Save Up to Slim Down
It’s a multitasker’s dream scenario. But can saving cash really help shrink your waistline? Yes, according to behavioral psychologist Matt Wallaert. “Eating and spending are very similar behavioral processes in that they both are about the competition between our desires and the consequences,” he says. “Psychologists often look at the lessons learned in one domain to apply them to others.” So why not kill two birds with one stone? These expert financial tips work for fattening up your wallet and slimming down your waistline. Ka-ching, ka-ching!
Put the Breaks on Splurge Spirals
One of the key findings with both spending and eating is that when people “break” their diet or budget, they tend to go big, figuring that they’ll just start over tomorrow because it is broken for today,” Wallaert says. Case in point: One study found that dieters who ate a single Hershey’s Kiss in the morning overate for the rest of the day, saying they had already “failed” on their diet. Don’t throw away good money after bad, Wallaert warns. “If you overspend, or overeat, each additional dollar or calorie is just making things worse.” Take action: Next time you experience a moment of weakness, don’t let it derail you completely. Instead of giving in to an all-out shopping (or eating) spree, find a way to change gears. Put down the cookie (or those Louboutin heels) and go for a walk outside to refocus on your goals and avoid falling into a downward splurge spiral.
Control Your Environment
You can’t buy what you don’t shop for, so why tempt your willpower by spending time at the mall? While you may not be able to avoid all restaurants or stores, you can make little adjustments to your daily routine to help cut back on excess calories and spending. One study found that just moving a bowl of candy from your desk to a shelf across the room can dramatically decrease your daily intake. “Controlling your environment is critical in controlling your behavior, and we often forget just how important small changes can be,” Wallaert says. Take action: Pinpoint a few of your trigger locations (or foods) for excess spending or overeating and avoid them. It’s straightforward, but it works! Have a friend that loves meeting for dinner at the Cheesecake Factory? Invite her over to try a new healthy recipe. You’ll save calories and cash!
Create a Tightly Sealed Budget
While tracking your spending is a good idea, if you really want to get serious about saving both money and calories, create a budget. And when it comes to staying on task, cash is king. “Take a stack of envelopes and mark them for items you need/want to purchase—groceries, gas, entertainment, and utilities. Put an established amount of cash in each envelope and once it’s gone, it’s gone. This will make you find a way to budget and make things work,” says Amanda Gift, managing principal and vice president at Signature, a multi-family wealth management firm. Sticking with cash can also help you make healthier choices at the grocery store. One 2010 study from Cornell found that people who paid for their purchases with credit cards were more likely to impulsively buy unhealthy items like ice cream and chips. The same goes for calories. Getting specific about your weight-loss goal can help you determine your weekly calorie limit. Plan ahead for extra “spending” if a special event is coming up by cutting back on alternate days. Take action: Once you’ve determined your monthly budget, spend some time on a Sunday to plan out healthy meals for the upcoming week to stay within your financial and calorie budget. (And when it’s time to hit the grocery store, bring only cash!)