Since I hit a milestone weight this weekend, I’ve been thinking a lot about how health and finances are related. Turns out, a lot of the building blocks for losing weight are the same for growing your savings. Both endeavors entail a journey that will bring you through many of the same stages, including an initial period of sacrifice, a period of re-calibration to your new lifestyle, followed by a maintenance period where the changes you’ve made become second nature. There are a couple differences as well, though. Let’s take a look.
There is no question, you are not going to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle if you’re not disciplined enough to stop eating when you’re full, not mindlessly snack, and get off your butt and exercise a few times a week. Similarly, you’re not going to improve your finances if you’re not disciplined enough to say no when your friend asks you to go to a ridiculously expensive restaurant, pay yourself first, and pay your credit card bill in full each month.
Both losing weight and boosting your savings requires making some sacrifices for the sake of your future. Unless you want to be mired with obesity-related health problems you can’t pay for in your old age, you need to exercise some discipline now.
Advertisers like to lure you in with get rich quick schemes and weight loss pills that allow you to shed all your fat without exercising or changing your diet. Such things are poppycock. Not only do losing weight and growing your finances require discipline, they require a lifetime of discipline. If you go on an extreme diet for a month, you’ll probably lose a fair amount of weight, but once you realize you can’t sustain such an extreme diet for the long term, you’ll go back to your old eating habits and gain the weight right back. Similarly, if you do a great job of resisting the temptation to buy unnecessary things for a month, but then revert back to your shopaholic ways, you’re going to end up right where you started.
Losing weight and being healthy requires making changes that will stay with you for the rest of your life. Portion control and regular exercise are the cornerstones of weight loss and healthy living, and you have to incorporate them into your lifestyle for good. Growing your finances requires adopting frugal habits and sticking with them for the long run. What’s great is you can help yourself in both the health/weight loss category and the finances category by doing one simple thing: eating out less often. This is one of the crucial lifestyle changes that will help you lose weight by consuming healthier food in more appropriate portion sizes that hasn’t been drowned in butter and salt and save money by purchasing the raw ingredients and cooking them yourself instead of paying someone else to prepare your food for you.
It gets easier
The other similarity between losing weight and growing your savings is that it gets easier over time. The first couple weeks of small portions or a new exercise routine can be painful. You may feel hungry, deprived, and sore. But it’s just because your body had gotten used to its unhealthy lifestyle of overeating and not moving enough. Once you retrain your body to stop overeating and be active, it becomes second nature. Your stomach shrinks and you don’t need as much food to satisfy you, and your muscles, heart, and lungs become stronger, making exercise easier.
In the same way, you may feel incredibly deprived when you begin living a frugal lifestyle. When you were used to eating out regularly and buying new clothes or gadgets every other weekend, you may feel like you’re missing out on those things for a while. You also may realize you have more free time that used to be spent shopping that you don’t know what to do with. But I promise that after a while, you will forget the thrill you once felt from buying things. Once you’ve realized all the benefits that come with saving money, you might even start to dread having to go to the store to buy something!
Active vs. Passive
Though, as I’ve discussed before, muscle helps you burn more calories, you can’t solely rely on your muscles to maintain your weight and keep you healthy. If you live a healthy lifestyle for ten years and then decide you’d like to stop and just put your body into auto pilot mode, you’ll be pretty disappointed with the results. Your body might keep up for a little while, but eventually if you revert back to your unhealthy ways, your health will decline. You have to continue working on your health for your entire life. Your body will not do the work for you.
Your savings however, will work for you indefinitely. If you work hard for ten years increasing your income and practicing frugality, you’ll end up with a sizable chunk of money that will continue to work for you building interest. While you can’t start buying $50k cars and going on shopping sprees every weekend, you can relax a bit. You may be able to retire or semi-retire because your savings are producing enough money for you to live on. If there’s a new electronic device you really want, you don’t need to stress as much over purchasing it. Again, you can’t go crazy and become a shopaholic again, but you can loosen the reins a little bit and start spending a bit more money when your ordinary income is supplemented by the passive income gained from your investments.
For the most part, if you mention to a friend that you’re trying to lose weight, they’ll express how they want to lose weight too, offer to be your exercise buddy, tell you a story about how they lost weight, or at least be supportive of your goals. Maybe it’s just because I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, but it seems like everyone is on a health kick. When I have a cup of soup for lunch, nobody teases me for not eating enough. In fact, if I brought fast food into my office, I’d probably get some snide remarks from coworkers about how gross fast food is.
On the same note, I have received a bit of ridicule from coworkers for my old car. Before my old car was totaled and I replaced it with a new one, one of my coworkers asked me why on earth I’d drive around in an old beat up car when I make enough money to buy a nice new one. Even with my splurge of a new Camry Hybrid, my car is still probably cheaper than the company average. BMWs, Lexuses, and Audis fill our parking lot. If I were to tell my coworkers that I didn’t want to go out for drinks with them because I was trying to save money, they’d likely tell me “it’s just drinks, what’s the big deal?” Frugality can often be a lonely lifestyle because most people around you don’t share the same values. It’s a lot harder to find people who share your desire to be frugal than who share your desire to lose weight.