Have you heard people talk about how their weight loss has inspired them to also be “financially fit”? I certainly have. I even had a guest post from Shannon McLay about it and the book she wrote to that effect. Also, Dave Ramsey talks about it in his book The Total Money Makeover. And I would venture to say that many more writers have used this analogy, too.
But what if you’re healthy and happy with your weight? What about the skinny girls out there? This comparison of money to weight loss is hard to make if you’re not struggling with your weight.
I am skinny (ish) so the weight loss comparison to spending never really hit home for me. I don’t want to lose weight – I’m 5’6” and I’m 120lbs (maybe 123lbs with this holiday winter coat coming on 🙂 ), but in general, I’m healthy, and I’ve never been really overweight. So, I never gave this comparison of money to weight loss much personal thought.
Until a few months ago….
How I used to think about food
There was a time where I did lose 28lbs. In college, I got up to 148lbs. This was a result of eating a lot of bad food, mostly late at night. If I had a paper to write, I literally would eat a bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups while I wrote the paper. An entire bag. And not think twice. The thought of this now makes me sort of sick!
How I lost 28lbs and kept it off
Over time, I lost the weight by making a complete life style change. I stopped eating chocolate for one thing (except for the occasional dark chocolate Hershey Kiss). I started running one mile in the morning and one mile in the evening (my version of 2-a-days). I started being more thoughtful about the other food I ate – minimizing what I ate at night and trying to cut back on carbs a bit. It took about a year or so, but the weight came right off.
Since then, I’ve maintained the weight loss without struggling much at all. Now, I eat healthy (ish) and I still run one mile every morning — that’s it. I don’t work out more than that, and I still get to eat a piece of cake here and there now that the weight is off. I cook and pack my lunches; I don’t eat late at night and my portions are small. Really, I don’t eat that much and I don’t really think a lot about food.
How I used to think about money
It would not be uncommon for me to pick up as many babysitting jobs as I could in order to buy the things I wanted (usually clothes). I stuck to my budget and saved money, but I struggled. Every single pay period I knew that I would spend all of my money. Yes, I would save according to my budget, but I wouldn’t save more than that, and I certainly wouldn’t give myself enough of a buffer because there were always things I wanted to buy. And even though I was following my budget, it was so hard for me. I really struggled. I liked the idea of being a minimalist, but I’m girly; I like clothes; I like makeup — and that’s just the way it is for me. I’m not really trying to change what I like. And I don’t have a problem with this.
So, how does someone who loves to shop stop struggling with money? Here’s how I did it.
The comparison of chocolate to J. Crew that made life so much easier
I had a moment — out of nowhere — where I thought about my mentality when it comes to food. Like I said above, I don’t think much about food because I don’t eat a lot. If I have one treat a day, it is definitely something I consider a “treat” and it’s usually small (think a Hershey’s Kiss). I certainly would never treat myself to a bag of Reese’s cups! I know that I cannot eat ice cream for dinner or my whole week is basically shot, and the next day I will feel horrible. It is not even an option in my mind. Treats are so great, but they are so small. Basically, I restrict myself when it comes to food because that keeps me healthy and skinny.
Yes, there are healthy foods, and yes, you can eat a lot of healthy food and stay thin. But really, it’s calories in; calories out. You can’t eat a ton and be healthy and skinny at the same time unless you constantly work out all the time (who wants to do that?!). I know this and it’s become a habit for me. It’s actually really easy. Like I said; I don’t think a lot about food, nor do I eat a lot, and I run one mile every morning.
Then, I thought about money and spending. I thought about how I try to earn more money so that I can spend it however I see fit (I love shopping at J. Crew). Even though I followed a plan that supported saving and paying down my student loan debt, it was very difficult for me.
I thought about how when I was trying to lose weight I had to stop eating so much. I did not keep eating the same and workout for 7 hours a day. If you want to lose weight, you don’t need to spend a lot at fancy gyms or do different types of exercise or read a million different health blogs or make it your life. If you want to lose weight, you can just eat less. It’s so simply, but obviously it can be very hard.
Then it hit me. By trying to earn more money so I could shop, it was effectively like me eating a bag of Reese’s cups and trying to figure out how much I needed to run to burn it off. I immediately thought: why am I torturing myself like this? Why don’t I just stop spending so much and think about money like I think about food? It would be a lot easier!
Effectively, my habits were like me browsing Malley’s Chocolate’s website all day looking at chocolate covered pretzels and then figuring out how many calories I need to burn off in a workout in order to eat all of the chocolate I want. This is completely insane.
I realized in that moment that by browsing my favorite sites, looking at fashion blogs, keeping wish lists, and desperately wanting to earn more to spend more, I was setting myself up for failure and making it SO much harder than it needed to be. If I wanted money to be easy; if I wanted to be wealthy; if I wanted to save more money, I needed to spend less money.
How I think about money now (it’s how I think about food)
I think about everything I eat. I don’t think about food a lot, but I do think about everything I actually consume. If I have Chipotle for lunch, I know I better make sure I’m eating healthy for the rest of the day – or even week. My idea of a “treat” is something very small. No bags of chocolate; no fast food. The occasional candy, yes. But no keeping candy in the house, and no browsing food online. No going down isles that carry cookies in the grocery store. No eating late at night, and no eating big pasta dishes past 7pm. The junk food day during a tailgate is the exception for the week; not the norm. I eat healthy, and I don’t consume a lot of calories. That’s it. I stay healthy and skinny — just the way I like it.
How I view food is now how I view spending. I think about every purchase I make. Like I said before, I still stuck to my budget in the past, but I was always trying to earn more in order to buy more. Now, I think about spending as completely separate from earning more money. I still side hustle and think there’s value in earning more money, but it’s a completely different mindset (and it’s so much easier). The money from side hustles is meant to just sit in the bank and then go toward my financial goals.
Now, I come from a place of “do not spend” as opposed to “how can I earn more in order to spend?”. I still think “how can I earn more” but that’s for myself and my future; there is no “in order to spend” anymore. While this may seem restrictive, I cannot explain to you in writing how empowering it is. It has changed my financial life because finances now come easy for me.
I don’t struggle with my budget; I don’t worry that I’ll have to dip into my emergency fund if something small comes up because I have a pretty good buffer in my checking account. And the funny thing is now I have more money than ever. If I buy a pair of slippers, it’s because it’s now 20 degrees in Cleveland and my feet are freezing (i.e. I really need them and they easily fit into my budget). Or, if I buy a pair of shoes next month – it’s one item that’s definitely on sale and I can easily afford. My “treats” are so much smaller and I’m not struggling. It feels amazing. I’ve never felt more secure about money in my life. My debt hasn’t changed; my savings hasn’t changed; I didn’t receive a huge windfall. All that changed is my mindset. And it feels incredible.
Life just got a whole lot easier for this skinny girl. If you are also a skinny girl and you struggle with shopping, I urge you to think about shopping like you think about food. Every meal counts and so does every purchase.
Have you ever had an “epiphany” of sorts that changed how you think about money?
Do you think about money how you think about food?
What has helped you spend less?