Whenever someone is trying to lose weight for whatever reason, Day One is usually the easiest. Those salads and green juices taste amazing and you think, maybe life without rice isn't so bad after all. That feeling of being a pillar of health dissipates the moment you start haggling with yourself: You've been so good about your diet, you deserve a reward...right? And then you're right back where you started, struggling to pry your hands away from the cookie jar.
What most people fail to realize is that healthy eating shouldn't be seen as punishment—something you need a reward for if you do it long enough. For a lifestyle change to really stick, you need to take small, consistent steps.
This mentality can be applied to your spending habits as well. Your relationship with money will only get better if you make smart, consistent choices over time. Often, people save money here and there only to blow it on the next sale, again, as a "reward" for being so good at budgeting.
But as you probably already know, you don't get abs when you crash diet, and you won't be financially savvy in one pay period. To help you figure out a financial method that works for you, here are some easy strategies worth exploring.
1. Out of sight, out of mind
As soon as you get your paycheck, set aside at least 10 percent. Move the money to an account you can't easily access. I have a friend who opened an account with no ATM card. To withdraw money from the account, she'll have to line up at the bank—an inconvenience not everyone is willing to wait for unless it's an emergency. It adds an extra layer of protection to your savings.
2. Money diary
It doesn't have to be an actual diary, just a place where you document your expenses and monitor your spending habits. I used to carry a mini journal with me because writing things down felt like an accomplishment. But my job has me reaching for my phone a lot during the day, which makes a money tracker app more convenient for me in the long run. I use Spendee, and it's sort of part of my routine now to add values whenever I buy or pay for something.
3. All-cash diet
This one is for those who treat their debit cards like credit cards, lol. Most people think that credit cards are ~evil~ and that their debit cards will keep them from spending too much. But the truth is, you're still at risk of swiping aimlessly with a debit card because your money is still invisible to you. Not only does it make it challenging for you to track where your money is going, you also don't have the emotional connection of what you're spending your income on. The all-cash diet works like this: When you get paid, take out all the extra cash that you would normally use to treat yourself and make it last until your next paycheck.
4. Cash envelope method
If you want a greater challenge, try the cash envelope method, which is an extension of the all-cash diet. Take the excess cash you have in a month and divide it into categories. This way, you're more mindful about where exactly your money is going and you decide in advance how much you're really comfortable spending for each occasion. For example, if you are catching up with friends over dinner, instead of just ordering whatever you want and being surprised when the bill comes, you can allocate an amount for the night, place the cash in an envelope, and only take that envelope to dinner. You won't be tempted to go over your budget because you won't be able to pay for the excess!
5. No-spend days
This strategy may be the most difficult one on this list, but it's also the most expensive, especially if you're saving up for something in particular. If you look closely at your daily expenses, you might even find that you're buying things you could 100 percent live without. Start slowly, with maybe five no-spend days in a month and see how doable that is.
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