How to Hack Your Habits to Achieve Your Financial and Fitness Goals

How confident do you feel about hitting your goals this year? Today, we're going to be discussing not only how you can set up your habits to hit your financial goals, but also any health goals you're trying to knock out this year!

Habit Hacks to Keep Your Money and Health Goals

There's a lot of overlap between fitness and finances.

Not only are these two of the most popular goals people have every year in terms of trying to improve them. They're also the ones that people struggle with and quit before they get to their goal.

Years ago when we were starting to pay off our debt and make some progress with building up our savings. I was thinking about a lot of the parallels between the two.

Even though we're talking about different outcomes. The tools that we need to get to our goals, to reach them are the same. Uh, Many times we have to change our mindset. We have to adapt and adjust our habits. We also have to put in place some kind of system so that we're consistently working towards our goals.

I thought this episode would be really interesting because we're going to be seeing how we can do both. How can we build our finances and get a little bit healthier this year?

Which is why I'm glad Billy Hofacker is here on the show.

Not only has Billy and his family paid off over a hundred thousand dollars of non-mortgage debt, an under five years. He's also a gym owner and coach and the author of fitness profits, a simple plan for achieving financial freedom.

So he has a pretty good idea of how to encourage and help others reach both their fitness and financial goals.

In this episode, we're going to get into:

  • how Billy slipped into debt but then how he used habits from his fitness to climb out of it
  • how to stick with your goals, even when you're not motivated, because they're going to be times when that happens.
  • how to develop habits in systems to help you improve your finances and your health this year.

Are you ready? Let's get started!

Resources to Start (and Stick with) Better Habits

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Note: Interview is edited for clarity and length.

Slipping into Debt

Billy Hofacker: Yeah, things were going well. I was young guy. I was married to my lovely, beautiful wife, which I still am just hit 13 years and yeah.

Thanks. I'll start a family and I was doing what I loved. I was helping people transform their bodies and lives through personal training.

I thought I was just doing what I was supposed to do. I and then that one day my life changed Elle. I was getting ready for work. It was seven something in the morning, knock on the door, which was a little weird, nice and early.

I opened the door and to my surprise, there was this big, big muscle bound dude standing on my stoop with tattoos all over his neck, a shaved head goatee, and turned out to be a really nice guy by the way, but it makes the story better.

As I look past him, there was my, my, not my Lamborghini, not even my Mercedes, but my brand new white Honda accord was hooked up to his tow truck.

And man, what a utter embarrassment and shame and all types of emotions, rollercoaster of emotions, but that's where it started for me.

We dug in and we discovered that we were we were $130,000 in non-mortgage debt. That sounds crazy. You know why? It sounds crazy because it is, and it is a lot.

It was a huge hole. I will say a lot of that wasn't high interest debt. It was still debt. It wasn't mortgage debt. It was in addition to the mortgage and it was it was a real wake-up call.

A lot of people ask me, like, did you know, how did that happen?

It's actually hard to bring myself back there. I'm like a different person. I really am. I can't imagine that I got into that position and the easiest way to describe it.

It's like we talk about the parallels with fitness, which here's one of them. It doesn't happen overnight.

I did not get into $130,000 of debt overnight. It happened with that first swipe that first time and just like, it's not the one Twinkie that's going to put your overweight, right?

It's just those small decisions that we can make over time. Most people, they don't know, they don't gain a ton of weight in a short term.

We work with a lot of older people at the gym and a lot of them have never worked out. They went through their whole life, raising kids and everything, and they never really had a major concern for their health.

Thankfully I was a little bit on the younger side and that was helpful.

Avoiding Looking at the Numbers

Elle Martinez: I think so many people can relate to that. I know for us, when we got engaged, we talked to some friends that were happily married for years and we wanted their advice and they told us, you know, have you talked about money yet?

At that time we met in college. So we're both broke college kids. This shouldn't be hard. And we realized, oh, we completely are not on the same page.

I specifically remember, I couldn't give him the exact debt. It was a mix of a small amount of credit cards, car loan, and then the student loan. So I totally get what you're saying about not exactly knowing the amount, not being aware of it.

When you talked with your wife about this, how was that initial conversation ,because you know, your car is leaving.

Billy Hofacker: Yeah. So I am, I think I'm okay saying this. I am generally more calm than her when it comes to things like that and a quick example of that.

What we're married and she worked in Manhattan and I'm like 45 minutes from Manhattan. I actually picked up Manhattan to go on a trip and I parked down on the ground level.

I went up to her office and said, hello to her coworkers and go, come back out. And the car's gone and we're about to head for like a little vacation.

And I look up and I see right there, it says like trucks only or something like, ah.

That was the first time where I realized we were very different. She completely panicked. Oh my gosh, what are we going to do? And I just like, like without missing a beat, I said, we gotta find out where the car.

Did I was like, that's the only thing I can think. That's the way my mind works very practically. And that's similar how it was here. And I don't blame her. I mean, she had every right to feel very stressed, very discouraged and scared, I guess.

I mean, can you imagine? I mean, I can't even imagine even I went through it you know, she's married to this, this guy who's supposed to take care of her.

I was supposed to be the guy that's that she can trust it to support her and, and all of a sudden the car's gone. And yeah, that was a difficult time.

Deciding the Dump the Debt

Elle Martinez: Yeah. So I can understand different personalities. My husband and I, I think we each have moments where one of us is just like, we'll work this through, this will be fine and then the other one is like, this is too stressful for me.

It's different what triggers us. It's always fascinating. Couples are like that, but yeah. So when you were at that point, what was your first thought or goal about fixing this?

Where you, I mean was immediately, we just have to take care of one piece of this, getting the car back, or did you think, okay, this is a symptom of a bigger thing? Let's take a step back and look at the whole picture.

Billy Hofacker: That's a really good question. I don't know that I thought of it that way, but I would say that it was a little bit of a combination, but I definitely had the bigger picture in mind.

I remember thinking that, ‘This is it like this is going to change'.

If there's any strengths that I have – and I have a lot of weaknesses – one of the strengths I have is I've always been in different areas, not in finance, but I've always been pretty determined to do something. Like when I put my mind to it, like I was really into sports growing up.

I was the kid that was getting up before school to practice and I really put my mind to it so I just remember thinking that. This is it I'm going to do whatever it takes. We're going to find out how to do this and go from there.

The crazy thing was, and the embarrassing and crazy was that when the car was repossessed, things were bad. Yes, of course. But the car didn't need to get repossessed. That was more due to just complete disorganization.

Cause I remember we needed to come up with some money to get the car out of, out of a place where they, where they put it. You know, and, and we were able to, so it was like we had to pay more money than ever because now we had to pay all these fees.

So that was a real, like kick to the gut because we were already struggling now and I'm sure people listening can relate.

It's like, when you know, you're already kind of feeling like you're hitting rock bottom and you get pushed down further. It's sucked. I can't, I can't sugarcoat it, but we had the money.

We were able to pull it from somewhere and get the car.

Elle Martinez: Yeah.

Billy Hofacker: So we had the money to get the car out. We had the money to make those payments, or at least one of the payments. I didn't even know that that was like a possibility.

You would think that I would be like worried the car's going to get taken, but it wasn't even a thought in my mind.

I was just like all of a sudden the guy's on the stoop and that's just shows you how much we were sweeping the dirt under the floor.

Overcoming Hurdles to Improving Your Finances and Fitness

Elle Martinez: Yeah, I can totally relate to that. And I think a lot of people can too this past year and a half, it's going to be almost two years have dealt with different things.

Even if you were financially, set in terms of savings, there's still a lot of uncertainty stress.

I noticed that a lot of families in our community talked about, they felt it with their finances and honestly like fitness stress, they wanted to work out. They didn't have time. They just kind of felt like, I guess you can say physically disorganized with things.

Now they're working from home now. They got to create this space and now there's no boundaries.

So, they're starting out this year like, I'm sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. They have big goals, I want to get healthy and I want to get financially fit.

Sadly the majority of the time after a month or two, it kind of fizzles out. From your side since you seen both, what are some of the mistakes or habits or the hurdles that people face with?

Billy Hofacker: Yeah, that's good. There's so many parallels. I would like to point out if you'll let me later on.

As far the hurdles that are common between the fitness and the finance side is people they get excited and I think a lot of times we base it too much off of our feelings. So we'll say, you know, I don't feel like getting up and I'm not trying to sound like I have it all together.

Cause, I can have the same issue, but I'll give you a good example like this morning I was up at 4 45 to work out at five. And did I I feel like it?

I'll tell you that it would've been much nicer to stay in bed a little bit longer. I think when we just base it off, how we're feeling that works in the beginning, cause you're kind of feeling excited.

Maybe you're seeing some initial changes and with both fitness and finance, both of them, you tend to see some initial changes. Like it may not be a huge weight loss, or you might not become a millionaire right away, but you're going to start seeing things change.

You're going to start seeing maybe a little less money spent or a little more safe, or you're gonna start seeing maybe a little more energy, a little more clothes feeling better.

This is normal. So as you're listening, just remember that it's normal. It is not normal to go on a straight line to success.

Building Better Systems

Billy Hofacker: I like to tell people it's never happened. It's interesting that we all think like we're going to be the first person that we just start something. We never have any problems. And then we all, we get to the top of the mountain. That's just not how it works.

You can talk to anybody. Elle you've had tons of guests and I've had tons of successful clients. They all have had the hurdles. I think it's preparing ourselves that there are going to be these problems in these hiccups.

It's not about being perfect. It's giving ourselves grace and it's just being consistent most of the time, rather than just basing things off of, you know, how I feel today? I don't feel I do my budget. I don't feel like working out.

It's that's just the person that I am. I'm the type of person that organizes my finances, even when I don't feel like it.

I'm the type of person that gets up in the morning, even when I don't feel like it, because until we can create that identity with ourselves and another probably leads to other thoughts, like how do we do that?

Adapting Your Habits Towards Better Goals

Elle Martinez: There's a lot of things that you've touched upon that I find interesting, especially in terms of like mindset and, and having those habits and it doesn't have to be dramatic. I know there's this desire to have dramatic results.

If you're someone who doesn't work out or haven't had time to, then you're saying, oh, I'm going to work out like one hour, five times a week.

You're setting yourself up for failure. You saw my little setup here. This is that a necessity. I get up at five and get my coffee. I do my reading in the morning to kind of mentally set myself. And then before I start work, I trick myself.

I tell myself 10 minutes with the kettlebells. It doesn't usually doesn't end, you know, 10 minutes, but just at least do 10 minutes get that started.

I've noticed a difference those days where I keep it. I feel better. Like you have already had a win for the day, so it's all connected with the mindset.

I want to talk to you about that a little bit more. How were you either on the financial side or with fitness? How do you get those habits?

How do you build that mindset? Little by little, because I know willpower will only get you so far. Like you said, there's some days where you just don't want to do it.

Billy Hofacker: Absolutely. I think what was interesting for me was that I kind of had that dialed in. I was a competitive martial artist and I was an athlete growing up.

So I kind of had that dialed in with the, with the fitness side and it's kind of frustrating. It's like, why can't I be like this in this other area?

The truth was I was able to, so that's just encouragement for everybody is that you, 100% can do it. It's just a matter of just using those same skills in one area, because everybody's good at something, right.

Nobody's listening. And like you're either a good parent or you're good in business, or you're good with your fitness or you're good with your finances.

It's just kind of using those same skills and learning them in a new area. [Its] also being willing to get some help, because there's somebody that can help you.

Accountability Can Boost You Towards Your Money Goals

Billy Hofacker: There's somebody like you, that somebody like myself, there's somebody out there. It could be a book, it could be coaching, whatever it is that is powerful because now you're going to get somebody else's insight, somebody else's guidance, somebody else's accountability.

We all just do better when we're together, rather than trying to do it on our own.That's one of the hurdles that I didn't get to is that we try to go it alone.

You said what, what can you do to make it easier when you don't feel like it? What if you had somebody that was meeting and that you cared about, you actually cared what they thought of you and they were going to meet you?

It could be a personal trainer that you pay for, or it could be a financial coach that you pay for, or it could be a friend that you're going to, it could be going for a walk.

It could be a spouse, it could be a child going for a bike ride, but somebody is depending on you to be there. I'm going to say there's a dramatic increase in the chance that you'll show up.

One of the I'll give a couple of book references. One is atomic habits and the other is the slight edge, which both of those kind of point to the idea of the little things and talking about habits and there's tons of good books, but those two have a lot of practical tips.

One of them from atomic habits is when it's something that you want to do to make it easy.

So here's an example. I got up today at 4 45. So what I did was I laid every single thing out that I needed.

I went everything from my clothes to my shoes, to the cup that I'm going to use for my water, like everything. So when I got up there wouldn't be an excuses. Oh, I can't find my socks.

You know what? I'm going back to bed. So you just, you just do the, you just, you just make it as doable as possible.

The opposite is true. If you want to avoid doing something, then you make it hard. So you make it hard to do the thing that you don't want to do. So when it comes to fitness or health, if you want to avoid eating chips, willpower's overrated.

Like you said it only goes so far, but if I come home after a stressful day and there's a bag of Doritos on the table, guess what's going to happen? I don't care how much willpower I have I'm going to crush that bag of. Where as what would happen if there was a bowl of apples on the table?

When I w I would just as easily eat the apple, because I'm making the thing, that's that I don't want to do, I'm making it hard and I'm making the thing that I want to do. I'm making it easy.

Make Time for Money Dates

When it comes to finances, it's the same thing like, I know you specialize in working with couples, and that's one thing that we do is we try to make it simple and easy for us to work on our finances.

One of them is we do a monthly date where we talk about these things and we try to, you know, make it, do what we make it more realistic by. We put it in the calendar. So if it's not in the calendar, It's not going to happen so we made sure that we put it there.

We make sure that we do it when we're not exhausted. We make sure that we prioritize it.

We try to make, maybe we'll do it over a glass of wine or something to make it more enjoyable because yeah, if you're going to constant, there's something to the fact of, we just got to do hard stuff and it's good for us at the same time.

If we're constantly just doing all these hard things and never enjoying anything it's, it's going to be hard to be.

Focus on Keystone Habits

Elle Martinez: Yeah, absolutely. I agree with you. I talk a lot on the podcasts about those money dates and for us, it's awesome. It's just a good rhythm. We're parents to two kids.

The schedule gets full very quickly, but it's nice to set aside time. I think initially, everyone's kind of getting used to it that how do you talk about it and plan for it, but now it just, it feels easier.

We automate so much of the bill payments to transfers, you know, the investments. Now we can actually talk about the goals. Are we going on vacation, the next winter break, or are we going to be setting aside money for a house project or upgrading the basement office?

Those little changes definitely add up. So many things I want to talk about, but I do want to talk about Brazilian jujitsu. I did TaeKwonDo for a few years, got my black belt as well.

I think there's also a parallel there, which is some people feel like they got to get everything right in the beginning. They'll see on television or, you do MMA or are part of a gym that does that?

Billy Hofacker: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I've had two fights and I had been doing Brazil Jitjitsu for a long time.

Hone in on the Foundational Skills

Elle Martinez: Yeah. And same thing. Like sometimes people will see those stories wherever they catch their news where someone's retired in five years or someone's done this and they see the end and so they immediately want to jump in there.

When you're a white belt, I don't know the belt progression with Brazilian jujitsu. You really on the fundamentals. You may not even see the connection. The more advanced techniques, but you can't do those things until you get the foundation.

What do you consider kind of the foundations for you as you were becoming debt free and then also with fitness, for those that are also trying to get back into better healthy habits?

Billy Hofacker: Yeah. I think even going back to some of your other questions about the roadblocks or the hurdles, I think a lot of times we, we overcomplicate things.

Brazilian jujitsu; I can't remember the quote. I'm not going to do it justice. But it can be so complex and like a lot of things like that, like boxing is like that, right? It's like boxing is probably a better example because you got a few punches, right? You have a jab, a hook across an uppercut, you know, maybe some others stuff like that.

But it's like the sweet signs. Like there's also so many different ways to do it. And so many ways to put it together where the fundamentals are just getting better and better at the basics. That's going to be the number one thing for all of us.

A lot of us are looking for, the new plan, maybe if I read this, this new book that I heard about, I'll find like the real secret, or maybe if I listened to this podcast episode, I'll find out like the trick to get my money situation, right.

Or I'll find the diet that can help me to drop weight quickly or the insane exercise program.

I'm a huge believer on the fundamentals. The same thing with jujitsu. It's like first you got to learn the position. There's a saying that says position before submission, and it's just learning proper position.

What's the posture that I need to learn and practice so that I can defend myself? I can protect myself. That's the first, if I want to survive. If we can kind of compare that to finances, it's some of these basic things that everybody talks about.

What's my current situation? Where am I at? We call it doing an inventory. Maybe it's a net worth score, or maybe it's credit, or maybe it's your savings rate, or maybe it's your debt, how much you have?

That's the basics, how many people, they just don't even know myself included. I didn't know the answers to those.

I didn't know the answer to any of those questions. So for me to like start with some crazy plan, it just wouldn't have made sense. I have to get the basics. So once I have the basics, I know how to defend myself.

I can start getting a little bit more on the offense, you know, so I guess with finances, you have the defensive things, right? You want to make sure you have your insurance in place. Make sure if you have loved ones, you want to have that life insurance, you want to make sure you're, you're prevent, you're preventing like a catastrophic situation from, you know, from really ruining you.

You get some of those things in place and you can start playing more offense, you know, it might be looking at your your, your income and, and where that's going, you know, and what your goals are. Setting goals is another huge one for a foundational principle, whether it's fitness.

There's like two schools of thought. There there's one school of thought that goals are overrated. And I do, I do see the I'm a big goal-setter. So I'll just get that out of the way. But there is some truth to if you're, if you're so focused on a goal, sometimes it can, it can be counterproductive because we've all seen people that my goal is I had a guy like this. My goal is to get out of this. And then they get out of debt and they don't handle it correctly from there.

And then they end up going back into debt because they didn't really secure those habits and insecure that identity and same thing with fitness. Like my scariest client is the one that says, I just have a wedding coming up or I have a vacation coming up and I just need to lose 10 pounds for the vacation.

And all I could think of is yeah, and then what happens after the vacation? Right? Cause that's, that's where your sole focus.

Other school of thought is you just need to work on the things like, just do the habits. Don't even set a goal. Just start, just start tracking your spending, start doing a budget start and eventually you'll get there.

I think both points have some good in them and I believe in both, I think it's good to set goals. I just think you need to be hyper aware that once you set a goal, you can be very intentional, very focused. Once you hit that goal and I've made this mistake is you forget to celebrate and you just think about the next thing and then you never get the real joy out of it, because it's always about the next goal.

It's finding that balance of setting a goal, working towards it, enjoying the journey because success is the journey, not the destination.

You are successful when you start doing those habits. When Elle gets up at five in the morning to do her kettlebell workout, she's successful. I don't care if she's at her goal and how much he wants to lift or anything like that.

She's successful because she's taking those steps just like you're successful. When you're doing your money dates, and when you're doing your, we call it a spending plan or when you're tracking your spending, you are successful.

Learning that pattern of setting a goal, celebrating, and then setting a new goal. It's an interesting kind of balance.

Elle Martinez: Yeah, absolutely. Oh my goodness. I feel like we can keep going on about this, but I am curious because you've mentioned we talked about the parallels between the two of finances and fitness. What is that difference that you've noticed?

Billy Hofacker: Yeah. So I, when I talked, I told you the one, and then I thought of another one. You actually triggered the thought when you said about automation.

I would say that this is just a slight difference that I thought, I think you can automate certain things in each area. It's probably a little bit more difficult to automate the fitness. I just feel like, with finances you can set up your automatic transfers, you can set up your automatic payments.

Well, the fitness, there's nothing that's going to be able to get out of that bed and into that, into that gym.

But that's not the one I was mentioning before this one. I don't know what it is about this. I just find it like so fascinating. It's that when someone's working out, you generally can tell like the average person who has a healthy lifestyle, they kind of look the part, right?

That guy probably works out. He got some muscular arms or that woman probably works out. She's pretty lean or she looks strong.

Where with finances, when you look at somebody, you really can't tell. In fact, it's almost the reverse, the person who looks like they're successful financially, usually isn't as much because by the very definition we look at people who are doing a lot of things.

They're going on a lot of vacations. They haven't like a lot of nice cars and a big house. So it looks like they have a lot of money, but in fact, just by the them, having those things, they have less money because they had to pay for those things.

Whereas the person who made. It's like the millionaire next door. Maybe they don't go on a lot of vacations and they may be way wealthier than that other person. So you really can't see how somebody is doing financially.

Of course you might get an idea, but I just find that so interesting.

Elle Martinez: Yeah. It is fascinating because it just changes your perspective about things. Just like with health and fitness, it's about a balance. You have four kids. You're a

Billy Hofacker: father of four. I'm a father of four, but I have to mention, we also have a dog. We just got a dog.

Oh,

Elle Martinez: okay. So you have a full house. So it's all about that balance. It's getting fit yes, your own health, but also, so you can live a better life, a happier life.

It's good about getting your finances in a good spot. But it's not just, just to accumulate money and savings and investments, but actually spend it, when you have to, to enjoy life, to have that financial freedom, which is the topic of your new book that came out this year.

So I know, thank you. I know there are people listening that want to learn more from you and find out more about what you're doing. What's the best way they can and pick up your new book?

Billy Hofacker: Thanks so much for letting me share that. I would say. A few places. You can just get the book right on. Amazon is called fitness profits. And again, it's Billy Hofacker. So you get the book there. I also have my own podcast, which I'd love people to check out. it's called your fit is money coach podcast.

I would say that's especially good for people. There's anybody listening who is really into fitness or they are, maybe they're interested in becoming a fitness trainer or they are a fitness trainer, or they know a fitness trainer and that's good.

And I have a website too, but those are, those are good places.

Okay, let me, can I just share one more thing?

Elle Martinez: Yeah, go right ahead.

Comparison Robs You of Joy and Results

Billy Hofacker: One other point, I think it's worth mentioning with the pitfalls and the commonalities are something that is so detrimental and I've done all of these pitfalls.

I'm talking to myself as well, but you mentioned before, like we look at the black belt and we look at the millionaire, we look at the person who's totally fit and we're comparing like ninth grade.

Let's say, you know, with our third inning and not that it even matters. Even if it was your both of your ninth inning, it still doesn't make any sense.

Comparison is the thief of joy. Eleanor Roosevelt said, and I think it just takes a lot of our joy away when we're comparing ourselves to others. That's a huge pitfall with finances.

You don't know how people are doing anyway; probably not what you think People are posting the things they want you to see on social media.

The other quote I heard is that we're comparing, our reality with their highlight reel. So it's just kind of stay focused, stay in your lane and just really worry about the people that you care most about.

Not these people that yeah, you may care about, but you really don't have those, those, those deep relationships with them and just stay in, stay in your own.

Elle Martinez: Yeah, I appreciate that and that's a great note to end on because we're there to support each other in the community.

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Music and Photo Credits

Music in this episode was provided by artists from Audiio. Photos by Clem Onojeghuo and Nubia Navarro from Pexels

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