I added the parenthesis in the title of this post because I tend to be non-confrontational and I don’t want to agitate people in the personal finance blogger world who love to budget or people who swear by dieting. However, for me, I’ve never been a budgeter and I’ve never been a dieter.
They don’t work for me.
They may work for a lot of other people but they don’t seem to work for me.
There are certainly a lot of parallels between budgeting and dieting. Let me count the ways…
how budgeting and dieting are similar
With budgeting and dieting, both come from it with a scarcity lens and a scarcity point of view. Instead of viewing money and food with abundance and gratitude, you look at money and food from a negative point of view.
Because it is human nature to respond better to positive reinforcement rather than negative reinforcement, budgeting and dieting create negative reinforcement and you end up binge spending and binge eating to make yourself feel better.
You think to yourself, well, I already went overboard, might as well eat the other two pieces of cake since tomorrow will be a new day and a new calorie count. Or you think I might as well buy these two pairs of shoes since I already went over on my clothing budget and next month I start fresh again.
Another problem with budgeting is that when you give yourself a category and an ‘allowance’ to spend that certain amount in that month, you tend to (A) want to spent UP to that amount or (B) feel terrible about yourself if you go overboard in that category or (C) make up excuses about spending from one category and not spending from another.
what works instead of budgets and diets
Instead of budgeting and instead of dieting, which encourages a mentality of feeling like you’re not succeeding and hence tends to push down your self esteem and results in impulse eating or spending to comfort yourself…
I take money that I intend to save out of my chequing account FIRST and then spend what’s leftover.
So let’s say my paycheque is $4000 a month. I want to save $1000 each paycheque so on pay day every two weeks, I take out $1000 and move it to my high interest savings account. Out of sight out of mind. I usually keep enough in my day to day chequing account just to have the monthly account fee waived. This helps me feel like I am poor so that I don’t spend but makes me feel good at the same time because I know I am saving. From there, I disperse the money from my high interest savings account to things like investing, retirement, vacation funds, etc.
Of course, I do estimate my mortgage payments and other bills that need to be paid so that I know how much I can reliably save regularly. I don’t keep separate categories for and include the monthly amount for things like:
- beauty (like pedicures or hair cuts)
Because for me, those are not regular monthly expenditures and I don’t need to budget for them. If I want to save for money to travel, I add it to a separate savings account (and take that money out before other expenses).
Similar to dieting, I don’t diet per se (e.g. calorie count) but I eat in moderation (well, I did have two butter tarts today for breakfast–oops!, but alongside an apple and high protein yogurt). I am also not radical e.g. completely eliminate a certain thing out of my diet. I do want to lose some of this postpartum belly jiggle-yness and get back to my six pack abs (haha) so I will definitely decrease the amount of junk food I am eating and will add some high intensity workouts to my exercise routine. I add exercise to my routine instead of cutting out ice cream.
Another thing that really helps me is to track what I spend. I have a yearly planner that I write down what I spend money on (of course outside of mortgage payments and electricity or utilities). This mindfulness helps trick my brain into being conscious of what I am spending money on, and not from a scarcity mindset, but from a “oh, that’s how much I spent this week, that’s not bad”. I know that sometimes I will spend more in one week and sometimes I won’t, but I won’t punish myself for spending more in one week because I know I am saving.
There’s no need to beat ourselves up. Gratitude for what we have and what we intend to achieve can go a long way to reach our own definition of success.
How about you? Does budgeting or dieting work for you?