Sustaining Good Spending Habits And What Dieting & Personal Finance Have In Common

Sustaining Good Spending Habits And What Dieting & Personal Finance Have In Common
It will be summer pretty soon, and undoubtedly two of the most common topics we will read, hear, or see will be dieting and weight loss.

I'm not a dieting expert, but it seems to me that dieting and personal finance do have one thing in common: discipline. Sticking to your budget and sticking to your diet both require a strong will. But of course, it can be hard to maintain discipline when you're doing something that you usually don't -whether it's eating less, buying fruits & veggies instead of fast food or saving money.

And here's what I think we can learn from dieting and apply to personal finance.

Deprivation works - but only for the short term

Crash dieting, or depriving yourself of food will result in only temporary weight loss. Sooner or later, your old habits will come roaring back and you'll gain all the weight you lost. The same is true with spending. Going "cold turkey" and depriving yourself of all the perks you had before won't last for too long. Sooner or later there will be a good enough reason to spend, and before long you might be back to your old spending habits.

The trick to breaking bad habits isn't focusing on breaking them. Instead it's focusing on creating new, healthier habits.
Sustaining Good Spending Habits And What Dieting & Personal Finance Have In Common

So finding a healthy snack you like is more important than avoiding or resisting buying junk food. Besides, once you're full, you wont be tempted to buy junk food anymore.

And in saving, it's the same thing. Instead of focusing on not spending money, I think it's important to instead focus on spending on assets or paying off debt. If you think about it, money is a tool and isn't really meant to be hoarded. Saving for the sake of saving isn't bad, but it's like a novel without a plot. Most probably you'll just stop at some point.

So instead of saving just to have savings you could focus on saving enough to open a savings account. Or growing your savings to get enough for a time deposit. Or better still, focus on getting enough for your emergency fund.

Moderation - works for the long-term
But even when we have new habits that we really like, it's best not to try too much too soon. Obviously, a lot of the things we eat and spend on are things we enjoy. Stopping a lot of them at the same time just increases the risk that we miss them. And since we've made so many changes already, it's easy to feel that going back on one thing, just one more time, isn't a big deal. But everything starts with one, doesn't it?

So try creating one habit at a time, preferably the one that can have the biggest impact. Maybe limit eating fast food to once every week or every two weeks.

In saving, try trimming your grocery bill. Or maybe cut back on gourmet coffee.

Rewards keep you from going off the wagon.

Sustaining Good Spending Habits And What Dieting & Personal Finance Have In Common
Eventually, you'll meet your goals. Which is a great thing. But what if you meet them and suddenly feel you don't need to sacrifice anymore? After all, all the things you did give up brought you some measure of enjoyment before.

That's when rewarding yourself comes in.

I remember an old episode of Parks and Recreation where Tommy on Donna teach Ben to "treat yourself". It was hilarious, but if you think about it, it's actually true.

Ben spent most of his time being serious, frugal and generally being the "grown up." At some point it just got to him. There's that feeling of being somewhat empty. Not that he did anything wrong. It's just that he forgot to have fun.

And having fun is one of the best - if not the best - way of reinforcing good habits. Even if you've been consistently staying away from junk food or frivolous expenses, if you're not having fun, in the end you might just decide it isn't really worth it.

So every now and then, go ahead and eat that sweet treat or buy that luxury item. Just make sure the reward matches the milestone you're celebrating.

This might not help your diet (or budget) this summer, but hopefully a few summers from now, you might not need help with them at all. :)

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photo credit: rabby calicdan via photopin cc
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photo credit: Jeremiah Vandermeer via photopin cc

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