• Matt Morizio

Can't stick to a budget or a diet? Here is why

After months of intense interviews, sleepless nights, and worry-filled days, you did it! You landed your dream job. Things are looking up.

Time to get your life on track. You are going to get your finances in order, and more importantly, you’re going to eat right and get back in shape.

Here comes the new you!

You download MyFitnessPal to track your total caloric/nutrient intake daily, and you heard that Mint helps you budget your monthly expenses. You start keeping meticulous notes.

But over time, opening your app whenever you eat or drink becomes a nuisance. It’s inconvenient. And Mint doesn’t categorize each purchase appropriately, so fixing that takes time - a lot of time.

Your new job has you drinking out of a firehose. You have a family at home. You don’t have time to mess around with your apps. Life isn’t slowing down.

Eventually, you stop budgeting. You stop counting calories. The “new you” is going to have to wait until you have more time to focus on you.

You feel discouraged.

But you shouldn’t. You were setting yourself up for failure.

You were never going to stick to your perfectly planned diet. And your super-strict budget was impossible to maintain.

Not because your food choices were bad or the line items on your budget were unrealistic - but because calorie counting and detailed budgeting don’t work.

Personal finance is emotional. Eating is emotional. Our brains aren’t wired to overpower our hearts. We are emotional creatures.

This truth is so irrefutable that universities offer, in addition to traditional Economics degrees, Behavioral Economics degrees, aka "Why people and the capital markets act so irrationally" degrees. And Precision Nutrition, one of the leading sports nutrition programs in the world, spends the overwhelming majority of its coaching time on helping clients through their emotional struggles of eating, not on how may calories are in a banana.

A very small percentage of the population can stick to a detailed diet or budget. The rest of us are left wondering, “What to do?”

Step 1 - Start detailed, but don’t stay detailed.

Whether you are starting a new diet or tightening up your budget, you need to know the details up front. How much are you currently eating or spending? What is your target caloric intake? What food choices will you make? What are your total expenses each month? How much money can you invest? Then create a road map to get where you want to go.

Step 2 - Automate.

Now you have a game plan for a healthy diet and healthy spending/investing habits. Automate as much as you can! Prep meals in advance. Buy the same groceries every week. Set up ACH's for your expenses, savings, AND your investments. Don’t leave it up to yourself to rethink meal plans or budgets every day, week, or even month. It won’t happen.

Step 3 - Revisit infrequently.

Diets, like investing, take time. For all the reasons daily calorie counting and extreme budgeting don’t work, checking the scale and your investment account every day is a waste of mental energy. The less you analyze your diet or budget (assuming you have the right game plan in place), the better. Do yourself a favor and stay out of your own way. Every 3-6 months you can check on progress, but remember, the more you stay out of your own way, the better you’ll be!

Follow these steps and that “new you” will transform before your eyes, and if you need an accountability partner along the way, I’m happy to hold you accountable.

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Investment advice offered through Beck Bode, LLC, a fee-only Registered Investment Advisor in the Greater Boston area.