I have written countless articles on how running has healed my soul and is more than just a sport, it’s my therapy. But what I’ve never talked about before is how running has transformed my financial life.
I’m going to be very forthcoming, several years ago, I had a “not so healthy” relationship with “things.” I was one of those emotional shoppers who filled my sadness, anxiety, or whatever the emotion of the day was, with shopping. I was never out of control, but I would head to Target for one thing and come out with several things. At the grocery, I would peruse the aisles and buy every single item that looked remotely new or interesting. I would head to Lululemon with a $50 gift card and come home with $250 worth of apparel. You catch my drift. Things add up and our money dwindled down.
Before you know it, your closets and pantry are overflowing with things that are “wants” not “needs”, and you are living paycheck, to paycheck wondering why you don’t ever have any money.
When I began seriously running back in 2005, I ran very similar to how I spent my money. I loved the feeling of being free and the endorphin rush, so I ran every day and sometimes twice a day. I signed up for multiple races and loved the feeling of winning my age group just like a quick fix at Lululemon. It didn’t take too long before I was suffering from physical exhaustion. Not unlike my finances, I was making it, but always feeling tired and constantly on the edge of injury.
When a full blown injury sidelined me, I was forced to take a hard look at myself and my actions. I hired a coach, who’s wisdom and knowledge of running allowed me to understand how the body needs balance and compassion in order to run its best. It took some time and, over the course of a few years (I “fell off the wagon” a few times), I finally gained the insight to run my best. And it paid off in a big way. I was able to qualify for, and run, the Boston Marathon in 2013, earning a PR on the course.
So, you may be wondering, “what do running and financial stability have to do with each other?”
Well, here is what happened when I was able to apply what I learned from running to my financial life, which, to be honest, just kind of came natural and fell into place unforced.
Expert Advice – Don’t be too proud to get expert advice. When I first started I was running myself into the ground. It took getting injured for me to hire a coach. Don’t let yourself get into financial ruin before you seek advice. If you can’t afford a financial adviser, seek the wisdom of successful family members, friends, or online experts.
Don’t Give Up – Just because you have one bad day, month, or even year in running, it’s no reason to throw in the towel. Simply begin again. It’s that simple. If you financially blow it, or it seems overwhelming to even start, just begin by forgiving yourself and take one small step forward. It’s moving in the right direction that is the important part.
Priorities – In running you have to decide that it’s important enough for you to change. It’s not always easy, but you have establish your “why.” Why are you running? Why do you want to get your finances straight? Is watching the latest Downton Abbey a priority or going for a run? Is buying things you don’t need from Target a priority, or saving for your family’s future? What is important to you?
Discipline – Anything that is worth doing takes some self-discipline. You must decide that it’s important enough to you to make the change. Whether you’re scaling back financially or running to lose some extra pounds, nothing will be handed to you without you working for it.
Have a Goal – I find that when I run it’s best for me to have a goal race, so that I stick to a plan. It’s motivating for me to have a schedule that I follow. The same is true with finances. Set short and long-term goals, so that you can also establish a daily, monthly, and yearly plan on how you will be able to achieve this.
Less Time to Shop – Running takes up time. In my opinion, this is time well spent. I am doing something to better myself and I really do not have time to shop other than the very basics. I’m filling that anxiety with something much better for me and my family than shopping for junk we don’t need.
Like Minded Friends – When you run, you establish a group of friends that you may not otherwise have known. This group of friends becomes like family. Surround yourself with other people who are also trying to save and who are financially conservative. They understand if you say “no” when everyone is going out to dinner. They are happy to have a Peanut Butter and Jelly at your house instead. It’s about the friendship and conversation, not eating at the latest hot spot.
Time – When you are running, not only does it naturally reduce your anxiety – causing you to make much better choices in your life – it also gives you time to think. When I’m out there, I can establish my “needs vs. wants.” I can think about my financial priorities and come home armed with that knowledge. It allows me to make better choices and be completely comfortable saying “NO” when I need to.
Delayed Gratification – Just like your finances, nothing in running happens overnight. You want to send your kids to college? You need to save for years. You want to qualify for Boston? Count on a few years for that as well. Goals take time and daily discipline to achieve.
Plan -When you run a marathon with no plan, it’s possible to do well, but it’s my strong belief that if you do follow a plan or coach’s advice, you will be faster and have a better overall race experience. Finances are the same, they require a plan that needs to be executed daily. I plan our meals, so we don’t overspend at the store or have nothing to eat and end up going out. My husband and I plan our finances every day, month, and year, so that we meet our goals.
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What I do NOT do
- Eat out very often, and when we do it’s not fancy.
- Buy coffee at Starbuck’s unless someone has given me a gift card.
- Wear designer clothes.
- Drive a luxury car.
- Get a professional haircut or color.
- Get my nails done, unless I am given a gift card.
- Go to Target or Costco – it’s just too tempting. If we need something I send my husband.
- Have my children in competitive club sports.
- Go on fancy vacations – on the rare occasion we camp or use military facilities (these are planned ahead of time)
- Accept invitations to “dinner out” very often.
- Complain that we have “nothing,” and say “I wish” we had “this or that”
- Allow negative people into my inner circle.
- Have cable TV – we have Apple TV only.
- No Land line – only cell phones.
- Let my kids buy school lunches every day.
- Think that my kids are suffering because they don’t have what other kids have.
- Think that I can “have it all” and still meet my financial goals.
- Compare my life to someone else who “seems” to have more.
- Think I “deserve” or am “owed” everything that I desire.
What I do
- Plan all of my family’s meals daily and pack a lunch if we will be out.
- Accept hand me down clothes and other items.
- Plan out our finances.
- Seek advice if we feel we need it.
- Establish weekly, monthly, and yearly financial goals.
- If I can make something from scratch… I do!
- Grateful for what we HAVE not what we DON’T.
- Focus on the important relationships in my life and my immediate family.
- Establish friendships with people who have similar financial goals and/or who understand my need to live a more simplified life.
- Nurture friendships with positive people who don’t see themselves as victims.
- Feed my family whole, healthy foods.
- Say “NO” when I need to.
- Prioritize my life. I ask myself “What’s important in the long run?”
- Have confidence in myself.
- Realize that happiness is not something outside of myself.
- Wait at least 72 hours before making certain purchases.
- Willing to make sacrifices.
- Write heartfelt hand written letters to good friends and give hand made gifts.
- Compare my life to those less fortunate as reminder of how much I have.
You may be thinking, “Eww, how boring, or what a horribly dull life.” If I read this a decade ago, I know that’s what I might be thinking. But, in fact the opposite is true. Just how some people cannot imagine running as something that they would actually like to do, getting your financial life in order actually creates more joy and happiness than I have ever felt before.
I used to be miserable and would get stomach aches trying to figure out how we would pay our credit card off at the end of each month. Now, I very rarely have financial woes. It’s tight, because what we would have spent, we are now saving, but I am completely happy spending a Friday night eating homemade pizza and watching something on Netflix with my family. It’s all about priorities and I love and want to be with my children and husband. Plus, I need to wake up early Saturday morning to run, so why go out anyway?!
I am no longer chasing happiness, happiness is in me, and available to every single one of us if we choose. It requires some change. I believe in starting small, but financial freedom is possible if there is desire to change. We may never be rich, but there isn’t one thing that I am missing from life because I have the love of family. I realize every day how fortunate we are to have the home, cars, health, and family that we do.
My life isn’t fancy if I compare myself to those around me, but that’s something I avoid too! I have a lot more than most people in the world and that’s what I choose to focus on. That feeling of being truly grateful, and the satisfaction of saving for things like my children’s education is similar to the endorphins at the end of nice long mind cleansing run.
That’s my secret. This is how running has transformed my families financial life and I hope it will do the same for you, too.
How about you? Has running influenced an area of your life other than physically?