What do your waistline and your wallet have in common?

...Actually, quite a bit. Getting your body in shape and getting your finances in shape have more in common than you might think. In a recent interview with Andrea Metcalf I found out just how alike these two endeavors really are, and conversely learning how you can get in shape cheap and save yourself some money.

One of the first questions I had for Metcalf was whether or not I needed to take some kind of multi-vitamin. After all, I'm only 26. I shouldn't need to worry about that until my 30's or 40's right? Right?

While Metcalf didn't go so far as to shove a men's One-a-Day down my throat, she was quick to warn against the dangers of waiting to get in shape. She compared getting in shape at a young age, be it through vitamins or exercise, to the benefits of saving at an early age. Just like saving a million by retirement is easier if you start at 25 when you'd only have to save $383 a month, as opposed to $1,243 a month at 40, starting a fitness routine at an early age will result in exponential benefits over the rest of your life.

Here are three tips to make the most of your next attempt at losing weight that just might help you learn how to make better financial decisions as well.
  1. Know where you're starting from: Just like you need to know where to start when it comes to budgeting (do this by tracking your expenses BEFORE you start), knowing where you are right now is an important requirement for success.

    Metcalf recommends that you, "try this quick test to determine your fitness level: Climb five flights of stairs, then count how many breaths you take in one minute or time yourself while running or walking a mile. If you can't climb five flights of stairs comfortably, that is a sign you need to start exercising. You should have eight or less breaths in one minute and be able to walk a mile comfortably in under 30 minutes."

    If you can't handle these simple exercises, how do you expect to run a 5k your first day back to the gym? The same thing goes for starting a budget. Don't fall victim to the "Knee Jerk behavioral change" that Ramit Sethi, author of I Will Teach You to Be Rich, credits with undermining many lifestyle changes.

  2. Use what you have: You don't need a gym membership to start getting in shape, instead look around your home. To get started, Metcalf suggests, "Bring a kitchen chair into an open area of your home and use it for dips and squats.This is totally free and will give you rock-star arms in no time.Also, a gallon of milk weighs nine pounds -- consider doing a few reps while preparing dinner for the kids."

    If you're looking for a fitness video, don't spend a bundle on DVDs. You can find free fitness videos at AndreaMetcalf.com, fitness.com, from your library, from Netflix, and even on demand from some cable providers.

  3. Take advantage of free services: Metcalf suggests that one of the best ways to get fit on the cheap is to take advantage of all the free services that are available, something not enough people are doing. According to Blue Cross Blue Shield, only 18% of people make use of free preventative health care, which means most of us are paying for services -- such as hiring a health coach -- that are often available for free.
Now that you have more tools to get in shape on the cheap, make sure that a slip-up doesn't break your diet or your budget. Follow the advice of Ed Levine, who is currently chronicling his diet at, of all places, his popular food blog, Serious Eats. After a day of delicious food tasting added four pounds to his paunch and threatened to derail his progress, Ed stayed strong and resisted the urge to say the hell with it.

That kind of determination is what you'll need to make any significant progress toward your goals. The ability to roll with the punches will help you deal with a day off of your diet or unexpected bills, and make it easier to achieve all of your goals.
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