Money and food. Overspending and overeating. It’s a complicated relationship. Researchers have found that people who have a spending problem are more likely to overeat, too. Do you have one or both of these problems? Just one of them is a difficult obstacle already. Having two of these problems at the same time can really derail your life. Today, I’ll share how to avoid overspending and overeating. One of these is easier for me, but the other one has been a struggle. Check out my story and see if it can help you.
Okay, I confess. I never had much issue with overspending. Being frugal is my forte when it comes to money. The number one rule in personal finance is to spend less than you make. I’ve always been able to do that, easily. Even when I was making a great income, I rarely overspent. Once I discovered financial independence, I tightened up even more and now we live a relatively modest lifestyle.
This isn’t the case for most regular people. I just met a new friend at the school bus stop and she isn’t like this at all. The other day, she complained that she always spends money when she’s out and about. She’d go for a walk with the kids and buy coffee, cookies, or whatever strikes her fancy. Like most Americans, her modus operandi is to spend. If they see something they like and they have money, they’ll spend without thinking twice about it. This is okay as long as you have a good income, but it’s hard to save when you spend like this.
Reset your default switch
For me, it’s different. My instinct is always don’t spend. This applies to everything. If I see Starbucks while I’m on a walk, I just ignore them. Now, it’s a habit and I rarely spend impulsively. Even if I need something, I take my time and rarely make the purchase right away.
Here are some strategies I use to avoid spending. They are really helpful.
- Delay spending. My best trick is to delay. Put off spending for a few days so you can think about it. Most of the time, I find that I don’t need this particular item after all. I put stuff in my Amazon cart all the time without completing the purchase. Right now, I have a junior size basketball, cold packs, melatonin tablets, a kid’s bike, a skateboard, an energy saving power switch, a carbon steel pan, a Nakiri knife, and an office chair. All these things would be neat to have, but I don’t need them right away. I may order them at some point, but they can stay in the “Saved for later” cart for now. The Matfer Bourgeat pan would be awesome in the kitchen, though. Maybe I’ll ask Mrs. RB40 to get me that one for Christmas.
- Read the reviews. This is another delaying tactic. When I buy something, I want the best deal possible. That means reading reviews and doing some research. This works best on big ticket items like a car. If you’re not in a hurry, you can spend months researching a vehicle. Lots of time, you’ll find it’s better to stick with the old vehicle instead of buying a new car for no good reason. I use this tactic for cheaper things, too. If you’re not too busy, it’s a good way to avoid spending. However, if you don’t have much free time, I wouldn’t worry about saving a small amount of money.
- Shop for a better deal. Why not shop around? The internet makes this a lot simpler today. Before buying something from Amazon, compare the price on Walmart. Don’t forget to check Craigslist, Facebook, and other sites if it’s an item that can be purchased used.
- Borrow it. This works well for tools and other specialized equipment. Why buy it if you’ll only use it once? Check with your friends and neighbors to see if you can borrow that torque wrench instead of buying a new one. Oh, the library is an incredible resource for entertainment. We have over 50 books, DVDs, and CDs checked out right now. I have no interest in these having my own copies after viewing them once. There is no need to buy anything you can borrow from the library.
- Avoid shopping areas. My new friend at the bus stop probably could use this strategy. If she goes for a walk in areas without a coffee shop, then she wouldn’t crave it. Of course, that’s pretty much impossible in Portland. There is a coffee shop on almost every block here…
- Keep busy with other stuff. This last one is really good. You’ve got to stay busy so you don’t have a lot of free time on your hands. I’m super busy being a stay-at-home dad, husband, chef, blogger, landlord, investor, caretaker for my mom, and more. I don’t have much time to spend money. Idle hands and all that…
I’m not sure why being frugal came naturally for me. Maybe it’s because we didn’t have much money when I was young. My parents rarely purchased anything frivolous and the frugal spending habit stuck. Hopefully, my tips above will help those of you who aren’t naturally frugal. I know it’s hard to change your spending habits, but it isn’t impossible. You just have to find the right way to make that mental switch.
Okay, enough about something I’m good at. Now, let’s talk about eating habits and how I turned it around. That one was much tougher for me.
Being frugal is easy for me, but I’m not so good at weight management. While I’ve never been obese, I have gained a few pounds since I graduated from college. Haven’t we all? I weighed 128 pounds when I was in college. This year it hit 142 pounds. It’s been a gradual increase, but my BMI is nearing the top of the “normal” range now. I’m 5’4. If I don’t change something, I’ll end up in the “overweight” category in just a few years. I’m relatively healthy for my age (45), but I want to be leaner again. Many health issues come with being overweight.
The established way to lose weight is to diet and exercise. However, dieting never worked for me. We’re too set in our ways and we like eating too much. In the past, I’d diet for a few weeks (at best) and then snap back into my old eating habit. Dieting just doesn’t work unless you can stick with it forever. If you diet until you reach your weight loss goal and stop, the weight will come back. You have to change your eating habit completely.
From my research, the best diet is to go whole hog vegetarian. (I couldn’t resist the pun…) Eating a whole food, plant-based diet will improve your health and help you lose weight. That’s great, but our family is omnivorous. We are not willing to change our eating habit that much. We’re cooking more plant-based meals now, but we still love hamburgers and pizzas. I also cook a lot of Asian food. Those dishes usually involve rice and noodles. Those are refined grains which aren’t great for your body.
Whole Food, Plant-Based Diet
Here are the basics of the whole food, plant-based diet.
- Eat whole plants such as legumes, grains, nuts, and fruits.
- Avoid animal products such as meat, fish, and dairy.
- Avoid processed and artificial food.
- Avoid added fat and sugars.
The Mediterranean diet seems like a better compromise for regular people. You can have some meat, fish, and dairy.
Our current diet
Currently, we are trying to eat fruits and vegetables more often. However, we still enjoy our burgers and pizzas. We’ll keep working on it.
Not too bad for your body
Spicy Thai shrimp salad and sushi hand rolls
Delicious food, but not very healthy
Enchiladas (made from scratch by Mrs. RB40!), burger and tots, pizza, and ground beef curry.
Exercise is also a big part of maintaining a healthy weight. It’s not easy to be active because 80% of jobs in the US are sedentary or require only light activities. Most of us aren’t physically active enough. When I was working full-time, I went to the gym 3-4 times per week. But that’s not enough. You have to be physically active throughout the day, too.
Now that I’m a stay-at-home dad/blogger, I spend a lot more time out of my chair. I’m up and about much more often than when I was an engineer. Having a young child really helps with that. Yesterday, I took our son to his soccer game at 2 pm and we didn’t get back until 5 pm. That’s 3 hours of running around. It was great.
The CDC recommends at least 150 minutes of physical activity every week. That’s really not a lot. If you don’t meet this guideline, you need to make a lifestyle change. I’m doing okay here so we need to focus on our diet.
I found my mental switch – Intermittent Fasting
We are trying to eat healthier, but it’s a slow process. Our son hates vegetarian meals so I have to make food that he’ll eat, too. Hopefully, we’ll move to mostly whole-food, plant based diet at some point, but it won’t be any time soon. I need to try something else if I want to stop gaining weight.
A few months ago, I read about intermittent fasting and I thought I’ll give it a try. Basically, you can only eat in an 8 hour window on fasting days. You avoid eating the rest of the time. This sounds a lot harder than it is. However, if you’ve ever fasted for a blood test, then you can do this. It’s pretty easy once you get used to it. Here is what I do.
- Skip breakfast and drink coffee in the morning
- Have another coffee and exercise
- Eat lunch (noon) and dinner (6 or 7 pm) normally
- Avoid snacking after dinner
That’s it. I followed this eating schedule 5 days per week for almost 2 months now and I’m positive I can keep it up. I don’t have to change my diet and I still eat the food I like. We are eating more vegetarian meals so that helped, too. My weight dropped from 142 pounds to
134 132 pounds. That’s the most weight I’ve lost and I feel awesome. My goal is to get back to my college weight, 128 pounds. It’ll be really nice to be skinny again.
There are other methods to do intermittent fasting, but this 16/8 method is the simplest one. In addition to losing weight, intermittent fasting may help protect you from diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and dementia. We still need more research, but the benefits look good.
A little help from my friend
Before starting intermittent fasting, I wasn’t sure if I could stick with it. Could I really fast for 16 hours every day? It’s intimidating to make a big change like that. However, I had a little help from my friend. Martin Dasko from Studenomics just finished his fasting course. It’s really helpful. Martin will help you get started with fasting and simplify your exercise program. Check out his course if you’re trying to get leaner.
See Martin Dasko’s Fasting Course. He calls it – What’s for dinner? How you can get jacked by fasting.
It turns out that intermittent fasting isn’t that difficult for me. That first week was a little tough but it became easy after I got used to the routine. I don’t mind drinking coffee instead of having breakfast. It works well on the weekday because I have to rush RB40Jr off to school. I don’t have time to enjoy a nice leisurely breakfast anyway. On the weekend, we sit down to have a nice breakfast together. It’s a much better experience than on the weekdays.
Snacking is a problem for lots of people, including me. I used to snack at night pretty often. I stay up to work on my blog and I’d be a little hungry by 11 pm. Intermittent fasting makes a huge difference for me with snacking. Now, I need to avoid eating to stay in the fasting state so I don’t have a late night snack. It’s a huge mental switch. I’m not sure why it works, but it does for me. I guess previously, there was nothing to stop me from snacking late at night.
For those of you who really can’t avoid snacking, you need to buy good snacks. Previously, we had mostly junk food like chips and crackers in the pantry. Since I started intermittent fasting, I purchased healthy snacks like nuts, trail mixes, hummus, and dark chocolate. Healthy snacks are a lot more expensive than junk food, but your body is worth it.
Check with your doctor
Check with your doctor before starting intermittent fasting. It might not work for you.
Overspending and Overeating
That’s how I avoid overspending and overeating. One came naturally to me and the other I struggled with. Now I feel like I’m in a groove and can handle both things. It’s a great spot to be.
How about you? Have you struggled with overspending or overeating? Have you conquered these issues? Please share your experience with us.
Photo by Tristan Gassert
Disclosure: We may receive a referral fee if you sign up with a service through the links on this page.