With Budgeting, Sometimes It’s the Little Things that Count

The basic equation to lose weight is to eat fewer calories than you burn in a day. So if you’re daily burn rate is 2,000 calories, you probably want to eat around 1,700 calories per day to cause weight loss.

That is about as fundamental, obvious, and straightforward as you can get.

Yet how many billions of dollars are spent on dieting books, pills, classes, methods, magazines, strategies, etc.? How many times have people tried to eat less and failed? I don’t have any data to back this up, but I’m guessing the failure rate is very, very high.

It’s a fundamentally easy task that people fail at again and again and again.

The other day I was reading an article about nutrition (my other hobby). The author stated bluntly, “If you want to lose weight, you need to monitor your caloric intake. This necessitates writing down everything you eat. Nothing goes unaccounted for.

Naturally, I thought of this hobby: budgeting.

When I first began my mission to get the world on a budget, I knew it would be an uphill battle. My main fear was the fact that I would, in this technologically-advanced society, be telling people to manually record everything they spend and everything they make. It just didn’t seem like people would swallow that very well.

But to be honest, that’s the principle that is absolutely crucial to the budget. The principle of going through your spending, looking over your income, assigning transactions to categories — being conscious of the inflows and outflows of your money — goes a long way in helping you out with your finances. As I’ve said before, the budget is your foundation to financial health.

So the very thing that turns people away from effectively managing their budget (recording and being aware of what they spend) is the very thing that will help them the most. And I say “most” without reservation.

Being convinced that recording your inflows and outflows is paramount, it is then necessary to actually do it. This is, as they say, where the rubber meets the road.

The key with dieting is to maintain consistency in monitoring your caloric intake. The key to managing your money effectively is to maintain consistency in monitoring your outflow. That probably bears repeating: The key to managing your money effectively is to maintain consistency in monitoring your outflow.

I won’t lie and say it’s a really easy thing to suddenly develop a new habit of recording purchases. It’s actually a bit rough for some at the beginning. It’s hard to do develop new (good) habits! However, I can promise you that the habit will come. Writing down what you spend will get easier. And you’ll start to develop the nasty habit of never not noticing an outflow. It may haunt you until it’s recorded. Good.

The one nugget of advice I would like to give regarding your ability to monitor your outflows is to not forget the little things. When you’re dieting and working hard to record your calories, it’s easy to eat a cookie, cracker, chip, etc. and not worry about recording the calories. After all, it’s just one little…

And that act begins to erode at the very thing you’re trying so hard to develop. When you concede, even just a little bit, and let one thing slide, it’s just going to make it harder to force yourself to do it right the next time. The slippery slope of rationalization is indeed slippery.

It’s the little things that count when you’re establishing your habit of writing down everything you spend. Don’t start out by stopping so soon! Develop the habit to write down everything! I promise you a rapid decline in your spending.