If you ask people what their dreams are, I doubt anyone will say they aspire to be fat and broke. And yet, statistically, that seems to be the new standard for most Americans.*
Common sense tells me that none of us (or at least not many) actually have a goal to get fat and go broke. So what happened?
How Did We Get Here?
While I’m sure there are many factors that contribute to our weight and finance problems, I’m going to point the finger at the culprit I feel has been my boogieman: convenience.
Pretty much every bad financial and health decision I’ve ever made has been done so based on its perceived convenience.
All the fast or processed foods and random gadgets have been justified because they make my life easier right now. The fact that those decisions have negative consequences in the future is irrelevant if I’m only thinking about the next 15 minutes, not 15 months.
Impatience and lack of defined goals led me to create all sorts of bad habits that in turn led me down the path to fat and broke.
The Key to Breaking Unwanted Habits and Forming Good Ones
Every self-help advice I’ve heard or read always says, the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one. Well, the numbers on my scale and in my budget made it pretty obvious I had a problem. My next step was figuring out that convenience was my trigger. Then, the hard part: how do I break that habit. How do I stop myself from caving into the convenience of the drive-thru when it’s just so much easier?
Well, for me, habit formation is really just about clarifying your priorities. You have to recognize and embrace your priorities first, then establish the habits that match them. If you know your “why” (the purpose behind whatever habit you’re trying to form or break) you’ll have a sort of lighthouse to help guide your way.
My “why” is my son. I often prioritized convenience over health or financial security because I was just thinking about my immediate desires, but I don’t really value it more. What I value is my son and our relationship, and the messages I convey to him through my actions. I don’t want to be a hypocritical, “do as I say, not as I do” mom. I want to be a good role model and demonstrate by doing.
A Little Planning Goes a Long Way
Identifying why you want to change your behavior doesn’t make it easy, but it does make it easier. I still feel drawn to the convenience of fast food, but by prioritizing our health and finances, I’ve been able to embrace new habits and routines that help minimize those impulses.
Meal planning has been a giant help in avoiding the convenience trap. I’ve been using Plan To Eat to store my recipes, plan my menu, and make my grocery list. Knowing not only what I’m cooking, but factoring in our schedules to know what day I need to plan for leftovers and pre-planning our dining out nights has led to a much more relaxed approach to dinner time and I rarely feel the need to swing through the drive-thru anymore.
I’m not a fan of cooking in general, but Little GoFromBroke has decided he wants to be a chef so that’s also been keeping me motivated. The kitchen has been transformed from a place of reluctant necessity to one of excitement and experimentation. While the results are not always the most palatable, the experience has been amazing.
When I decided to stare down my boogieman, I realized I could target both our health and financial goals by addressing my addiction to convenience. I still struggle when I’m stressed or I’ve failed to plan, but over the past several months I’ve managed to reduce our dining out and grocery expenses significantly (by at least $500 a month) and my husband and I have both lost over 20 pounds (in the spirit of full disclosure, this fluctuates depending on the amount of sugar we let in the house).
I don’t know if convenience is your boogieman, but I hope sharing my challenge will help you at least identify yours.
If you’re struggling with making or breaking habits, check out the book Mini Habits by Stephen Guise. It outlines a great way to get started with any habit.
I also used the Best Self Journal and 13-Week Wall Roadmap to help me along my journey as well. I don’t use the journal anymore (I prefer my Bullet Journal) but I do use the Roadmap, and Little GFB has started one as well. Any calendar will do to keep you motivated, but these fit nicely in my line of sight to always keep me accountable.
*In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 65.7% of American adults were overweight. And according to NerdWallet’s American Household Credit Card Debt Statistics, the average debt in 2017 was $133,568.17 per household.