Budgeting Tip: Start Small, Don't Stop

Most dieters fail by denying themselves any pleasure. Deciding to “get healthy,” they decide to eat 100% healthy all the time always. While each individual meal is fine, consumed with water and no desert, it’s when you start thinking about the future, about a lifetime of healthy food, with no pizza, no burgers, no fries, stretching out between now and death that things tend to fall apart, that all of the sudden you are at the donut shop buying a dozen and eating them sitting in the parking lot. This often leads to a full week of nightly pizza orders before you get back on track.

We naturally seek pleasure, and giving it up one meal at a time is one thing, but imagining the rest of our lives without cake is another. This is the theory behind the 4 hour diet by Tim Farris, which has a “cheat day” built in every saturday where you literally eat whatever you want. It’s easier to eat healthy wednesday knowing you’ll have all the pie you want saturday. The cheat day also helps reset your metabolism, so that your body never adjusts to the slower caloric intake of the healthy meals, and acknowledges the social nature of food. You still get to have a big italian dinner with your family and break bread together, while moving towards a healthier goal.

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Most budgets fail by making the same “cold turkey” mistake, by expecting themselves to be perfect. You hit a financial roadblock, and you decide to pair down, live on ramen noodles and rent out the living room to European hitch hikers and only buy gas from that cheap place on the other side of town with the funny name. Each individual decision feels doable, but looking at the rest of your life doing all of those things seems impossible. It’s just not going to be realistic. Finally, you wear through your reserves of willpower and your spent, so you splurge, buying delicious meals, spending money willy nilly, because you just can’t take it anymore.

A realistic budget is sustainable. It acknowledges that you have a fixed income coming in, and that you need to keep within it.  It puts aside a chunk for retirement every month, and then it lets you have a little bit of fun every once in awhile. That fun is up to you, but it has to be there. “Cold Turkey” is great for quitting an addiction like smoking, where you need to get over a hurdle and then never ever smoke again. But “cold turkey” doesn’t work well for essential life items like food and money. You’ll be spending money in some form the rest of your life. Every single one of those decisions will require willpower, and you only have so much willpower to give. Make small changes where you can, for things that really don’t matter to you, to create new financial habits that  allow you to enjoy the bigger things.


Occasionally, Logix will invite guest bloggers to post on assorted financial topics. These posts may or may not represent our views.

Meet the blogger

Charles Haine

Charles Haine

A long time artist and contributor to the Citizens of Culture print and web magazine. He writes to promote conscious consumption and the idea of thinking before you spend.The views expressed are those of a discerning young consumer, not a financial advisor and may or may not reflect the views of Logix FCU.