It's Part of the Plan

Your Plans Need Wiggle-room

I’ve commented elsewhere about the similarities between weight-loss and wealth-building. Both require “minding the gap” between in and out to make sure you’re consuming less calories and/or spending less money than necessary to achieve your goal. This differs from a marathon in that there is no finish line. What you do must be sustainable.

Thus this morning I was watching a video by Dr. Caryn Zinn “…On Fat and Fasting” wherein she enumerates rules for eating. One of those rules was the “rules are there to be broken” rule.

This caught my interest, because yesterday was a major cheat day on my diet. I didn’t just fall off the wagon. I tipped over the wagon. I set the wagon afire. Then I roasted marshmallows over it–to make s’mores. And I ate all the s’mores.

My diet has only one hard-and-fast rule. Boy howdy did I ever break that yesterday: Don’t eat unnecessary carbs until my weight hits my target. Today I’m sort of drunk from all the insulin flowing through my bloodstream right now.

I was ready to hear Dr. Zinn’s words when I heard them.

Both losing weight and building wealth require planning and sustained adherence to that plan forever. Sure, I can stand on one foot for a few minutes, but I cannot do so in a sustained fashion. Likewise, I’ve created several budgets that didn’t last more than one or two pay periods. And I’ve vowed that after a huge pizza feast that I’d get really strict the next day. All such plans failed every time.

I feel bad that I’ve failed myself. That bad feeling saps motivation. I know where this road goes: I’ll gain a lot of weight and/or go deep in debt.

Why do New Years Resolutions fail to survive the first months of the year? Because you might stand on one foot for five minutes, but you can’t make a habit of it. And afterwards those feelings of failure weaken commitment to the plan. Both money plans (budgets) and eating plans (diets) are subject to this behavioral vulnerability.

My planning (diets and budgets) has to avoid being too strict. And Dr. Zinn’s prescription has a “rules are there to be broken” rule. This creates a safety-valve for times whenever the plan is too difficult to follow. She cites going out with your friends and they order pizza. Eat the pizza to keep the “rules are to be broken” rule!.

I was already on board with the idea that I own the plan and the plan does not own me. However, Dr. Zinn showed me I was missing something. While asserting the “sin boldly” notion, but I failed to put it into the bigger context of a safety-valve Dr. Zinn describes:

  • I’m not going to go crazy and eat everything.
  • I’m not going to beat myself up over breaking a rule.
  • I’m not going to feel guilty.
  • I’m going to enjoy it, because it’s part of the plan.

This reminded me of something Dave Ramsey says about budgeting: Put some fun spending into your budget. He knows that if you don’t plan on spending for fun, you’ll do it anyway. And if you do it anyway, you’ll feel bad, go crazy, and you’ll be more likely to abandon your plan.

Both Dave Ramsey and Dr. Zinn add a guilt-free safety-valve to your plan. It’s part of the plan. Use it. Feel good you’re following the plan.

This is where I disagree with Mr. Money Mustache who doesn’t like budgets. He claims he doesn’t need one. His recipe for frugality stresses mindfulness of spending and waste. Bravo, MMM! This is a seriously good thing to advocate. Where’s the safety-valve?

Dave Ramsey will first verify hat you can afford it, then he’ll let you–guilt-free–enjoy your insane clown car habit. Guilt-free enjoyment of good food and nice possessions belongs in every plan. If they are in the plan, you can better moderate their consumption.

Steve Poling

Masters degrees in math and computer science. Poet in several computer languages. I write stories about Sherlock Holmes' brother Mycroft, steampunk, and SF.

Grand Rapids, Michigan