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!

14 comments

  • I follow a low-carb money diet currently, but I mean to move towards a Mediterranean one. I have a terrible habit of viewing money spent on things in a very frugal light, but not being as careful with food and services. I will spend money on a dinner out, but complain about the cost of shoes. I want to be someone who spends money on quality goods and services, but less on things that leave my life in a hurry, like food. Good food is enjoyable, but coffee at home after dinner can often be even more pleasant than an overpriced coffee after dinner at the restaurant, and I need to remember that.

  • I’m stuck in the Prepackaged meal diets rut. I’m just venturing out into the crazy world of budgeting. The Prepackaged meal diet plan is clean cut and idiot proof. I just have to make sure that my will power can handle the diet pizza 🙂

    I too would like to spend more like the mediterranean plan…however, I think I have to get used to having less in order to be able to control my spending without a strict budget.

  • I follow the “gorge yourself” diet. I eat what I like whenever I want and I eat as much as humanly possible. How does this translate to my finances, well, I am homeless and live in a van down by the river.

  • I see similarities between dieting and money saving as such: you decide to diet, which really means depriving yourself of certain pleasures and eating plain foods or starving altogether and THEN, one day you get so tired and frustrated you BINGE. Basically, you are so good all week and finally manage to lose 3 pounds and boom! weekend comes you decide to “reward” yourself with pizza and boom! your 3 pounds are back. The same with saving money – you save and save, depriving yourself in every little pleasure, like having Starbucks coffee once in awhile or no cable TV and then you “BINGE” because you are tired and frustrated at life and you go and buy yourself something really outrageously expensive. So basically, all the money that you saved so far, you spent in one gesture in one weak moment. So the moral of the story here for me is EVERYTHING IS GOOD IN MODERATION, dieting or saving. Not going to extremes one way or the other is the best way to keep saving and dieting sane, manageable and possibly long-term.

  • BTW, if anybody is interested in “moderation” philosophy in dieting, check out “French Women don’t get Fat” book…..

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  • I am most like the Mediterranean diet, but I have found ways to cut back in area that I like as well. For example, I do like reading quite a bit, but these days I buy a book only if it is one that is a book I will use for reference. All others I borrow from the library and return them when I am done, and I am very happy that they are not taking up space in my apartment! I just focus on the goals — building savings, paying off debt — and that pretty much helps me to stay on track.

    I found your analogy of the diet very interesting. I have not had a hunger response since I was three years of age, and I am absolutely amazed at how much people eat and how they cannot seem to lose weight. I just keep an eye on the clock and eat small amounts of food here and there — enough to keep me going, with enough variety to cover my nutritional needs. I really feel sorry for people who are trying to lose weight, there seems to be so much more than just food involved — emotions, influence of friends and family, etc. — that would seem to make it difficult to lose weight. There are so many different diets out there, and none of them seem to work, other than a vegan diet, to sustain weight loss over the long term. I suppose the same could be said of financial planning, but a lot of people have mentioned how they could not succeed at eliminating debt until they heard a radio show or read a book by Dave Ramsey

  • saving money is basically like dieting. Quoted for truth.
    In fact, looking around, there’s definitely a lot of overlap. The same mentality drives being overweight and being poor (in debt). Long-term weight gain, like most debt is typically the cumulative effect of the decision to “spend” slightly more than you earn/burn.

    People who are inherently efficient at “spending less” are typically very good at “eating less”, which leads to easy weight management. Dieters often suffer the same binge / purge habits as debtors, who will rebound back and forth between paying off chunks of the debt and adding chunks to it. Blueblah really captures this failing.

    Long-term, I’m on some form of the “calorie-diet”, but I believe that the important key for dieters and debtors is to live a fulfilled existence within your means. If you’re in debt or overweight, you will have to suffer for your transgressions as you work back towards health. But if the money you have doesn’t make you happy, then no amount of diet/debt will improve your life and you’ll be stuck on the rollercoaster until you figure out why you’re unhappy.

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  • Great comments! @Speedy, I mentioned in an earlier post (here) that a vegan diet was a key to long-term health and therefore wealth, and a number of people took issue with that, so it’s interesting to see your comment on vegan diets. Speaking as someone who’s gone from fat to fit partway back to fat, it’s a struggle, so count yourself lucky!

    @Gates, @Bubelah: I like the binge/purge analogy – you’ve both got an interesting take on the “ugly side” of dieting as it applies to both food and money.

    @SD, @ Kyle: Funny 🙂 we can all share some diet pizza (how I wish there was such a thing – that tasted decent) in the van down by the river – just thinking about Farley always makes me chuckle…

  • I think I am closest to the low fat diet. Ah well. I try! lol

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