“I can’t figure out what to eat on this diet, so I just stopped eating.” I’ll admit it: I love to eavesdrop on people. I take after my mom, the master spy. When I was in high school, she spied on me constantly. She even trained my younger sister to be a junior spy. They would snoop around at the most inopportune times: while my boyfriend was over, or my friends and I were having too much fun, my little sister would come to “hang out” with us. Grrrr.
But the quote above was so ridiculous to me that I almost blew my cover and jumped into their conversation! We were at the gym, and this lady had signed up for a 6 week “boot camp” with a personal trainer. She would meet with a coach four times a week, stick to a diet plan, and complete weigh-ins with measurements. But apparently, she had never consumed a vegetable or lean meat in her life, and she didn’t want to fuss with figuring that part out. So her solution to the problem would be just not eating.
I was holding a plank position and thinking about how this idea was doomed to backfire, when it hit me. That’s the very thing people do with their budgets: just stop eating.
We are wired to need relaxation, connection and recreation. But often those things come with a large price tag, so we decide to reduce our spending. We want more cash to throw at our debt or our trying to beef up our investments, so we cut out the things we do in our free time. Instead of trying to find ways to new relax and connect for less money, we just stop. We stop going out for drinks, stop eating lunch with coworkers, stop Saturday afternoons shopping trips. It can be difficult to find new patterns and habits in our lives. It’s especially challenging when we are part of a group of people who are accustomed to certain rituals. It seems easier just to opt out — to stop eating, so to say. But how long can we make that last?
At some point this lady at the gym is going to get hungry. Like really hungry. But the only food she knows and enjoys are burgers, fried food and pastries (by her own admission; I spied for quite a while!) It takes time, trial and error, and work to learn a new habit. She will need to learn new ways of shopping, cooking, and the names of vegetables. But at the end, she will have skills that will benefit her for the rest of her life.
If we are going to commit to live healthier (or richer) lives, we need to put in the effort to learn new habits. Habits that will serve us well the rest of our lives. Ones that are sustainable because they better meet our goals and are more enjoyable.
We need to put in the time and effort to learn new ways of relaxing, passing time, and connecting that cost us less cash. Maybe Sunday brunch with our girlfriends was the thing for a while, but the $30 a pop is blowing our budget. It’s hard at first; suggesting new ways to connect and catch up can lead to rifts in the group, especially when we’ve become accustomed to certain rituals.
And if we try new things out, some of them will flop. Yoga in the park with get rained out, or teenage boys will gawk. Some of our friends might scoff at a new idea, because change is hard for everyone. But eventually, something might stick. Something that is actually more fun, more relaxing, and more relational than Sunday brunch ever was. And it will cost less money.
It might take a while for this lady from the gym to find that healthy dish that she loves and that keeps her fulfilled while she tries to reach her fitness goals. The one that is tasty, healthy, easy to make and affordable. But once she does, the need for takeout burgers is over. She will have found the other half of the equation: exercise plus diet.
We can find our missing part too. Earn more + Spend less + Invest = Building Wealth. Start small. One by one we can swap out the overpriced experiences for even better and more affordable options, until we get to the place where we have more relaxation, connection and recreation — AND less debt, more savings and a quickly growing 401K. Because “not eating” just isn’t a long term option.
Ms. Montana writes and speaks on personal finance topics. Creating a life filled with financial freedom, adventure and generous living is her passion. She lives in the beautiful Flathead Valley in Montana with her husband, 5 kids, 7 ducks and a dog named Cheesy Taco. They are currently taking a year long sabbatical filled with hiking, traveling, classes, home renovation, and naps. You can connect with her on her blog or on Twitter.
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