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4 ways to stay in financial shape all year long

Alyssa Pry
Personal Finance Reporter

If you want to get in shape and get physically healthier in the new year, you know you need to hit the gym and trim your diet. But what about when it comes to your money? That’s where Shannon McLay comes in—as a former financial advisor for Merrill Lynch and now the founder of the Financial Gym, she’s created a physical space where people can get their finances in fighting shape.

“At the time I thought about starting the Financial Gym, I had just come off a 50-pound weight-loss journey, and in the process of getting physically healthy, I realized there are a lot of parallels to getting financially healthy,” she said.

For McLay, getting physically fit and getting financially fit both entail two things: “To get physically fit you need to work out more and eat less,” she says. “To get financially fit you need to make more and spend less.”

While the concept seems straightforward, what was missing for McClay was the same availability of resources. McLay created a space where clients can meet with financial trainer, make a plan, and reach their money goals.

“I believe that financial health is the ability to live the life you want without money getting in the way,” she says.

She shares her steps:

Step 1: Get rid of the shame

Just like in a weight-loss journey, McLay says she sees a lot of shame and fear at the Financial Gym when her clients come looking for help. McLay says she’s worked with clients who are afraid they will never pay off their student loans. There’s also shame around not saving enough for retirement.

“There’s a lot of emotion around people’s money and part of our mission at the gym is to help people lose the fear and shame they have around their money,” she says. Once you tackle the emotion behind it, you can start to make a plan to accomplish your goal.

Step 2: Set your goals

The most important part to getting your finances is shape is to set a goal, and then a plan, says McLay.

“Set goals and don’t be afraid to set big goals,” she says. “People are not even sure what they’re capable of accomplishing, but if money didn’t get in the way, make those your goals and lay them out and write them down.” If you have your sights set on big goals, follow these 4 ways to get rich and get ahead

In order to make goals you can reach, McLay recommends taking a look at what you value, whether that’s saving for a family vacation, paying off debt, or even getting a new pet.

Create a written financial plan to get your goals in place with these 4 steps. 

Step 3: Do the work

Now that your goals are in place, it’s time to do the work: just like an exercise plan, make a routine for your spending and saving, McLay says.

“Just like you would schedule working out your abs or going for a run, every other day plan a no-spend day,” she says. “Put on your calendar, I’m not going to spend any money: make your food at home, don’t go out with your friends.” Join Yahoo Finance this January for a No-Spend Challenge: enter here for a chance to win up to $500 as we help you commit to your savings goals.  

The money will add up faster than you think, and will give you a cushion to spend and save for what you actually want. Want a quick financial fix? Do these 5 things to fix your finances by the end of the day. 

McLay also recommends doing a cash-only day. Instead of relying on your credit and debit cards, just put $20 in your wallet for the day and see if you can get through the day without spending more.

Step 4: Stick with it!

While it may seem difficult to stick to your larger financial goals, just like getting physically fit, you’re always on that journey, McLay says.

“I think you could always optimize your money and make smarter choices along your journey,” she says.

Remember: you can do this!

“I think the half the battle of getting financially healthy is truly believing you can do it,” McLay says. “A lot of our clients have big goals and when you lay it out for them it seems near impossible but it’s just putting that plan together and somebody to believe that you can do it.”