Budgeting vs. Dieting

Since I have fewer dollars to spend (mindlessly) thanks to this pesky unemployment thing, I’ve been trying to focus on my health. Actually, that sounds so ambitious. Honestly, I wasn’t really that focused, but after a recent physical where both the cholesterol and the number on the scale are higher than they should be, I begged the doc, “GIVE ME THE MEDS!!!”

And you know how the doc replied? “You don’t have a cholesterol problem…you have a diet and exercise problem.” I know that. I don’t like to diet and I don’t like to exercise. Thus my “GIVE ME THE MEDS!” plea.

You know how exercise is always the first thing you can’t seem to find time for in your life? Well, for the last seven months, I’ve had plenty of time in my life and still too many excuses. Diet? Puh-lease. Being at home means I have more time to cook, and I love to cook. And bake cookies. And try new recipes. Did I mention the baking?

I’ve been reading about the Whole30 diet. Give up sugar and carbs for just 30 days. No pasta for 30 whole days?! I have trouble surviving a week.

A few weeks ago, I was back at Weight Watchers as the lifetime member with her head hung low. WW is the only thing that has ever worked for me, because it involves counting and tracking, and well, I love crunching numbers. Just like with my budget.

In YNAB, I have a fixed amount money in my possession, and each dollar is assigned to a job…groceries, insurance, savings, whatever. In Weight Watchers, I have so many points in my possession, and each point is assigned a job…breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks. I start each day by thinking about what I’m having for dinner. Yep, it’s the meal that’s farthest out, but it’s the one I cherish the most…the one where I cook a nice meal and we eat together as a family.  We do this SEVEN TIMES A WEEK…almost no exceptions. Well, except for the one child who is away at college now. It’s just what we do as a family.

I start each day by budgeting my points for dinner. Oh, we’re having pasta? That’s 6 points per cup and a little for the sauce, unless there are meatballs. If I eat two cups, that’s 12-15 points “spent” for the day. I have fewer points left for the rest of the day.

Just like budgeting in YNAB…I don’t count the money that is coming to me in the next paycheck, I count only the fixed amount of money that I have NOW. I need $700 for groceries this month, $200 for utilities, etc. Some of the money goes to bigger jobs…I mean, I might have another $5k in the bank, but that has is assigned to a job for (think, “is earmarked for…”) my next vacation, or my next vehicle, or perhaps it’s split between the two. Every dollar has a job in my budgeting, just as every point has a meal job in my day.

Weight watchers even has weekly points…for those times when you need a little extra. Maybe it’s a party. Maybe you’re going out for a special dinner. Maybe I just baked something else. What about budgeting? No one is going to toss me any extra money when I need it, right?

Technically, that’s correct. But you can roll with the punches. In the YNAB world, we call this playing Whack-A-Mole. (Remember that old game show where a fake mole popped out of a whole and you had to whack it with a foam club? And then the mole would suddenly pop out of another mole? You don’t remember it?)

When you have an unexpected expense, you whack it by transferring money that was assigned to some other job. Maybe you spent $50 on a dress you weren’t planning to buy, so now you must find that $50 elsewhere in your budget.

And if you need more weekly “points” in your budget, maybe you have an emergency fund, although I wouldn’t use my emergency fund to buy an unexpected $50 dress. The emergency fund is only there in case I lose my income, ideally. I have only dipped into mine once in seven years, for something that was NOT EVEN CLOSE to being an emergency. I’ll tell you that story later…I’m off to eat my breakfast points, having already budgeted 15 points for my dinner (stuffed pepper with rice and beans).

I might have a diet and exercise problem, but I don’t have much of a saving and spending problem. Just an earning problem right now.


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