The first step towards Better Living Through Math is to track and face the numbers. It’s closely related to the notion of First, Admit You Have a Problem. Since this is my fourth post and we now know each other so well, I’ll dive right in and use a personal example: my weight.
Let me start by saying that I am sensitive to the issues surrounding fat shaming, unrealistic social expectations, body image, etc. So I am going to tread carefully and I am only going to speak for myself. I currently weigh more than is medically advised. With the help of my doctor, a nutritionist, and the people at the gym, I am changing that because I’d like to move through this world in a body that is strong and healthy and capable of enduring the crazy adventures I have planned, with minimal pain and maximum enjoyment.
How am I going about this? By tracking and facing the numbers. Specifically, the numbers on the scale and the numbers on my food-logging app. They represent the truth about how much progress I’ve made towards my goal, how much ground I’ve lost, and how far I still have to go.
To be financially healthy, you also have to track and face the numbers. Numbers like your bank balances, debt, credit scores, net worth, etc. Just like hopping on the scale, financial reckoning is very often painful. But if you are going to build the life you want, there is no way around it. So rip off the Band-Aid and figure it out NOW. Quantify your position. Take responsibility for it. Hookup your accounts to Mint.com (easiest). Track every single expense into self-made categories in Quicken (detailed and thorough). Use a spreadsheet (cheap, but harder to get the full picture long-term). Get a pencil and a scrap of paper and a stack of your bills (if that’s what you have, work with it). Just do something. And do it now. There are few guarantees in life. But self-made behavioral issues do NOT fix themselves. It’s your life. What are you going to do with it?