trying to save up 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 you earn can bring you one step closer to achieving that goal.
Bottom line: The start of a new year is often a time of introspection, and for many people that means reexamining their physical health and personal finances. Rather than viewing those as completely separate, look for new ways to make money while staying active. This approach could help you stay motivated for longer, and reach your goals sooner.
Nathaniel Sillin directs Visa's financial education programs. To follow Practical Money Skills on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PracticalMoney
This article is intended to provide general information and should not be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a legal, tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to you and about your individual financial situation.