Small Changes, Big Progress

Like most frugal folk, I have spent many years working side gigs. For example, I have, since my 20s, taught fitness classes in my spare time. Free gym access, good exercise, money in the bank. And over time, teaching fitness taught me something far more valuable than just how to motivate a class or execute a new routine.

What I learned was that people don’t change. Oh they try, they really do, but in the fitness industry (admittedly all but shut down during the pandemic), we know that come January every year, people flock to the gym with big notions of change. Big. Memberships swell, classes become crowded and people wax poetic about losing a lot of weight, getting into shape, fast.

And yet? Come March, the same old gym rats, weight lifters, exercise devotees, that is who you are back to seeing every week. Those people were always there of course and there they remain but all the newbies? All but gone. Oh, a few remain, the straggler, but most are gone, their memberships unused, money out of pocket and generally speaking, they are no more fit or thin than when they walked through those gym doors at the beginning of January.

And why is that so? Certainly they possessed motivation a-plenty. They sign up, came to the gym daily, sometimes twice a day, every single day and therein lay the problem.

Too much, too soon.

Human nature being what it is, most people cannot make drastic, radical changes overnight and stick with it. That is why people stop coming to the gym after a few months at most. It’s too intrusive, too much, it’s simply too big a change to maintain.

So, how do you then make real change? Reduce your spending, eat healthier, save more money, lose weight…?

The answer, according to experts, and those of us in the know, lies in making small but meaningful changes in habits. Don’t decide to cut out all spending, instead, pick a couple of small but over time, meaningful ways to cut back. I am forever surprised to see people still buying cups of $7 designer coffee for example. I confessed I too, missed an easier, more upscale cup of Joe than my tiny coffee maker was able to brew so instead of tossing my hard earned money at the designer trends of coffee, I asked my partner for an upscale coffee maker for Christmas. Granted, I still have to buy the fancy pods for it but it still costs me far less than that $7 daily money sink would

Like I said, a small but meaningful change.

For fitness goals. Don’t throw yourself into massive time sink workouts that you cannot possibly maintain. Humans just are not hard-wired for that kind of change. Short term, sure. If you are trying to squeeze into a bridal gown or impress old high school buddies for an upcoming reunion, then sure, sprint to the finish line. But past that? Very hard to maintain so the key to making long term, meaningful changes is to make small changes, one by one, over time. Like that overpriced $7 cup of coffee, changes add up over time. I know of one person who gave up just one thing from his diet. Just one. It was regular sugary soda pop. In six months’ time, he had lost a considerable amount of weight more than twenty pounds, in fact. It was because two or three sugar-laden sodas a day really add up in calories. It was also a change he found he could live with long term. After a few weeks, diet soda didn’t seem so bad to him and he had adapted. Small change, over time, big results.

So, as you write up that list of New Year’s resolutions, many of them regarding frugality and saving money, stick to small, manageable changes that you can live with. Over time, they can add up to better health, bigger savings and less stress and isn’t that what we all hope 2021 will hold?

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