Million Dollar Journey

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Building Wealth through Saving and Investing

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7 Ways Saving Money is like Losing Weight

In the past 12 months, I’ve been able to save 20% of my income and lose 20 lbs. In the process I’ve learned that there are many similarities between losing weight and saving money.

Here are 7 ways saving money is like losing weight:

1. Have a goal

Here it’s the million dollar journey. The goal is right in the title. For me it was 20 lbs. I only knew where I was going if I had a goal to strive towards. Having a goal is a great way to stay motivated when the going gets tough. I set out with both a financial goal and a goal for the number on the scale.

2. Write it All Down

I volunteer my time as a financial coach where I sit down with people and help them come up with a financial plan. This includes setting goals, getting out of debt, preparing a budget and saving for the future. One of the first assignments I give people is to begin writing down everything they spend. I track our expenses at wesabe. I track everything I eat and all exercise at fitday. Both are free.

When you write down what you spend and what you eat, it’s easier to see when and where over-spending and over-eating occur. It also provides accountability when you know later that you’re going to have to write it all down. People are often amazed to find they have spent way more than they thought in an area where they least expected it.

I’ve had several people guess they were spending $200 a month on food. When they wrote it all down, it often turned out to me more like $600 or $700. Others guess that they can’t be eating all that much until they write it down and add it up.

3. Chart your Progress.

On the first of every month I track my net worth in google spreadsheets. On the first of every week I tracked my weight. I made a little graph that showed my progress. Tracking your net worth can be really motivating for some people. It’s the same for tracking weight loss. A great deal of motivation can be found by looking at how far you’ve come!

4. Make it Automatic

Once I set up automatic monthly payments into savings, it became a lot easier to save money. I also have all of my bills automatically paid out of my chequing account each month. It’s the same for food. I eat the same breakfast every morning. Boring? No way! I chose something I liked. I also chose something with enough protein and nutrition to get me to lunch without snacking. By automating parts of my fiances and parts of my diet, I make the choice to save and eat well easier without having to think about it every time.

5. It’s all About Simple Math

Losing weight is about simple math. Eat less than you burn. Saving money is also about simple math. Spend less than you make. If you earn more, you can spend more. If you you exercise more, you can eat more.

6. Find some Balance

Learning to eat well is not about deprivation. It’s about getting healthy and feeling better. I finished every day with a square of chocolate and a scoop of frozen yogurt. Could I have lost weight faster if I hadn’t? Absolutely. Would I have reached my goal? I’m not so sure. I wanted an occasional treat and by allowing myself one small treat a day, I was better able to reach my goal.

It’s the same with living below my means. It’s not about constant deprivation. I could have saved more if I’d skipped a concert, a movie, dinner out with my spouse or the weekend in Niagara Falls. Instead we budgeted in fun money so that we wouldn’t feel deprived and were better able to meet our financial goals.

7. Enjoy the Process

Diets and budgets don’t work if you don’t enjoy the journey. I had to change my thinking from what I wasn’t eating to how much better I felt when I ate the right foods. I had to change my thinking about budgeting so that it no longer became what I couldn’t spend money on, but making room for spending money in areas I valued. Eating well was not about learning to like melba toast and celery. It was about finding healthy foods I really enjoyed like salmon, almonds, and dark chocolate.

Final Thoughts

One of the most surprising results of this weight loss journey is the money it saved. We ate out less and shopped at the local market more. We ate much less processed and prepared food and avoided the middle section of the grocery store almost entirely. I thought that by switching to healthier foods, I’d be spending more but in the end by avoiding meals out and processed food, our grocery budget dropped considerably. Buying a whole new wardrobe was a different story!

How have you found the journey to wealth similar to the path to health?

Kathryn is a regular contributor on Million Dollar Journey and has a passion for personal finance.  She volunteers her time as a money coach meeting with ordinary Canadians, teaching them the basics of budgeting, no fee banking, saving for the future and other basics of personal finance.

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