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Why losing debt is like dieting

You're in debt. You need a plan and lots of discipline and follow through to pay it down. It's a lot like dieting.

By Smart Spending Editor May 23, 2013 10:50AM
This post comes from Danielle Warchol at

savingadvice logoDieting is probably not the first word that comes to mind when you think of debt reduction. However, when it comes to trying to reduce your debt, many of the steps you have to take are similar to the steps you’d take when trying to reduce weight.

Person on scale © Purestock/SuperStockProbably the most important part to both is that better health requires a lifestyle change rather than a quick fix. Diets don’t work if there are only for a short period of time without making long-term fundamental changes in the way that you eat, and the same is true of debt reduction. Both require that you make changes to your current lifestyle to solve the issues and habits that have created the current situation.

Acknowledging the problem

Perhaps the biggest similarity between debt reduction and dieting is that you have to acknowledge that there’s a problem. Just as it’s easy to ignore poor eating habits, it’s easy to ignore money problems. You might not want to believe that your debt keeps piling up or that you have no way to pay it all off. If you’re serious about trying to reduce your debt, the first step is acknowledging that you have a problem.

What's the problem?
The next step you need to take is diagnosing the problem. Where is your debt coming from? Why can’t you pay it off? What is causing your inability to reduce your debt? Is it a lack of income or poor spending habits? Once you figure out exactly what the problem is, you can search for a solution.

Whenever you want to reduce your debt or start a diet, an important step is figuring out what part of the problem to attack first. Setting realistic goals should be your first priority. For instance, if you have multiple layers of debt, you might want to prioritize reducing one area of debt before another. If you have trouble saving money or deciding how to allocate debt reduction payments, you might need to prioritize money saving and spending habits before you can start actually paying off your debt.

Once you figure out what your problem is and how to prioritize it, it’s a good idea to start small and create a weekly or monthly reduction plan instead of an overarching plan. As with dieting, it’s easy to think of the long-term benefits rather than short-term goals. However, it will be easier and more feasible for you to start your reduction plan on a small, weekly basis.

Take action
After you acknowledge, pinpoint and prioritize your problem, the next step is taking action. Acknowledging and prioritizing your debt reduction plan are great, but only if you put that plan into motion. You can plan things out all you want, but it's meaningless if you don’t actually do anything. Many people find that taking that first step to start their diets is difficult, so it makes sense that taking that first step to reduce your debt might also be difficult. But it’s a necessary step to take.

Trim the excess
Trimming the excess is a great way to reduce your debt, just as it’s one of the steps people on diets are urged to take. When it comes to debt reduction, trimming the excess means reassessing your spending habits and cutting unneeded expenses. For example, you may be spending too much money eating out each week. That spending habit should be trimmed or pared down so that you can use the money to pay down your debt.

Track your habits

A good way to make sure you’re keeping up with your reduction plan is by keeping track of your spending, debt level, and payments toward reducing your debt. Tracking your habits will help you see how well (or poorly) you’re doing. Sometimes, making note of everything you’ve done is a great way to help yourself keep your plan moving.

Reduce a little at a time

When someone starts dieting, they generally start slowly. They might start eating smaller portions or cutting out one or two foods or even exercising for a little but each day until they eventually extend the amount of exercise or decide to cut out certain foods. Reducing your debt is similar. You should reduce a little at a time instead of trying to cut out a chunk all at once. It’s easier to stay with your reduction plan if you chip away at it slowly instead of doing one painful, lump payment one month and then nothing again for another few months.

Don't deprive yourself
One of the most important things to keep in mind when reducing your debt is not to deprive yourself! When you diet, you don’t want to starve yourself and when you try and reduce your debt, you don’t want to cut yourself off from your bank account. It’s good to take things step by step and put a little toward your debt instead of throwing all your savings toward paying your debt down. You’ll still need that money for other bills, necessities, and potential emergencies.

Maintain your reduction plan
Of course, after you start reducing your debt you need to make sure that you stick to your plan. It’s easy to commit to paying off debt for a month or two, but it’s also easy to get behind in your payments. Sticking with your plan to pay down your debt is definitely something you should push yourself to do.

More from

May 23, 2013 1:56PM
First thing we should all do is get rid of the corrupt government that is stealing from the working class...
May 23, 2013 3:36PM

Or you could do like the hedge funds do by doubling down, getting more credit, paying yourself an exorbitant salary, hiding it overseas,  strip all your assets by selling it, take loans out on your house, or just stop paying rent and when the banks come after you, you file bankruptcy and then skip the country with your hidden money.


Nothin going on here, move along....

May 23, 2013 4:12PM
" trimming the excess means reassessing your spending habits and cutting unneeded expenses."

Here's the way I was able to do that.  Whether you're reducing debt or increasing savings download the first Excel Spreadsheet (Workbook) on this site: and divide your variable expenses (there's room to list 21 different ones) into necessities and luxuries like food could be divided into groceries, restaurants, snacks & beverages.

Then dutifully keep track of everything you spend.  After a few months of seeing what you need, you can set budget goals and you'd be amazed at how they motivate you to save.  For example, I've spend nearly double my personal restaurant budget for May and even if I don't make up for it in the future, I'm determined to keep it under better control.
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