Dollars, Cents, and Calories
Happy Tax Day! Hopefully, you’re not in a mad rush to finalize your annual return (and if you are – luckily, the IRS has given you an extra three days this year). In honor of the deadline that drives us all crazy, today we look at successful strategies for taking control of your personal finances. You might be surprised to find that counting your dollars and cents works just like counting your calories.
Realizing a Dream
One of the first questions people ask Heather and me when they find out we’re traveling around the world is “How do you afford it?” Believe it or not, you don’t need to win the lottery or have a trust fund to take a trip like this. Instead, you simply need to set tight budgets, trim unnecessary expenditures, and diligently track all purchases. With a modest amount of money saved, you can support yourself for a long time traveling in many parts of the world, such as Latin
America or Southeast Asia.
The same process we used to take control of our finances and realize the trip of a lifetime can also be used by anyone saving towards a long-term goal such as college, a house, or retirement. The key is to track the way you spend your money the same way you track how you “spend” your calories.
Setting a Budget
When you first signed up for an account here at Calorie Count, we asked you a few questions about your body and weight-loss goals, like your height, weight, and age, in order to determine your daily calorie target. Similarly, you should examine your existing income and expenditures to determine a daily budget. Just as you aim not to exceed your daily calorie limit, you should aim not to spend more than your daily spending limit.
It might be tempting to ignore your daily financial transactions and only glance at monthly statements from your bank and credit card. However, if you really want to understand and control your expenditures, you need to log every single penny spent. This can be done using a simple spreadsheet, with categories set up to track regular expenses like food, transportation, housing, and entertainment. In addition, mobile phone applications such as Financisto for Android or iXpenseIt for iOS, can be used to record transactions as they happen.
The simple act of logging your expenses will instantly make you more aware of how you spend your money. To get an even better idea, regularly check your average daily spending and compare it against the budget you originally set. If you are continuously busting this target, look through your spending by category to determine if there are expenses you can eliminate. You might be surprised to find that infrequent large expenditures only add a small amount to your long-term averages, whereas regular smaller purchases can really add up!
Saving money, like losing weight, can seem like a daunting and impossible task. However, once you start thoroughly tracking and analyzing the units of measure behind each – dollars, cents, or calories – achieving these goals becomes tangible and attainable.
Have you tried logging your expenses?
Calorie Count co-founder Erik Fantasia and his fiancée, Heather Curtis, are currently traveling through South America as part of a trip around the world. You can follow their adventures online with Facebook and their blog.