Running can be an exciting, fun, healthy activity that pretty much anyone can do, even if you don’t have much experience or training. When you think about it, it’s not that different from spending money.
On the other hand, running can be a lonely, painful, even discouraging situation, if you overdo it. Again, not that much different from overspending and getting yourself into debt.
Sadly, I've seen both perspectives…
The highs and the lows…
And it ain’t much fun, I can tell you that much for sure!
But hey, even if you don't run, you can still learn a thing or two from this story. Let me tell you - I'm no expert, long distance runner. Most of my runs are pretty short, and I don't finish anywhere near the top when I race (if you're also a runner, feel free to let me know about your running experience in the comments below). So here’s a little background on how I figured out that running an money are not that different:
Several years ago I got myself way too deep in debt trying to start a sporting goods business. I pretty much did EVERYTHING wrong. But I wanted my own business. So I kept trying. And kept spending. And before I knew it, I was swamped with credit card bills. But I finally came to my senses, and after a few years of misery, finally found a way to pay off all the debt.
A few years later I blew out my back. I did it by not listening to my body. Kind of like what I did while building the business. One day my back hurt, and I knew I should just go back to bed. So of course, I went on a long run instead. The next day I sneezed and ended up with a VERY painful herniated disk. It took several months to rehabilitate it (although more than 3 years later I still feel some numbness in my right leg and foot).
The moral of this story?
Some of life’s most painful lessons can be learned in many different ways. So here are 5 important money lessons that I learned from running, that you can easily learn from too even if you are not a runner:
1) You must have a goal.
When you run, it’s helpful to have an idea how long you are going to run, and where you are going to do it. I guess you can just leave the house and run until you get tired and turn around. But if you want to be safe, or get better, you need to have some type of goal – like run 1 mile, run 10 miles, run a race, win a race. It doesn't matter what it is, but you just need some type of goal.
Same with money. If you don't have a goal, and you just put all your money in your checking or savings, and spend when you feel like it, you'll probably end up in trouble – either by running out of money, or getting into credit card debt, or both! So set a goal for yourself, so you know where you are going financially:
- Put $100 per paycheck into your savings
- Pay off all your credit cards
- Build an emergency fund of $1,000
- Save for a car, a house, or other big purchase
- Retire at age 50
Whatever it is, make it something meaningful to you!
2) You need a plan to reach your goal.
A plan is like a roadmap. It's great to know where you want to go, but unless you've been there before you need directions. Or you'll end up lost (which for me is a problem because I will NOT ask for directions, which drives my wife crazy!). In fact, the other day I went for a “short” trail run, ended up getting very lost, and it took me almost 3 hours to find my way out of the woods!!! Let me tell you, that was NO FUN!
Do yourself a favor, and write down a plan to reach your financial goal. Make it as detailed as possible, so you know exactly what you are doing each step of the way. For example, if you want to pay off all your credit card bills, here's a sample plan.
- Pay off all your credit card bills.
- Make minimum payment on all cards except the one with the highest interest rate.
- For that one, add an extra $10, $50, or $100 every month to pay if off quicker. Once that one is paid off, add the money to the next card.
- While working on this plan, NO USING the credit cards unless it is a real emergency.
You can keep going into more detail, but you get the idea. Like the old saying goes “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail”.
3) You need to find a way to have fun – affordable fun, but fun.
There's nothing worse than waking up one morning and your body is sore, and you feel like you have to force yourself to run. Or you get home from work all tired and crabby and you do an “angry” run. Either of these can be real painful, both physically and emotionally. Trust me. Sure, exercise can be a great way to burn off stress. But you need to enjoy it. If you feel like crap, take a day off and go for a walk instead. Or play with the kids, or the dog. Go play basketball with your friends. Or go out for breakfast. Whatever you do, DO NOT let exercise become work. Every once in a while do something fun!
This is even more true with money! When money is tight it’s easy to punish yourself by taking away all your fun stuff. I'm not talking about “the fun” you had in going on spending sprees or ignoring your money problems and piling up large credit card bills. That type of fun got you into trouble. But you can have fun by doing small things, like going out for ice cream. Or picking up a gallon of “cookie dough” ice cream and eating it on your porch. Go play a game of mini-golf. Or take a walk by the beach or lake or forest (but bring a map so you don’t end up lost like me). Go out for coffee with friends. All of these can be done for less than $20, so you don't have to break the bank to have fun!
4) You need to put in the work if you want the results!
Ahh, this is a big one! If you want to run faster, or lose more weight, then you need to train faster, run longer, and work harder. Otherwise the result will be simple - you won't run faster. And you won’t lose weight.
And if you want to retire early, you can't do it on $100 a month. No can you get out of debt by still spending all your money on “extras” you don’t really need. Instead:
- You need to stop spending…
- Work more hours…
- Get a part-time job…
- Shop around before buying…
And if you really work hard enough at it, you can get the results you want. in life there are usually no shortcuts. You know those people who you hate because they always seem to “get lucky”? Well, most of them didn't get lucky at all. They worked hard. And one day, lo and behold, their hard work paid off!
5) The biggest obstacle of all to becoming successful is...
And your fears, your worries, your insecurities - all of these exist mostly in your mind. And they will hold you back more than you can imagine. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about running, working, meeting new friends, starting a new job, getting out of debt - if your mind is telling you it can’t be done, well, then it won’t get done! You can be sure of that.
So, which one of these lessons is holding you back the most? Or which lessons have you learned about money from other areas of your life? Let me know in the comments below.