Food and money have a lot in common. They are both things that people use everyday. It’s nearly impossible to avoid either one. They can be a lot of fun but also easy to abuse. No matter how much you love either of them they are never going to love you back. Finally, as far as inanimate objects go, they have a hell of a lot of power over people.
Our relationships with food and money start early – before we can even talk or walk. If your parents had a tough time with either one of these things there is a good chance you might have some issues to get past as well. Money was the main concern in my house when I was growing up. Since my parents were small business owners, they got paid when there was work – not every other week like I do now. As far as money went, it was always feast or famine.
Food was never a topic of conversation. I can’t remember my parents ever going on a diet. We ate what we had in the house and some meals were small and compromised of whatever was left in the pantry. Going out to dinner was reserved for very special occasions. Your family may have been different. There might have always been money but maybe food was a constant issue. There are plenty of other things that can gain control over people but food and money are tough since you can’t go cold turkey on either one. Here are 5 easy methods you can use to help you control both.
Food and Money Tip #1 – Start Tracking
Writing things down helps you from mindlessly spending and eating. I have always tracked my finances closely but when I wanted to lose weight for the first time I knew I had to start paying attention to what I ate. I gained 40 pounds during my pregnancies and a few bad habits as well. The Thai takeout place knew my order by heart and suggested I name my baby Basil. This wasn’t great for my budget either.
Once I started tracking what I ate I started to lose weight. That moment of hesitation where I thought about having to write down the random cookie made it less desirable. Knowing that a milkshake or meal at a restaurant contains more calories than my 5’3″ self needs in a day helped me pass and save those for special occasions. If you have never tracked the money you really spend this can help you get started. Seeing how much you are spending and eating on paper can help you see where you can cut back easily and get some quick wins to keep you motivated.
Food and Money Tip #2 – Don’t Over Complicate Things
You may not know what macros or hedge funds are and that is ok. But, if you don’t want to bother learning about food or money because it is too complex I have news for you. You do not need to know a lot to do better than you are right now. If you want to be an expert yes there is a lot to learn involving math and science but you do not need to be an expert – ever (unless that is your job).
When it comes to money spending less than you earn will keep you out of debt and give you the ability to save for the future. This is true no matter what you make. If you are spending too much on some things you may need to eliminate them, cut back or make more money. With food you will do better eating things that don’t have labels. If you aren’t hungry enough to eat an apple or some veggies you are probably just bored. It is good to avoid too much sugar or processed food. Good food can be expensive but so is poor health.
Food and Money Tip #3 – Avoid Too Much of a Good Thing
I love pizza. I don’t eat pizza 3 meals a day though because that’s gross and I’d probably get sick (and sick of it). Eating a well balanced diet ensures you will get more of the nutrients you need to stay healthy. There is no miracle food that I know of that would be ideal to eat all of the time. I’ve heard of “superfoods” and a regular combination of those can do wonders.
Sometimes people will ask me about the stock market and are disappointed by my boring answers. I think a well diversified portfolio is just fine for most people. People hear about a particular investment on the news and get upset they don’t own it. It’s natural to want to “chase” the winner – which is great for all the people who owned it before you. Meanwhile you are buying high. A more balanced strategy will give you exposure to different sectors so the highs won’t be as high but the lows won’t ruin you necessarily either.
If you do well during the week but lose control on the weekends you aren’t going to get ahead. This goes for food AND money. A “cheat” meal or an occasional splurge can help keep you on track – but keep them small and shift your focus back to the goal right away if you want to be successful.
Food and Money Tip #4 – Technology Can Make it Easier
When I started tracking my food I used an app to help. This helped me track the calories that the food contained even if I didn’t have the label right in front of me. It also was more discreet than breaking out a food journal from my purse to stay on top of things. At the end of the day I could see if the calories I burned were more than, equal to or less than what I consumed. The next day I could start over again and try to do better or repeat what worked before. I like when things are easy.
Budgeting tools are helpful too. The ones I use pull data straight from other sources like my checking account and lenders. It makes it harder to lie to myself about what I spend if it is being tracked automatically. Setting a budget in the system allows for notifications when spending in various categories gets close to the limit I chose. Pen and paper works fine but if you like technology it is a great way to keep accurate tabs on your activity.
Food and Money Tip #5 – Surround Yourself with Like-Minded People
Our friends and family can be a good or bad influence when it comes to food and money (or both). I am very focused on saving money and a lot of the people I follow on Social Media are too. It inspires me to read about other people who are paying down debt and reaching financial independence. When friends have financial questions they know they can ask me because I openly talk about money. I don’t engage in keeping up with the Jones’s. I’m happy with what I have and would rather cheer people on than compete.
If you are dieting it can be really tough to go out with friends or cook for your family. My family is Italian so not eating with them is the equivalent of saying I don’t love you anymore. I do enjoy the foods I love on the holidays – sometimes the splurge is worth it. Staying in control the other days of the year is what matters. I know watching people enjoy ice cream or nachos while you have a club soda is no fun. It’s temporary though and you will survive. If your inner circle isn’t on the same page as you there are lots of other people who know what you are going through. Check out my favorite healthy eating group here run by my favorite fitness expert!
Try to go places that have choices for you to stay on track. If its just too challenging be the one to suggest a different activity like going to the beach or for a walk where there is less opportunity to eat (or spend money). Being the broke friend or the healthy friend might not be so bad if it means you are thinking up new things to do that don’t involve the bar or shopping. There is a lot more out there to do to keep you busy – be creative!
Do you use any or all of these methods when it comes to food and money? What is your favorite way to get back “in control” after a big splurge?