Please enjoy this guest post from personalfinanceutopia.com.  Jeff, also known as Mr. Utopia in the blogosphere, is a senior financial analyst at a Fortune 50 company. A devoted husband and father, Jeff uses his “free” time to run Personal Finance Utopia where he chronicles his family’s journey to get their personal finances to an ideal place.

Scenario 1: You hop out of the shower and as you’re toweling off you catch a glimpse of yourself  and your spare tire in the mirror. You shake your head in dismay and vow, “that’s it, I’ve let myself go for far too long and I’ve had enough. I’m going on a diet.”

Scenario 2: The monthly bills are due.   As you tally everything up, you realize this month’s expected surplus is nonexistent. Yep, you overspent again. Rubbing your forehead and sighing, you exclaim “that’s it; I’ve let my spending get out of control for far too long. I’m never going to reach my financial goals. I’ve got to start really saving.”

How are these scenarios related? If your guess is the person in the scenarios is overweight because he or she overspent on donuts and cake then you might be partially correct! The real connection between them, however, is that how you approach your savings is very similar to how you diet.

You Have to Want It

  • Savings – If you are fine with spending frivolously, then you’ll never make any changes. Only by making a conscious decision to tighten your budget will you be able to take the necessary actions to start saving. Consciously deciding isn’t quite enough though. You need a deep down drive to truly adhere to any savings aspirations. Otherwise, it’s all too easy to veer off the path.
  • Diet – Before you embark on any diet, you must have the desire to slim down. If you don’t really want to become healthier, then you most certainly won’t take the steps to clean up your diet. Let’s face it, putting junk food in your body is much easier because it’s so convenient. Driving to McDonald’s or opening a bag of Doritos requires virtually no effort compared to preparing a healthy salad. Without passion, your diet is doomed before you even start.

Planning Ahead

  • Savings – To truly achieve your savings goal, you’ll have to plan ahead. For most people, this equates to building a budget. Planning ahead also includes contributions to an emergency fund or to a retirement account. No matter where the emphasis of your savings target lies, you’ll need to allocate time and effort to plan accordingly. With a solid course of action, you’ll set yourself up for long term sustainability.
  • Diet – If you are trying to break bad eating habits, then coordinating your meal plans is important. If you don’t adequately prepare ahead of time, you increase the chances of getting lazy at the last second and indulging. Instead, you’ve got to make sure your refrigerator and cabinets are stocked with nutritious options. Planning healthy meals out in advance and buying the ingredients beforehand helps to stay on track. By doing so, you commit ahead of time.

You must be dedicated

  • Savings – You can be the most diligent saver in the world for a long duration of time.  However, it only takes a moment of weakness or two to erase your savings efforts. Let’s say you’ve been sticking to your budget for a few months, but one particular day has been rough and you console yourself by buying that expensive brand name purse you’ve had your eye on for a while. Or maybe you find out your favorite musician is coming to town and you can’t resist shelling out hundreds of dollars for concert tickets. Just a few slip ups are all it takes.
  • Diet – Moments of weakness are all too real when it comes to a diet. How often have you stuck to your guns only to end up caving in to temptation and consuming those cookies or stuffing your face with pizza? Don’t get me wrong, 100% compliance with a diet is generally a way to fail. In other words, there is nothing wrong with having a “cheat” meal along the way. But many of us have the “cheat” meal and still succumb to other treats. Discipline is required to stay on track with a diet. Otherwise, you likely won’t reach your ideal body weight goal.

Others Around You

  • Savings – Social activities can impact your savings efforts. Left to yourself, saving is much easier. If your friends have a penchant for spending freely, then socializing with them could easily derail your savings goals. Face it, it’s much easier to succumb to their lavish ways when hanging out than for you to convince them to rein things in a bit. If it’s a good friend, then perhaps they’ll understand and the spending differences won’t cause a problem. However, you’ll still need to be diligent and constantly aware when social situations arise that could zap your bank account.
  • Diet – Despite your best intentions, social pressures can derail your diet in a heartbeat. One of the easiest ways for this to happen is at work. In many offices, co-workers constantly bring in cookies, cupcakes, etc. and leave them sitting there available to all. Or perhaps everyone is going out to Friday happy hour after a tough week of work. A drink or two and the next thing you know everyone is ordering burgers and fries – including you!  Overcoming these types of temptations is necessary though if you are going to accomplish your diet goals.

Conclusion

The desire, planning, dedication, and social skills needed to stick to a diet can be translated to how you address your savings efforts. Since you’re now aware of this overlap, you can create synergies in order to become a lean, mean, savings machine!

What do you think of the similarities between saving and dieting? What’s more difficult for you to accomplish?

Jeff, also known as Mr. Utopia in the blogosphere, is a senior financial analyst at a Fortune 50 company. A devoted husband and father, Jeff uses his “free” time to run Personal Finance Utopia where he chronicles his family’s journey to get their personal finances to an ideal place.