Ah... New Year's Day. Resolutions abound, and chief among them are health and finances. These seem like completely separate topics, but, in fact, they have a lot more in common than you might think. For example, your choice of diet may say a lot about how you should be managing your finances.
The boundaries-based diets
What do paleo and vegetarianism have in common? You might think of them as being from different planets, but both diets are based on the notion of boundaries. This makes life easier for the dieter because the "rules" are clear and understandable. You do eat certain foods, and you don't eat others. It's as simple as that.
It's a method of eating that works really well for people who don't do moderation (hello!). Knowing that certain foods are off-limits can make it a lot easier to feed yourself because you never have the stress of trying to decide whether to eat something or not. You just don't.
If you like boundaries like these for your food, you might like them for money management, too. Some people benefit from limitations on, for example, spending. "I don't eat out during the week," or "I don't buy popcorn at the movies," are examples of boundaries.
If you need to cut some spending, consider making particular items off-limits. This could free up your mind to focus on the spending you are willing and able to keep moderate, while eliminating the stress of decision making everywhere else.
The plates-based diets
Diets like the Zone and the U.S. FDA "My Plate" are based around the concept of ratios. Your plate is supposed to have specified percentages of the major macronutrients, like carbs, protein, etc. Based on those limits, you can decide how you want to fill your plate pretty freely. It works really well if you don't like the idea of abstaining from something altogether, or if you find it fun or easier to moderate your eating into your given categories.
You can do the exact same thing with your budgeting. The big categories most people spend money on are their fixed costs (rent or mortgage, cell phone bill, car payment, etc.), their variable but necessary costs (groceries, transportation, and the like), and their discretionary expenses (going out to eat or buying clothes).
How does the plate-based diet translate to your financial planning? If you have a financial plate appropriately balanced among the essentials -- with some room for sweets -- you can have the freedom to allocate your money as you see fit within categories, while still providing some structure.
If you're doing the Zone diet, think about how you'd want your financial plate to look. This could be, for example, 50% of net income to fixed costs, 25% to variable costs, and 25% to discretionary spending. Of course, don't forget to set aside savings first!
It's a financial diet that gives you the peace of mind of limits, and is fantastic if you're inclined to enjoy measurement and tracking.
The concepts-based diets
Eating plans like the Mediterranean diet are based around concepts. In this case, eat like an Italian. (I'm obviously simplifying, but you get the idea.)
You might be attracted to this way of eating because it's not focused on strict rules or measurements, but rather on a general philosophy that can drive your decisions. It lets you decide for yourself how a given food fits in with your overall plan, and gives you the freedom to pick and choose what's right for you.
To apply the diet to your financial life, you might consider putting together an overall spending philosophy. Do you want to live simply with an emphasis on spending extra on your kids' activities and healthy foods? Or perhaps you want to organize your financial life with a focus on savings. You can decide your overall philosophy, and then compare your individual expenditures to that ideal.
Whatever your diet plan for the new year, see how it works for you and whether it might apply to your financial life, as well. If one strategy doesn't suit you, there's definitely another out there that will. Find the right style for you, and you'll be sure to find success.
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