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Feb 172013
 February 17, 2013  Posted by  Budgeting and Organization, Hot Deals, Money
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Why reinvent the wheel? Winning strategies from one area of your life can often work in another. That’s why effective communication aids all sorts of relationships, and efficiency tips for quick cleaning also work for other tasks. Spend and save wisely with these eight proven techniques borrowed from diet and exercise programs.

Keep a diary. Keeping a food diary aids weight loss. Tracking every penny spent can help you trim your budget. Just as we may not realize how many handfuls of peanuts we mindlessly grab on the go, we may not be aware of how much those little extra purchases add up. Keeping a journal for a month or more lets you see where impulse buys ensnare you, or can clue you in to your most vulnerable times. Do you order an extra drink or dessert when you lunch with friends? Are those weekend outings that keep you close to a relative also prime time for shopping and spending?  Writing down all your expenditures can seem tedious, but as the saying goes, knowledge is power. Get empowered with full awareness then plug up the budget breakers and stop the financial bleeding.

Be accountable. Studies have shown that accountability works. Make a simple budget and tell a friend to ask you about your spending. Better yet, find a buddy who also wants to curb spending then help each other succeed.

Be your own personal trainer.   Personal trainers do help people stay on track, but you can be your own coach. With money saved by keeping a budget, will you enjoy a summer vacation, a remodeled kitchen, or some other goal? Maybe you will give more to your church, help an adult child get a better car, or take an aged relative to dinner once a month. Whatever your intent, visualize the experience. Imagining how great you will feel when you achieve your dreams keeps you positively focused. A good salesperson can make almost anything sound necessary. You can play the opposing role. Successful dieters learn to talk themselves out of a second helping. They weigh a few seconds of eating pleasure against how comfortable they will feel in a swimsuit or that little black dress. Likewise, talk yourself off the spending cliff. Do you really need that new blouse? A similar one in your closet still has some wear. Is buying this item now worth forfeiting the goals you’ve set for your money?

Plan ahead. Eating an apple before attending a party helps you avoid buffet table blunders. Similarly, plan ahead when it comes to spending trips. Keep easy-to-prepare food on hand to make and take your lunch to work, which is less expensive than eating out. Before a trip to the casino with friends, make decisions on how much money you’ll spend at the slots, then put that cash aside and leave your cards at home. Heading to the county fair? Go on discount days and stick to a budget  you’ve decided on ahead. If you’re taking children, designate a dollar amount for each to spend.

Don’t deprive yourself.  When dieters skip regular meals, they’re often ravenous later and binge. Learn to listen to yourself. If bringing your lunch leaves you lonely for the office crowd, compromise and join buddies at the restaurant once or twice a week or month, depending on what you can comfortably afford. Or get your work buddies in on the money savings and plan some brown bag lunch parties. If fashion is truly your thing, add clothes to your budget and don’t overspend.

Follow good examples. While spending money these days may be as close as the computer, we also have an abundance of good examples at our fingertips. Television shows such as Till Debt do Us Part and The Suze Orman Show entertain while teaching money management. Most of us would agree that watching food shows can stimulate the appetite. Spending time with people who’d rather take the elevator than the stairs can influence behavior. When it comes to money, who positively or negatively influences you?

Make wise spending a lifestyle. Using your money wisely is a little like maintaining fitness. You can’t exercise to excess for a month then go back to couch potato status and expect to stay fit. Likewise, becoming a penny-pinching miser for a month then going back to loose habits won’t keep you on budget and won’t get you to your goals.

Don’t wait. It’s common for people to tell themselves they’ll eat this candy, cake, or extra helping today then start their diet tomorrow. Too often though, tomorrow never comes. Applied to your finances, using credit cards is comparable. If you can’t afford to pay for something today, save up for it rather than buying on credit. Plastic cards don’t feel the same as money spent, and if you put off paying, you may end up with interest that obliterates any sales savings.

Maintain financial fitness. Break the chains of debt and worry. Stick to a simple budget plan and you can be financially fit.

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Sheri McGregor

Sheri McGregor is grateful for the freedom of expression she enjoys as a writer. Lately, she's settled into writing about what most interests her: psychology, business, people, and nature for nonprofits, magazines, and at her joyful living and homesteading blog: Balance and Joy. As a native San Diegan, she also publishes San Diego Hikes, the subject of her three latest books, 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: San Diego, Day & Overnight Hikes: Anza Borrego Desert State Park, and Easy Hikes Close to Home: San Diego. As a mother of five, Sheri learned from necessity how to live well for less, and calls this smart lifestyle "the new swank."

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