January 2019

The Keys to Success in Budgets and Diets

Author: Kent Thune

If you made a New Year’s resolution for 2019, there’s a 90 percent chance it was either to improve your finances or to lose weight. However, based on historic averages in the United States, there’s also a 90 percent chance that your resolutions will fail by this spring. But before this daunting statistic dashes your hopes of being richer and healthier in the New Year, you can find yourself in the minority of successful resolution makers by adhering to a few powerful philosophies.

The most common financial and health goals involve budgeting and dieting, respectively. Although there are countless budgets and diets that exist in the universe, the most successful ones share the same basic framework. In fact, the primary keys to success in budgets are universal philosophies that are the same for diets. These philosophical keys to success are awareness, simplicity, patience, moderation and self-knowledge.

Awareness: Successful budgets begin with tracking your spending and successful diets begin with counting calories. Once you are aware of where your money is going, you can identify expenses that can be reduced or eliminated. Similarly, once you have an accurate count on your daily calorie intake, you can compare this amount to the ideal number of calories for your age, gender, and height, and then adjust your diet accordingly. You may be surprised by how many small purchases you make or how many snacks or sodas you mindlessly purchase each month. These small purchases and snacks add up to big money and high calories.

Simplicity: There is a centuries-old principle in the philosophy of science called Occam’s Razor, which states that the simplest hypothesis is always preferred to the complex one. This is also a universal rule that applies to many things in life, including budgets and diets. Don’t make them complex when they don’t need to be! Instead, begin with a simple foundation. A successful budget consists of finding the simplest means of spending less than you make and sticking to the plan. And the general consensus among dieticians is that losing weight requires the right combination of diet and exercise. That’s it! Nothing else needs to be added! Adding gimmicks, shortcuts, or trends may appear to make the budget or diet easier in the short run but they often prove to fail in the long run.

Patience: In a world of instant search results and two-day guaranteed deliveries for almost any item you care to purchase, waiting to reap significant benefits of your budget or diet can seem more tedious than watching the grass grow. In fact, the growth of grass is likely to be faster than the growth of your bank account or the pounds coming off of your waistline. Remember that one of the greatest factors of budgets and diets is time. Give yourself a year to see real results. After 12 months have passed, look back at where you started. The ancient Chinese philosopher, Lau Tzu, says it best: “Nature does not hurry; yet everything is accomplished.”

Moderation: Excessive goals are the ones that cause most New Year’s resolutions to fail. Budgets and diets both commonly fail because people try to do too much, too fast. Make your goals attainable and celebrate the small victories. Not everyone can set a budget to save 10 percent of their income for retirement, and not everyone can lose 10 pounds in one month. Set goals you know you can achieve, and when you see the results, you will be encouraged to continue on to see more results. Every time you reach a new milestone, whether it’s one more dollar saved or one more pound shed, celebrate that small victory! Small successes lead to big successes.

Self-Knowledge: All of the previously mentioned keys to success in budgets and diets are universal truths, but they are also generalizations. We are all human, but we are all unique individuals; therefore, the greatest knowledge of all is self-knowledge. This wisdom goes back to the ancient Greeks, such as Socrates and Plato, and even before their time. Once you have the framework built for your budget or diet, personalize it. For example, if you are a planner, or you feel you’ll increase odds of success with a concrete system in place, you could use the envelope system for your budget. To do this, place cash every month in separate envelopes that are dedicated to small splurges, such as eating out and entertainment. When the cash is gone, you can’t splurge on those items again until the next month. The same goes with diets. You may need to set a meal plan in advance every week, buy only the items you need at the grocery store, and stick to the plan.

To get a better idea of what kind of budget or diet will work for you and your personality, you may want to try an app for that! For budgets, check out You Need a Budget (YNAB), Mvelopes, Quicken, and Mint. For diets, try Weight Watchers, Lose it!, MyFitnessPal, or Fitbit. Most of these apps are free and easy to use.

There’s one more correlation between budgets and diets to remember: If you have the right budget, you won’t eat as much. This doesn’t mean you can’t eat at your favorite restaurant (especially in January when there are so many great deals in the Lowcountry). You’ll just need to be smarter about it. Have healthy money and food habits and you will be well in 2019 and beyond.

Kent Thune is a Certified Financial Planner® and is the owner of a Hilton Head Island investment advisory firm, Atlantic Capital Investments. He is also a personal financial counselor to Marines and other service members on Parris Island. Thune’s financial guidance has been published at The Motley Fool, Yahoo Finance, Kiplinger.com, MarketWatch.com, Nasdaq.com, InvestorPlace.com, and his own blog at TheFinancialPhilosopher.com.

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