Personal Finance

3 Fad Diets for Your Budget

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Looking to lose weight and clean up your finances in time for summer? Why not put your budget on the same diet you use for your body?

Here’s how three of today’s most popular fad diets can help you save money.

1. Atkins

This long-running fad diet based on no-to-low carbs still has sticking power, in spite of some controversy surrounding it. The diet basically has devotees spend the first phase (the first two weeks) eating almost no carbs, and most of the carbs they do eat come from healthy veggies and salads. After that, devotees gradually re-introduce carbs, but still follow a carb-restricted diet.

So how do you follow the Atkins diet for your budget? Start by finding your budgetary “carbs” — those areas of spending that you tend to overdo, and that don’t add much financial nutrition to your life.

Depending on your personal weak spots, your “carbs” might include dining out, movie rentals, clothes, toys for the kids, or daily coffee runs. Like carbs, you don’t really need these things. And, like carbs, one small misstep might create an avalanche of bad decisions.

Once you’ve found your budgetary “carbs,” commit to cutting them out for two weeks. Then, slowly re-introduce spending on these problem areas into your budget. Focus on introducing the most meaningful spending first (like the Atkins diet first re-introduces the healthiest carbs). Once you’re doing well sticking to this budget, give yourself a chance to splurge once in a while.

2. Paleo

The Paleo diet claims to be all about getting back to nature and to the way the human body ate thousands of years ago, consisting of healthy portions of meat, vegetables, and berries in very-close-to-natural form, and the diet hypothesizes that we should still be eating like this.

Paleo diet devotees eat plenty of healthy, whole foods, steering clear of carbs, sugars, and anything processed. In a way, it’s similar to the Atkins diet, with its no-grain approach, but the main difference is Paleo’s heavy focus on eating food as close to nature as possible.

Since our pre-historic ancestors didn’t necessarily have bank accounts (or even money!), we’ll take your budget’s Paleo diet back just a couple of generations.

To get your budget on a Paleo plan, think about what your grandparents’ spending and saving patterns looked like. Chances are that they were quite frugal (especially if they grew up in the Depression era!), saved a lot of money, and lived well below their means. They probably also used what they had available — instead of buying new — and very rarely spent on frivolous items like dining out or unnecessary appliances and toys.

So when you go Paleo with your budget, think of sustainable, long-term choices you can make so that your spending patterns will look more like those of your grandparents.

Focus on leveraging the resources you already have — whether that’s your at-home coffee maker, your still-running car, or the food in your pantry — instead of always replacing items. And reserve excess spending on non-necessities for items (or experiences) that are truly meaningful and memorable (i.e. when buying toys for your kids, think heirloom instead of fad).

3. Master Cleanse

The Master Cleanse is basically a fasting regimen, which has devotees drink six glasses of lemonade, an herbal laxative tea, and a salt water drink daily for 10-14 days. Most people who like the Master Cleanse do it one or two times per year as a way to cleanse the body of toxins and generally reset the internal systems.

In budgeting terms, the Master Cleanse is a lot like the now-popular spending freeze. This is a practice of spending virtually no money for a set period of time.

Just like you should prepare for a Master Cleanse by stocking up on lemons and maple syrup, you’ll need to prepare for a spending freeze by stocking up on groceries, filling the car up with gas, and pre-paying any bills that will come due.

Then, you’ll have a period of two to four weeks during which you’ll spend no money. You’ll fix meals based on what you have available, cut back on driving to conserve gas, and spend nothing on entertainment, clothing or other purchases.

As a Master Cleanse can reset your body, a spending freeze can reset your budget, helping you focus on what’s important and make sustainable changes in your financial habits over the long term.

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Image: nailiaschwarz

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