Treating your Budget Like a Diet


Dieting is intentionally selecting certain foods to manage caloric intake and body weight. What do all dieters have in common? They want to make a positive change in their health, right? Many want to reduce weight, eliminate bad eating habits or increase physical well-being. Acting upon those three ambitions consistently and intentionally will lead to a healthier life and a brighter future.

It’s the same with your budget.

When people seek out a dramatic and seemingly fast weight-loss plan like a gastric bypass, it is paramount that the patient follows a strict diet designed by his or her dietician in the weeks, months and years after the operation. The overnight surgery did not create lasting success. It was the diligent, daily pursuit of healthier dieting.

In the same way, an individual living paycheck to paycheck with no emergency savings, like 76% of Americans, according to a Bankrate survey, won’t become a millionaire by playing the lottery or even picking up a second job. It’s great to increase your income, but if you aren’t on a spending plan, what’s to stop you from spending all that extra?

If the most successful dieters are the ones who made small lifestyle changes over time, how would that look within the context of a budget? Here a few next steps to help you answer that:

Step on the money scale. It’s time to weigh your financial situation. Print off your most recent statement and comb through the last 30 days of expenses. How much did you spend on food? Clothes? Non-essentials? What problem areas stand out? People often believe they are spending less in an area than they really are. It’s time to crunch some numbers and find out.

Add an extra serving of savings. That fast food dollar menu is great and those pumpkin spice lattes really kick start your day, but they add up quickly. Daily unmonitored spending might be keeping you from building up your emergency or “rainy day” fund. That fund is what stands between you living paycheck to paycheck and thriving. Create a budget with the goal to cut at least three expenses and save $1000 for emergencies only.

Trim your debt portions. The biggest barricade between financial stability and your wallet is debt. Once you’ve cut some expenses and made a savings plan, it’s time to trim back on debt. Similarly to envisioning a longer, more active life while dieting, imagine life without any payments. What could you do with that extra money each month? Open your wallet and choose 1-2 credit cards to cut up and close out.

These simple steps are the just the start of the race. Reducing expenses, eliminating bad spending habits and creating a budget to track your progress are sure-fire ways to ensure a healthier financial future.