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Losing Weight Is More Than Math

Emile Is Greedy

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.

Emile Is Greedy

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!

Contain Your Wallet…and Your Belt

Thinking

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 first in a two-part series s0, come back Tuesday for part two!

Obesity is a serious problem in this country. Countless Americans are over­weight and many assume that they can’t do anything about it. They say that dieting doesn’t work for them, either because it’s too hard or they don’t have time or a hundred other reasons excuses.

But what if you started looking at it differ­ently? What if you applied the prin­ci­ples of personal finance to your eating habits? Would that change the way that you thought about dieting and losing weight?

The Numbers Game

Budgeting is simple, right?

You figure out how much money you make and then you spend less than that amount. There is more that goes into it, obviously, but that is the essence of budgeting. That is it at its core.

So, what exactly is dieting? It’s the same thing!

Everybody takes in calories when they eat, but they also burn calories. If you eat better food you can control caloric intake. If you exercise, you can increase burn.

To lose weight, all you have to do is burn more than you consume.

Math! That’s it!

My First Budget

I’ve heard Alex’s story of the first time that he tried to budget. If you’re a regular reader of Entre­pre­life, you’ve probably heard it too.

He sat down one night and guessti­mated all of his monthly expenses. He made a lot of assump­tions and, as it turned out, he was way off in some areas.

I decided to do the same thing a couple of weeks ago, but with my stomach instead of my bank account.

For 6 days I ate the way that I normally do and at the end of each day I added up the calories using myfitnesspal.com. I decided that 1600 calories per day was a good place to set my “budget.”

This is how it broke down:

  • Monday +305
  • Tuesday +104
  • Wednesday +481
  • Thursday –120
  • Friday –73
  • Saturday +392

All of these numbers are approx­i­ma­tions, mind you, but it was an inter­esting exper­i­ment nonetheless.

Just like Alex, when he reviewed his first budget, I started to see where I was going wrong. Things like pancakes (800 calories including the syrup) can dras­ti­cally affect your totals, though most of us wouldn’t think about it when we’re ordering a short stack at IHOP.

That’s really what this is about. If you stop and look at your finances, you’ll start to see that you’re not as good with your money as you thought you were.

Your diet is no different. Even if you’re pretty good, I’ll bet that you still have your trouble areas. I’ll bet that you can do better.

For instance, I drink too much sweet tea. It isn’t that I dislike unsweet tea. I actually really like it! I just like sweet tea better, even though I know it isn’t good for me.

Think about yourself for a moment. Are there parts of your diet that could be just a little bit better without much effort? Let me know in the comments!

The Holidays Have Begun

Cash Money

Way better than a credit card bill

December 1st marks the beginning of the Christmas season. Over the next 25 days, there will be more parties, shopping, and deco­rating than at any other time of the year.

In February, I warned you that Christmas is coming. Turns out, it shows up every December 25th!

Who knew.

Back then, I told you to start saving for Christmas by figuring out how much you spend in 2010 and saving 1/12th of that every month from January until December. An easy solution that makes December enjoyable instead of stressful.

Now that December is offi­cially here, how did you do?

  • Do you have all the cash you need for the month tucked away somewhere safe?
  • Are you most of the way there, but may still need to dip into other funds?
  • Do you need to work an extra job this month to pay for the holiday?
  • Are you going to charge every­thing and “most likely” pay it off in January?

I’ll go first:

I am $100 dollars short of where I wanted to be on December 1st. My biggest down fall was not having a consis­tent income over the summer (quitting your job to start a blog will do that). My short fall means my family will be cutting back a little bit this month. Still, we’ll be able to do about 90% of the stuff we hoped to.

All thanks to putting a little bit of money away every month.

Now it’s your turn. You will spend more money in December than at any other time of the year. Are you ready for the added expense or will this be another over-spent Christmas?

How will you control spending this Christmas?

Harvest Your Budget

Harvest Wheat

Harvest Wheat

I was talking to my friend Dustin the other day and he offered some insights into the unique way his family budgets. I liked it so much that my family switched over imme­di­ately.

Dustin uses a simple method he calls the Harvest Budgeting System.

What is Harvesting?

In case you’re totally ignorant and have never heard of a farm, harvesting is the process of gathering mature crops from the field. Basically, harvesting is when you pick the apple, corn, or whatever you happen to be growing from the ground. You pick it when it’s ripe and sell it at markets or eat it yourself.

What does that have to do with budgeting? Every­thing. (more…)

How To Eat Well On $175 A Month

Frozen Food Aisle

Frozen Food Aisle

Turns out, spending $175 a month on groceries is weird.

Most couples spend between $300 and $400 a month on groceries. Many spend much more. My wife and I eat well on $175 a month without using coupons, price matching, or rain checks.

How do we do it? (more…)

Key Chain Your Money

Keyless Key Chain
Keyless Key Chain

Is it still a key chain if there are no keys?

Without looking, write down every key you have on your key chain. Then write down what each key does. Now add all the things on your key chain that aren’t keys.

Got it down? Then get your key chain and see how it matches up.

If you are like most people, you probably forgot a key or two. If you didn’t, then I bet it was difficult to remember a few of them. You had to dig back into the memory banks and wipe away a few cob webs to get the answer.

We buy key chains so we don’t have to think about our keys. With all your keys in one spot, kept with you 24/7, you don’t worry about which keys to bring, what they go to, or anything like that. Your key chain is the answer to all key problems.

Your Budget is a Key Chain

You budget for the same reason you carry a key chain: (more…)

How To Budget

Thumbs Up

This picture is suppose to make you think budgeting is fun. It’s not working…

I remember the when I realized budgeting in my head doesn’t work.

I was a 22-year-old college student whom everyone assumed was doing great finan­cially. To stroke my young ego, I decided to write out what I thought I was spending each month before I actually looked at my bank and credit card state­ments for my first budget.

I figured I was spending about $200 a month on gas and $150 a month eating out. Besides a car loan, these were my biggest expenses and those amounts included a lot of slack. I never imagined I’d come anywhere close to those numbers.

I was half-way right, I didn’t come close to those numbers. (more…)

The Budget Is Not In Your Head

He budgets in his head

He budgets in his head

Something that comes up a lot is this idea that you can budget in your head.

The “budgeter” says they know about how much they have in the bank and they are pretty sure they know how much all their bills are. They use this to “budget” their money – which really means they assume they have enough in the bank to cover whatever they’re doing.

There is no plan, no goal, only assump­tions.

If this offends you, I’m sorry, but if your budget is in your head then you aren’t budgeting. Instead, you are fooling yourself into thinking you know how to handle money when you really don’t or don’t care to.

I’ve been there. I’ve lived that life and been that fool. Those “budgets” aren’t helping you do anything except lie to yourself.

Why It Doesn’t Work

Budgeting in your head is doomed from the start. There are several reasons for this; I’ll highlight a few:

  • The total is unknown. When budgeting in your head, you don’t know how much you have when the month begins or how much you’ve made. Even if you’re paid on salary you aren’t going to remember the exact dollar amount added to your account. This starts you out at a disad­van­tage when trying to figure out how much you should have.
  • The cate­gories are jumbled. This kind of budgeting jumbles all the cate­gories. Instead of answering the question, “how much did I spend eating out” your budget asks the question, “did I eat out too often”. Do you see the differ­ence? One has a number behind it, the other a feeling. There are areas in this budget you can’t account for without keeping a record of what you spend.
  • Bills are unknown. If you don’t have them written out, you will forget how much your bills are. Sure, you have a pretty good idea of how much each bill is, but what about gas, food, and utilities? These bills change every month and if you don’t plan your spending you won’t know how much you really have in the bank once they’ve been paid.
  • Money happens to you. The worst thing about budgeting in your head is that money happens to you every month, instead of a real budget where you happen to your money. What’s most insidious about this is it makes you feel like you’re in control when you’ve really lost all control of your money and spending habits.

What To Do

What should you do if you’re budget is stuck in your head? How to get over ignoring your respon­si­bil­i­ties with money? I’ll tell you on Thursday.

Until then, I have a question for you:

How do you budget?