by Jessica Smith
Save money, slim down. Win-win!It's a multitasker's dream scenario. But can saving cash really help shrink your waistline? Yes, according to behavioral psychologist Matt Wallaert. "Eating and spending are very similar behavioral processes in that they both are about the competition between our desires and the consequences," he says. "Psychologists often look at the lessons learned in one domain to apply them to others."
So why not kill two birds with one stone? These expert financial tips work for fattening up your wallet and slimming down your waistline. Ka-ching, ka-ching!
1. Put the break on splurge spirals: "One of the key findings with both spending and eating is that when people "break" their diet or budget, they tend to go big, figuring that they'll just start over tomorrow because it is broken for today," Wallaert says. Case in point: One study found that dieters who ate a single Hershey's Kiss in the morning overate for the rest of the day, saying they had already "failed" on their diet. Don't throw away good money after bad, Wallaert warns. "If you overspend, or overeat, each additional dollar or calories is just making things worse."
Take action: Next time you experience a moment of weakness, don't let it derail you completely. Instead of giving in to an all-out shopping (or eating) spree, find a way to change gears. Put down the cookie (or those Louboutin heels) and go for a walk outside to refocus on your goals and avoid falling into a downward splurge spiral.
2. Control your environment: You can't buy what you don't shop for, so why tempt your willpower by spending time at the mall? While you may not be able to avoid all restaurants or stores, you can make little adjustments to your daily routine to help cut back on excess calories and spending. One study found that just moving a bowl of candy from your desk to a shelf across the room can dramatically decrease your daily intake. "Controlling your environment is critical in controlling your behavior, and we often forget just how important small changes can be," Wallaert says.
Take action: Pinpoint a few of your trigger locations (or foods) for excess spending or overeating and avoid them. It's straightforward, but it works! Have a friend that loves meeting for dinner at the Cheesecake Factory? Invite her over to try a new healthy recipe. You'll save calories and cash!
3. Stick to your budget: While tracking your spending is a good idea, if you really want to get serious about saving both money and calories, create a budget. And when it comes to staying on task, cash is king.
"Take a stack of envelopes and mark them for items you need/want to purchase-groceries, gas, entertainment, and utilities. Put an established amount of cash in each envelope and once it's gone, it's gone. This will make you find a way to budget and make things work," says Amanda Gift, managing principal and vice president at Signature, a multi-family wealth management firm.
Sticking with cash can also help you make healthier choices at the grocery store. One 2010 study from Cornell found that people who paid for their purchases with credit cards were more likely to impulsively buy unhealthy items like ice cream and chips.
The same goes for calories. Getting specific about your weight-loss goal can help you determine your weekly calorie limit. Plan ahead for extra "spending" if a special event is coming up by cutting back on alternate days.
Take action: Once you've determined your monthly budget, spend some time on a Sunday to plan out healthy meals for the upcoming week to stay within your financial and calorie budget. (And when it's time to hit the grocery store, bring only cash!)
4. Set up a double rewards system: One of the best ways to stay on track with your weight loss and savings goals? Regularly reward yourself for your efforts. "Choose a credit card that offers healthy ways to redeem points," Heckathorn suggests. "Have you always dreamed of enjoying an "exercise vacation" at a health spa where you do yoga twice a day? Choose the credit card, manage it responsibly, and you could make it happen for free."
Take action: Look for a credit card that offers you rewards you'll actually want to use, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. New cardholders can currently earn a sign-up bonus of 40,000 points after spending $3,000 during the first three months. That translates to $500 in free travel (a Bikini boot camp, perhaps?).
5. Begin with the end in mind: "Whether it's deciding how much weight you want to lose or how much money you need to save, it helps a great deal to know where you want to end up," says Jonathan DeYoe, a financial planner and owner of DeYoe Wealth Management. Once you know exactly where you want to go, you can create a specific step-by-step action plan to get there. For example, if you want to lose 15 pounds before your wedding in 10 months, you'll need to lose about 1.5 pounds per month. If you want to take a $3,000 vacation one year from now, you'll need to save $250 a month. Knowing where you're going also helps you track your progress, DeYoe says.
Take action: Take a look at your specific end goal and deadline, and then do the math. Calculate exactly how much money or weight you'll need to save or shed on a monthly basis to help keep yourself accountable during the process.
Save money, lose weight! Find more money-saving tips and tricks here.