I'm a big one for exercise. Running, walking, cycling, yoga, gym, whatever, just moving is good for your body and mind.
Researchers at Yale and Oxford Universities found that regular exercise instils greater well-being than more money in your bank account. Read more about that in Business Insider here.
I'm the last to advise against a gym membership, but I would say this.
If you aren't going, you're not getting the benefit, and therefore, it is a waste of money. Gym memberships usually cost $25 a week. That's about the cost of a single drop-in session if permitted. So if you're only going 1-3 x a month, you're not getting your money's worth, even if you feel good post-work for those brief times. If you're a sporadic gym bunny, it is far better to pay as you go. Gyms would far prefer you didn't and don't often have this option but some of them do. So find the right fit. Yoga classes tend to offer concessions cards and the more you buy, the cheaper each class becomes. It's a good incentive to keep going, so long as they don't expire!
But back to the gym...If you don't know what you're paying, you aren't paying close enough attention to your finances.
This week, I was chatting with a friend about money, and she was lamenting the cost of her daughter's gym membership, which she covers. I have zero issues with the bank of mum and dad, and I do the same for one of my sprogs. It's good for their mental well-being, they are super fit kids, and they've encouraged many of their friends to take up fitness because of their impressive beach bods. It's a good investment in your kids' future and mental well-being.
On top of that goodness, research has also found that if you have the discipline to exercise regularly, it acts like a keystone habit that encourages good outcomes, including better grades, better jobs, and savings. This is detailed by Charles DuHigg in The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. It's a fabulous read. I highly recommend it if you're trying to reset in 2022.
What surprised me about the gym convo, was my friend said it cost $50 a week! I told her she must surely be confused and that the payments were more likely fortnightly. I double-checked my fees at the same gym to confirm that. She was adamant that $50 was withdrawn weekly for one membership, so I encouraged her to phone the gym ASAP or find a cheaper gym. Sure enough, she reported the next day that they were over-billing her. They fixed it up and said a refund was on its way.
I'm glad we had that chat, as she might have otherwise been paying way more than she needed to for a long time, when that money could have been repurposed to things like debt repayment.
During our talk, it also came out that she was paying for two separate insurance schemes that effectively covered the same thing. It appeared that she had been over-sold on the same type of insurance. That is not the usual problem most Kiwis have, one of the most under-insured OECD countries.
As inflation bites hard and interest rates rise, making your money work harder for you is crucial. Complacency in personal finance, and procrastination, are twin enemies you need to defeat to get ahead.
An easy thing to do, to ward off these financial faux-pas is to print off three months' worth of bank statements, categorise all your spending and scrutinise what is coming out regularly. So many services work on a subscription basis these days. That's handy in some ways and helpful too for those businesses, but they might have outlived their usefulness in your life.
You may have noticed insurance, utility bills, and other automated payments having increased recently without realising it because you didn't read the email warnings. In looking closer, you might have found charges for other extraneous services or stuff you didn't buy, an increasingly common problem with cyber-crimes. I once saw a series of small repeating payments on my Uber account. They were barely detectable because they were so tiny, but they added up. I had to cancel my card and reset the account.
The point is, if you don't pay attention, you have no idea what you are paying. Now more than ever, you can't afford to have your head in the sand.
Keeping your finances fighting fit requires time, attention and discipline, not unlike the gym. But unlike deadlifts and bench presses, you don't need to be that strong. You mainly need to care enough to look.
I imagine PTs would argue you don't need to be that strong to lift weights, given it's an incremental build up. Fair enough.
Like most things, consistency is the key here and strength will be the natural outcome whether it's muscle you are flexing or your financial habit.
The content of this article is purely informational and should not be construed as personalised financial advice. Seek a registered financial advisor if you require personalised advice.
Amanda Morrall is a New Zealand based personal finance expert. Her first book Money Matters was published in 2013 by Penguin Random House in NZ.