On Budgeting Cash and Calories
People are often really surprised at what Erin and I have accomplished over the past few years. Not only did we lose a combined 200 pounds together, but we also paid off close to $50,000 in student loans over a decade ahead of schedule.
People will often ask us what our secret. The truth is there is no secret, no magic solution. It took a change in mindset about how we budget both cash and calories. It was hard and there was were many days where we wanted to go back to our old spending and eating habits, but the end result has been so worth all the struggle.
On this blog post, we will talk more about that. Erin handles our household finances, so she will be speaking to the cash side of things and I will talk to budgeting from a calories perspective.
I think the biggest thing that we do differently than our peers is that we live well below our means. We've always been cautious people, so when it came to one of our biggest financial decisions which was buying our house we knew we wanted to be able to afford it if for some reason we were without one of our incomes for a period of time. We never wanted to become mortgage poor, so making that decision set the tone for the rest of our budgeting decisions. We both really enjoy going on vacations and are willing to be frugal in the remaining areas of our lives in order to make that happen. We drive a 10 year old Chevrolet cobalt and keep it well maintained, we rarely eat out and keep frivolous spending to a minimum. In order to keep our food budget on track we use apps like Flipp and stick to a preplanned grocery list instead of wandering around the store aimlessly.
"We live well below our means"
One thing that I did for a few years was take a second job working retail for 8-10 hours a week. I did this for a few reasons, one I work from home and wanted to get out of the house, and two, there were things I wanted to purchase/do that our budget did not allow unless we increased our income. I used to have purple hair and I love getting tattoos so increasing our income allowed me to treat myself to those things.
It's really important to be aware of where your money is going, and to make sure you are not spending more than you are taking in. Being on top of what is happening to your finances is real way to set yourself up for success.
Before I made the commitment to living a more healthy and active lifestyle in 2015, I never thought about calories or even really knew what they were. Sure, I tried using myfitnesspal a few times and knew that if I wanted to get to a healthy weight, I would have to change how I ate, but until I truly understood the relationship between calorie consumption and weight gain/loss, I was lost.
"I was lost"
By "I was lost" I mean that I had no filter or control over what I ate. I would eat when I was sad, when I was upset, when I was happy or celebrating. I would see something that looked delicious and I wouldn't think about how many calories it contained or about the long term impacts of eating too much food like it, I would just see the instant gratification of delicious food.
Erin and I talk a lot about how we have reached our goals by making a series of small changes over a long period of time. One of those changes was re-thinking my relationship with calories and food in general.
"re-thinking my relationship with calories and food in general"
We have talked in previous blog posts about the importance of using a food scale and knowing portion sizes, but even more important is asking yourself the question 'is this worth the calories?'. Once I knew how many calories I had to eat every day to move towards a healthy weight, this question was so powerful.
A Black Hole of Calories
For me, if a food is truly delicious and I truly want to eat it, I will find a way to fit it into my daily calories. There are foods that I call black holes of calories which will always be worth the calories. Movie theater popcorn or stuffed crust pizza are high on that list. There are other calorie dense foods that are just not worth the calories from my perspective.
I have always and will always love stuffed crust pizza.
This change in mindset, viewing food and calories as part of my daily calorie budget has helped me to make healthier choices. While I will still eat movie theater popcorn and stuffed crust pizza, I have ended up eating more leafy greens, non-fried carbs and lean protein simply because this food is more filling and helps me stay within the calorie budget I have set for myself.
So, if you are on a journey to a more healthy, active lifestyle or you are looking to be more budget conscious, ask yourself the question 'is this worth the calories?' or 'is this worth the cash?'. If it is and you can fit it into your budget, they go for it! If not, choose something else. Over time, thinking about this question, answering it honestly and acting accordingly can help you reach any health or financial goal you are setting for yourself.