Money diet

Bubelah had a funny idea the other day as we discussed diets: saving money is basically like dieting. You try to deny yourself something in the present for the sake of future gain. With money, it’s saving now for security and independence in the future. With dieting, it’s avoiding more food than you need now for the sake of future weight gain. I know that’s not EXACTLY what’s going on, but stick with me, OK?

So here are a few types of diets and the equivalent money-saving behavior.

  • Low-carb: In a low-carb diet, you avoid most foods with carbohydrates, but eat freely of foods that don’t have carbs. Low-carb foods include meat, nuts and cheese, and you can eat as many calories in these areas as you like. Vegetables are moderate in carbs. Bread, fruit, sweets and everything else have lots of carbs.

You won’t spend money on certain things, but you’ll go crazy on others. You may think a vacation is a waste of money, but don’t think anything about ordering an expensive dinner with a few glasses of wine and a $7 cup of coffee. Or you avoid buying that Starbucks latte every morning but get a new cell phone every year.

  • Low-fat: Low-fat diets avoid fatty foods like meat, dairy, and sweets and favor low-fat items like pasta, vegetables, bread and grains. Low-fat diets still require some calorie watching, unlike low-carb.

You avoid spending money on anything ‘fun’ or unnecessary, but take it easy on the basics. You don’t look for ways to reduce your heating bill, but you never, ever eat out. You squeeze all the joy out of money by only using it for bare necessities. You save money, but you get no joy out of it.

  • Calorie diet: This diet requires that you look at the calories in food and keep it under a certain number every day. You can drink one shot of a milkshake, or 14 cucumbers, but you have to make sure you eat less than X number of calories.

You cut back on everything. You still go out for dinner – but you drink water and skip appetizers. You watch TV – but only basic cable or no cable at all. You own a house – but you turn the heat down to 50 and wear a sweater all winter long. You save money, but it gets very hard to keep up with the discipline.

  • Prepackaged meal diets: You sign up with a company that sends you prepackaged meals designed for optimal weight loss. I assume they make claims that the lunch is designed to interact with your metabolism in a certain way, and the “diet” pizza for dinner is actually a diet pizza.

You turn your free will over to a budget. If you spend all of your dry cleaning budget for the month, you don’t do any more. If you want an iPod, you wait until your ‘stuff’ balance reaches the amount you need, then get it. You can stick with this forever, but you may not save as much money if your ‘prepackaged meal’ budget is “diet” pizza and “diet” hamburgers – just a little bit too good to be true.

  • Fasting: You eat normally, but skip eating one day a week and only drink water, or watered-down juice.

You spend money like crazy but skip going to the movies one weekend and tell yourself you’re saving money. It feels good until the next day, when you go to Nordstrom’s.

  • Mediterranean: You eat a diet similar to the diets of people living along the Mediterranean sea, where the incidence of heart disease is much lower. You eat grains (pasta and bread), vegetables, fruits and olive oil in abundance. You eat some seafood, less poultry and very little red meat. You drink wine, and little dairy.

You identify the money spending behavior that makes you happy and spend there; you identify the ones that don’t and cut WAY back on them. If you enjoy books, you buy a book once in a while. If you enjoy premium teas, you splurge. But to do that, you realize that you don’t need a 4-bedroom house to be happy, only a 3-bedroom, so you downsize a bit.

So my question is, which diet are you following? Is it one I didn’t list?

And in case you want to know which one I follow, I put my answer in a comment!