How Budgets are Like Diets & How to Succeed with Both

How Budgets are Like Diets & How to Succeed with Both

95% of diets fail within the first two months. Budgets aren’t far behind. But the real questions are why do they fail and what can we do to change that? Is it that we don’t have enough knowledge? Is it that we need more or better motivation? Are we just not good enough to create a budgets and diets work? Let’s find out!

The Similarities Between Budgets and Diets

Let’s think about this for a minute. Budgets are a tool to keep our finances on track. Diets are a tool to keep our fitness on track. But they have so much more in common than their purposes.

Budgets and diets are both meant to guide us, some may even say restrict us a bit, in order for us to reach our financial and fitness goals.
Another similarity between budgets and diets are that there are SO many options out there for both. There is no right way to get to our financial or fitness goals and we have to choose what works for us.

Perhaps the biggest similarities between budgets and diets lie in how we approach both. We tend to see both as an all or nothing proposition.
First, we try to become too restrictive. “I won’t spend/eat anything that I shouldn’t.” When we inevitably fail, we abandon ship. “I spent too much/ate too much today, so I’ll try again next week/month/year.”

So how can we be successful with both budgets and diets?

Knowledge isn’t your problem

Many of us think that if we aren’t good at something, we need more knowledge. I’m so guilty of this! When I can’t (or think I can’t) do a certain move in a workout or I make a bad money decision, I go on google or buy a book and read

How Budgets are Like Diets and How to Succeed with Both!

more about it.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a big believer in having knowledge. We need knowledge to make informed decisions and change things that aren’t going well.

But budgets are simple. Spend X amount. Save Y amount and get to Z goal. Boom. That’s it. Okay, so there can be a bit more to it than that. But the concept is very simple.

Guess what? Diets are also simple. I weigh X amount. I want to weigh Y amount. I need to lose Z pounds. (I know there are a lot of letter variables there, but don’t let it scare you. It is actually simple!)

I find it irritating when budget or diet gurus act like we don’t know what we need to do. We have the knowledge. Something else is making us fail!

Motivation isn’t your problem

I recently watched a video my Mel Robbins where she claimed “motivation is garbage!” Wait, what? There is so much out there about motivation. Motivational quotes, movies, books, speeches. You name it and there is a way to make it motivational. And I love it all. Most of us do.

So, why does she (in her motivational speech) say that motivation is garbage? Because, she says, we are NEVER going to feel like doing the really hard things to change our lives. We focus our energy on the things that we are good at and keep doing those things.

What we need to do, Robbins says, is MAKE THE DECISION even when we aren’t motivated and keep making that decision each and every day.

Get out of your own head

“I tried to budget last month and I blew it.” “After my last diet, I gained all the weight back.” “What’s the point? I’m not going to be able to do it.”

STOP! Stop right there. We are so mean to ourselves. We beat ourselves up over the things that we think we can’t do.

If the answer is no, and I can almost guarantee you that it is, then you need to make a change!

In another post, I talk about changing your money script, but I truly believe that changing your script can change your life.

Have you ever seen a sports contest where a smaller, seemingly weaker man or woman beat their bigger, stronger opponent? Of course you have. We all have. I’d be willing to bet that the difference was between their ears.

With your budget or your diet (or both!), start being nicer to yourself. Believe in yourself. If you make a mistake, don’t throw the whole thing out the window and say, “I’m just not good with money.” Or, “I’m going to be out of shape forever.”

You are so much stronger than you think you are. I KNOW this for a fact. So, you have to fake it until you believe it. Tell yourself how awesome you are at managing money. Don’t roll your eyes when you say it! Say it out loud and say it enough that you begin to believe it.

Tell yourself that you are beautiful and fit and strong. Not that you will be. That you are. RIGHT NOW. Because you are. And the more that you believe it, the truer it will become.

Set BIG and small goals

In another post, I talk about the importance of setting big and scary goals. I think having big goals, I mean really big goals, is so important to pull us out of the I’m-not-sure-I-can-do-this mindset. If the goal is big enough, you can trick your mind into making it happen.

But a big and scary goal isn’t enough. You need to break that big and scary goal into smaller goals. I have a big and scary goal this year to get out of debt completely. We added onto our house last year and spent every penny (and more) to do so. I also still have some college loans to pay off.

But I sat down with my husband  last year and we decided together that in 2018 we were going to get out of debt. So we made our plan. And we broke it down into monthly goals and our monthly goals we broke down into weekly goals.

We evaluate how we are doing with our goals each week. When we need to make an adjustment because life happens, we do. Is it a little uncomfortable? Yes. Does it also feel amazing to have a plan and be on our way? You betcha!

Reward Yourself

Okay, so this is the most important part of the whole process. We talked about how budgets and diets aren’t about knowledge and they aren’t about motivation. And they definitely aren’t about you not being good enough.

It all comes down to believing in ourselves and tricking our minds. The best way that I have found to make this work is to build in rewards.

When I create my monthly goals, I automatically create a reward for when I reach that goal. For example, in January, my husband and I had a goal of paying off a certain amount on a loan that we had. When we hit that goal, our reward was a movie together as a family in our house.

I also had a January weight loss goal and when I hit that goal, my reward was a pedicure.

These rewards are so important because they help us to see our achievements and celebrate them. Don’t you dare say things like “I lost 10 pounds last month but I still have 40 pounds to go.”

NO! You are negating all the good that you have done. Reward yourself and celebrate your accomplishments.

One important note about rewards. If your goal is a weight loss goal, don’t let your reward be food-related. If your goal is a budgeting goal, don’t let your reward require spending money. We don’t want to create self-destructive rewards and backslide on all our hard work.

But there are so many rewards that we can have that involve spending time with the people we love (free!) or doing an activity that we enjoy to help us celebrate how amazing and capable we are.


  1. Erika Lancaster says

    I had never thought about the similarity between these topics, but it makes total sense! Both require self-control, determination and those rewards DO help a lot! People fail to realize how far they’ve come!

1 thought on “How Budgets are Like Diets & How to Succeed with Both”

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