Today I have the pleasure of introducing my friend Mike. He’s a deep thinker and a local sports writer (with regular posts on Yahoo! Sports and Nolan Writin). I always enjoy hearing his thoughts, and the topic of this one will certainly get you thinking! This is the second in a two-part series click here to check out part one.
This is why I don’t eat with Emile…
But that’s not all, my friends!
There’s more to this than the plus and the minus. In thinking about it for at least a couple of weeks now, I’ve come up with several more ways in which your diet and your budget mirror each other.
It Pays to Plan Accordingly
If you sit down in your kitchen at the end of the month, calculate what you’ll make in the next 30 days, and decide how you’re going to spend your money, what are you doing?
If you sit down in your kitchen at the end of the week, write down what you want to eat in the next 7 days, and then go to the store to buy the stuff from your list, what are you doing?
See my point?
Theoretically, if you do your homework and plan ahead, you should be able to control where and how your money is spent. In the same way, you can also plan out your diet beforehand.
There’s no reason that a smart, capable adult can’t avoid excessive amounts of sweets and junk food, especially if you make your decisions before you even set foot in the grocery store.
You’re a Part of the Equation
How often does someone budget because someone else told them to? Almost never.
If you do sit down and do the work, it’s because you’ve decided that the way you were living your life no longer makes sense. Your priorities have changed and you’ve made the conscious choice to do things differently.
This applies to both your finances and your health. No one can nag you into improving yourself. It’s up to you to make that decision.
Do it for yourself and don’t blame anyone else if you fail. If you really want to change, you will.
Don’t Stop, Even When You’re Done
What do you do when you’ve finally paid off your credit card? Do you go apply for a new credit card and buy a bunch of stuff with it? Maybe you do, if you’re an idiot.
Unfortunately, this is what a lot of people do when they “go on a diet.” They eat right and exercise for a week or a month or 6 months; then they go back to doing exactly what got them into trouble in the first place.
Before long they’re right back where they started, but why does this happen?
Part of it, I think, is the way that our culture looks at dieting. If summer’s on its way and you want to look good in your swimsuit, then cutting out carbs for a few weeks is fine.
But a lot of people don’t need a sprint; they need a marathon.
For many people, it isn’t about quick fixes and “losing a few pounds.” It’s about deciding what your priorities are and then adopting a lifestyle that matches those priorities.
Crash diets generally don’t work long-term because they’re not supposed to work long-term. They don’t teach you how to eat better; they teach you how to cut corners without giving you the tools to live a better life.
If you really want to change, that change should be fundamental, not temporary.
This Isn’t About John McClane
When you were born, were you already bad with money? Were you already a gluttonous slob?
Hopefully you answered “no” to both of the questions above because the way that you eat and the way that you spend your money are both learned practices. You might have gotten it from your parents or from the culture; maybe you developed some of it on your own.
Regardless of where you learned it, you did learn it. If that’s the case, you can unlearn it too.
Habits aren’t impossible to break, but it takes time and effort and it won’t always be easy. Some of your habits may go back decades and you know what they say about old habits.
They die hard.
(See what I did there?)
Beware the Impulse Buy
Maybe this has happened to you before…
You go to Best Buy to get something that you need. Maybe your headphones broke and you need a new pair of headphones. You’re there with a purpose and you’ll be in and out in less than 5 minutes.
But then you see this sign over by the DVD section and it says that select movies are Buy 2, Get 1 Half Off. “Holy cow, what a steal!” you exclaim to yourself.
Before you know it, you’ve walked out of the store with 3 movies that you’d never intended to buy and, maybe, you were so excited about the unexpected “bargain” that you even forgot about the headphones that you came in for!
Maybe this has happened to you before…
You’re out eating with friends, having a good time. You’ve finished your meal and the waiter asks if any of you would like dessert.
You ponder for a moment because you did see the picture of the hot fudge sundae on the back of the menu and it looked really good and you’ve been really good on your diet for the last month and you’re an adult, so why shouldn’t you get a sundae if you want a sundae?!
Before you know it, you’re lying on the floor of your apartment in a sugar coma with hot fudge and shame smeared all over your face!
Generally you buy something impulsively because you assume that it will make you happy. It isn’t planned, it just sort of happens, and it can completely derail both your diet and your budget.
It also rarely makes you happy because it doesn’t take long for you to realize that nobody really needs to own Monkey Bone on DVD, even if it seemed like a good idea when you bought it.
Even If You Get It, You Might Not Get It
Watching how you spend your money should be easy, shouldn’t it? Most people would agree that it makes sense to have an emergency fund and savings and to live within their means. In fact, what disadvantages are there to budgeting? Don’t the pros far outweigh the cons?
So it is with dieting and exercise. Nobody really wants to be unhealthy, but many of us don’t even bother trying to change ourselves, even if we know it’s for the best.
Why not? Is it worth trading a longer, more comfortable life for the little bit of gratification that comes from an extra milkshake every couple of days?
Are you finally tired of rhetorical questions? Good, ‘cause I’m almost done.
One Final Thought
There’s more to the connection between personal finance and health than what I listed above. The fact is that, if you’re 30 pounds overweight, you’re costing yourself money down the road.
Being unhealthy takes its toll as you age. You might have knee problems later on in life, which could require surgery. You may also suffer from something more serious, like heart disease or stroke.
Some of those things may happen anyway, but some of it can be avoided. If you knowingly live an unhealthy lifestyle, you’re putting your life and your financial wellbeing at risk.
If you are going to put yourself at risk, don’t do it for an extra meat patty on your cheeseburger. Do it for something noble, like saving your ex-wife from German terrorists!
Are there other areas where finance and health intermingle? Are there other places in your life where the principles of budgeting can be applied? Let me know in the comments!