Thursday, November 20, 2008

Saving Cash – Day 4 – Habits: Saving Money is like Dieting

Woo hoo! Without even making a conscious effort, my husband and I compared notes at the end of the day, and neither of us spent any money. I wonder how long it takes to make a habit… I think the two week experiment was a good way to kick-start a good habit (of not spending money) and also to be conscious when we do need to spend. Not spending any money for two weeks was a bit like the first two weeks of a new weight-loss diet. The beginning is very hard, and you have to think about every time you open the fridge. What will you eat? For me, there's a sense of loss at first, because bad habits must be faced and splurges must be curtailed. You have to be honest with yourself.

But then, there's the honeymoon stage. A high, of sorts. Every few days you see that you are losing weight. For a few days, you think, I can live without spending money. Look at the money I'm saving! This is awesome!

And then you hit a wall. There's something you must have, and whether it's saving money or losing weight, in both cases, I think what you want is FOOD. Not just any food. It's not something especially crucial to healthy living. It's probably a high-fat, high-calorie comfort-food. What will you do? Will you buy it? Will you eat it? How much willpower do you have? This is when I think it is important to have a goal in sight. Know WHY you have taken this challenge. Have some small goals, and have some big goals.

Whether you count calories, fat grams, Weight Watchers points, grams of carbohydrates or protein, the accountability involved is quite a bit like tracking your spending. Lucky for us, debit cards, credit cards, and checks can all be downloaded with great ease to software like, Quicken or Money. All you have to do to see how much you spend is look at the pretty pie charts and bar graphs. However, you can live with your head in the sand if you never look at your finances… If you can keep paying all your bills, you don't feel the pain so badly. If you spend a lot of cash though, you have to track it the way you track food that enters your mouth when you're dieting. You have to write it down. I think we all know that it's easy to lose track. Three dollars here at the coffee shop, six dollars here for lunch or $19.99 for some new clothes doesn't seem like a big deal, until you add it ALL up. And then, you realize all of a sudden that you have spent $1300 on things you could have done without! Or if you are not watching what you eat, it's an extra spoonful of sugar here, pouring some random amount of oil into the pan, eating the bagel your son didn't finish at breakfast… It adds up. A lot of extra calories turn into pounds. There's no avoiding it. Or at least that's what happened to me.

So when you want to trim the fat, you have to do it consciously. Most of us won't save money by accident, and it seems that few of us will lose weight without doing so consciously. I guess I'll leave it there for today…

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