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Daily Action Steps Produce Results

February 2015

Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®
Extension Specialist in Financial Resource Management
Rutgers Cooperative Extension

The Small Steps to Health and Wealth™ program is built upon the premise that small, positive daily actions can improve health and personal finance status over time. Some examples are eating 100 fewer calories per day and saving a $1 bill plus loose change in a jar. Both are small steps toward the goals of losing weight and saving money for future expenses such as an emergency fund or living costs in retirement.

So what can you do on a daily basis to improve your health and personal finances? Actually, there are many positive behaviors that that people can do every day. Examples are in Chapter 8 of the Small Steps to Health and Wealth™ workbook: Make Progress Every Day. In addition, several dozen Cooperative Extension professionals recently submitted suggestions. Below is a list of recommended daily health and financial action steps. How many of them are you doing regularly?

Daily Health Behaviors:

  • Eat a healthy breakfast before starting work, school or other daily activities
  • Avoid drinking sugar-sweetened beverages (e.g., regular soda, sweetened waters and iced teas)
  • Eat 7 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily
  • Get at least 7 hours of sleep per night
  • Eat an adequate amount of fiber (see fiber guidelines from Colorado State University Extension)
  • Consume less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day (see sodium guidelines from University of Maine Extension)
  • Eat and drink fat-free and/or low-fat dairy products, salad dressings, and sauces
  • Consume foods that are low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol
  • Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity at least 5 days per week
  • Walk at least 10,000 steps per day

Daily Financial Behaviors:
  • Follow a written spending plan (budget) for spending and saving money
  • Maintain an emergency fund equal to at least 3 to 6 months expenses
  • Save at least $1per day and/or loose change in a savings account and/or a can or jar
  • Invest at least 10% of annual gross income on a daily basis, including automatic deposits at work
  • Avoid payday loans, car title loans, pawn shop loans, cash advances, and other high-cost debt
  • Owe less than 20% of net income on monthly consumer debt payments (e.g., credit cards, car loans, student loans, and personal loans but excluding a mortgage). Example: $3,000 net income x .20 = $600
  • Eat at least two meals a day prepared at home instead of at a deli or restaurant (excluding traveling)
  • Use advertisements, coupons, promo codes, sales, and/or discounts to save money on purchases
  • Live below means (i.e., spend less than income as calculated on a daily basis)