Question: I keep trying to figure a budgeting system that will work for me. But I keep failing. Do you have a favorite app to recommend?
Answer: Do you have areas of your life in which you are constantly hitting the reset button?
You could pull out the list of New Year’s resolutions for 2016 and they would read the same as the ones for 2017 and 2018. Eat less, exercise more, watch less TV, sleep more, read more, learn a language (overachiever), etc, etc.
For me, it’s food. I’m always in search of the perfect diet. People are surprised when I tell them I’ve lost 100 pounds over last ten years. Actually, I’ve gained and lost the same ten pounds, but that’s 100 pounds over 10 years, isn’t it?
Have you seen all the apps you can get for your phone that count “macros”? If you know the waitress at the fried fish shack or the guy behind the counter at KFC on a first name basis, you probably don’t know what a macro is. No, it’s not short for macaroni.
These apps all help you count the amount of protein, carbohydrates and fats you eat during a day (macro-nutrients, they call them, or macros). Supposedly if you can get the magic combination of these things down just right, the fat will literally fall your body and abs appear out of nowhere (at least that’s the way I remember it).
I’ve started using these apps with a vengeance. I hate them. First, recording every bite of food you eat is…well, it just gets old fast.
Then, about the third day of my macro-counting app habit, an alert will pop up during lunchtime… “You have exceeded your sugar and fat macros for the day!” At first, the alert frustrated me, but I found that submerging my phone in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey made the alert go away. And so would the app.
So when I started whining to my dietician wife about how poorly I’d been eating lately and how I needed to make some changes, I could feel the “app urge” creeping back up.
But then she surprised me with her suggestion.
“Drink water. Three liters a day.” (For you non-Europeans, that’s about four-fifths of a gallon. So why didn’t she just say a gallon?)
“That’s it? Drink water?” I asked, dreaming about having a liter of water with my cream cheese Danish.
“No, that’s not it. But you’ve got to start somewhere and drinking water is the healthiest place to start.”
So I did. And I have.
Aside from the immediate biological consequences of a significant intake of water into one’s system (which may not be mentionable in a family-oriented column), water also takes up a lot of room in your stomach. Which keeps you from feeling so hungry. Not to mention that time running to the bathroom is time you can’t go to the bakery to get a Danish.
So my water – dieting – eating journey made me think about budgeting (yes, I am strange in that way).
Most people hate budgeting for the same reason I hate counting macros. Eventually, you just get tired of fiddling with all the details and in a moment of frustration, you fall back into old habits.
So what is the “drinking water” equivalent for budgeting?
Separate checking accounts.
I’ll tell you how that works next week.