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Small Daily Action Steps

December 2014

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 improve health and personal finances over time. As many people begin to think about making resolutions or setting goals for next year, it is a good time to consider small steps that can be taken to improve health and increase wealth. Each year, issues related to these two important areas of life (e.g., losing weight and saving money) top surveys about the resolutions that people make.

Learning to learn is one of life’s most important skills. One way to make progress toward a health or wealth goal is to learn more about health and personal finance topics. Make a conscious effort to learn something new every day. Read an article, watch a television show, listen to the radio, talk to other people (family, friends, co-workers, professionals) and/or visit relevant Web sites. Start a filing system for interesting information so that you can refer to it later, if needed.

Another positive action is finding chunks of time to improve your health and wealth. Look for them and dedicate this time to making daily progress. There are 1,440 minutes in a day or 144 ten-minute chunks of time. Subtract about 7 hours for sleep and that leaves 100. Fitness experts say that it is fine to perform physical activity in 10 to 15 minute “chunks” of time. Gradual progress is also fine for financial maintenance tasks such as calculating net worth, requesting free credit reports, and preparing written financial goals and budgets. Another way to “find time” is “smart multi-tasking.” Read a mutual fund prospectus or exercise while watching television, for example.

Finally, decide to incorporate small daily action steps into your daily routine. Below are some suggestions based on government recommendations and frequently cited expert advice:

Daily Health Behaviors:

Daily Financial Behaviors:
  • Follow a written spending plan (budget) for spending and saving money
  • Save at least $1per day and/or loose change in a savings account and/or a can or jar
  • Avoid using payday loans, car title loans, pawn shop loans, cash advances, and other high-cost debt
  • Eat at least two meals a day prepared at home instead of at a deli or restaurant (excluding traveling)
  • Use advertisements, apps, coupons, promo codes, sales, and/or discounts to save money on purchases
  • Do something proactive every day to save money or reduce expenses

There are no “magic bullets” that guarantee health and wealth. But daily progress will build upon itself, just like compound interest. If you do something consistently, at least 5 times a week, you will make steady progress. Each little step adds to the ones before it and, what you think about, you bring about! Have a great holiday season.