Track Your Meals and Workouts

Just like tracking your budget, tracking your meals and workouts can be an important step in improving your life. By tracking your meals, you’ll be more aware of what you’re putting into your body and how you can improve your diet. By tracking workouts, you may be more inclined to follow a workout plan and find ways to improve and vary your current plan. Just like budgeting your money, it is important to find your favorite method for tracking these things. For workouts, I like to keep an Excel document with a calendar and list of the workouts that I completed on each day (ex. “ran 5 miles outside” or “1-hour fitness class”). You can also just write these items onto your regular wall calendar if it doesn’t look too cluttered with your busy schedule. There are also free programs and smartphone apps that let you track your dietary consumption each day (some are pretty sophisticated and actually have a nutritional record of most grocery and restaurant items, including calories, fat, etc. along with a record of calories burned during common activities so that you can compare how many calories you’ve ingested with how many you’ve worked off). Again, a simple notebook, pen and your best estimates are all that is necessary for tracking these things. As a tip, do not obsess over calories. It is about maintaining your health and working toward your fitness goals. For example, if you eat a lot of “junk food,” perhaps tracking your daily meals can allow to visualize exactly how much of it you need to cut out or your diet (you can also work this into your budgeting method to see how much you would save if you removed unnecessary food items from your diet!). If you’re in a workout slump, entering your workouts may motivate you to try new fitness activities.

Hopefully you’ve already employed a budgeting method (as per yesterday’s post) – start tracking nutrition and fitness in your life today!

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Track Your Budget

If you want to start saving money, one of the best ways to begin is by tracking your income and spending. This is a relatively easy concept, but something that many people don’t implement. All you need to do is find your favorite way to track your finances, whether it is by simply keeping a notebook with a list of purchases and incoming money, creating an Excel document, or by finding a program or app that assists you. I use a free smartphone app called MoneyWise; it allows you to enter expenses and income, view a chart of your spending, and maintain a monthly budget. It comes with general categories like transportation, groceries, or entertainment and also includes the option to add custom categories. There is no need to spend money on a fancy program or app that allows you to do these things (which is counterproductive to trying to save in the first place!). I like the idea of a free cell phone app because I can typically add expenses as soon as they occur, without having to remember to jot them down into a notebook or onto my computer whenever I return home. You can also use your online bank account or credit card account to view your purchases and enter them into whichever budget-tracking method you prefer.

By tracking your spending, you will be more aware of it, which may influence you to spend less money. Keeping track of your expenses lets you visualize areas that you need to cut-back on (this is another reason that I like the chart option in the phone app – I can see a breakdown of the categories that I spend the most money on).

So go ahead and start one of these budgeting methods today!

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Make a Bucket List

If you don’t already have one, sit down right now and create a bucket list.

A bucket list is a list of activities that you want to complete, places that you want to visit, or people that you want to meet, before you die. For many of us, we can easily think of these things, but do we ever make an effort to get them done? A bucket list serves to motivate you to try new things and attempt to live life to the fullest. Browse the internet for examples of bucket lists if you wish. For example, if you love the ocean, have you ever thought about trying scuba diving? If you like staying in shape, have you considered signing up for your first marathon or triathlon? If you enjoy traveling, where do you most want to explore? Remember to check things off of your list as you complete them and add new ideas as they come along. Years from now, some of these will provide great stories and memories for you to reflect on and share with others. You probably won’t remember the time that you bought that expensive outfit or new technological gadget; you’ll remember the time that you backpacked through Europe with a good friend, hiked the highest mountain in your country, or learned a new language or musical instrument. Though some of these can be expensive, there are some things that are just downright worth it. Follow the money-saving tips on this blog (and others) so that you can do some of the things that you hope to accomplish before your times comes, and start living your best life.

Feel free to share what’s on your bucket list in the comments below or read others’ suggestions for ideas to add to yours!

“I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.”

– Shawshank Redemption

Drink More Water

Not only is it inexpensive, water is great for your skin and body. You’ve probably heard that you need to drink about eight 8-oz glasses per day, so start doing it! Invest in a large water bottle to bring with you during the day and be sure to re-fill it when necessary. I like nalgene water bottles (http://store.nalgene.com/), though any reusable bottle will do the trick. By purchasing a reusable bottle, you will save money if your normally buy bottled water (you will also help out the environment — an added bonus). Replacing soft drinks and/or juices with water will save you plenty of money (and calories) as well. If water is too “boring” for your taste, try adding lemon or mint to it for some added flavor.

Drinking more water increases energy and decreases fatigue and headache. It also promotes weight loss by making you feel fuller and it removes toxins from the body, improves skin complexion, and even prevents cramps.

Drinking more water can therefore help you save money, look great, and feel great!

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Dine Out Less

One of the easiest ways to save money is by making fewer trips to restaurants. Depending on the size of your family, this can save thousands of dollars each year. Let’s say that an average meal out costs $15 (a conservative estimate) for one person to dine out, while a meal at home costs $5. Dining out just twice a week (another conservative estimate, since the average family dines out about 4-5 times per week) would cost $30 for one person. That equals $120 per month, or $1440 per year, while cooking at home would cost about $480 per year. That would save an average of $960 per year. And that is simply for one person. For a family of four, that’s a savings of $3840. That saves enough for a pretty decent vacation.

On top of the price of the meal, another added cost is the cost of gasoline needed to drive to the restaurant. It may not seem like much, but can definitely add up if you dine out frequently. And don’t forget: time is money. Consider the other activities that you could be partaking in by eating more meals at home, since dining out typically requires not only the drive, but sometimes waiting for a table, along with time waiting to be served and waiting for the check. Cooking at home also allows for more opportunities to learn new recipes and improve your own skills.

By dining out less, you or your family can easily save thousands each year, which can be put toward paying off debt, investing for the future, or traveling to a new vacation spot.