Do cash diets really work? The answer is: Please—does any diet ever really work? Here are helpful strategies for taking control of your finances and setting yourself up for long-term success.
The word "diet" can easily send any-one who has wanted to lose weight into a state of anxiety. The reaction to a cash diet is similar. Perhaps we didn't pay attention to where our money was going, we got carried away with online shopping or we overspent for a special occasion, and now the bill has come in. We plunge straight into panic mode and head into a vortex of stinking thinking about how careless we are and go for the quick fix: a cash diet. "I'll stop spending, then it'll be OK," we tell ourselves. But diets, whether for food or money, don't always work for long. They start a cycle of bingeing and purging, depriving and indulging. Financial comfort, on the other hand, is about balance and control. It's about setting achievable goals, creating a realistic spending plan and living within our means. It is possible to get back on financial track by managing your money without starving your spending. Here's how.
1. Decide how you want to feel about the way you spend money. Do you want to be in control? Safe? Charitable? Once you know your monetary values, you can make decisions that align with them.
2. Put your credit cards away—for now. Go back to basics and pay with cash (or debit). Only when things are on track again should you use credit (to get the incentive points we all covet).
3. Find out where your money is going. Our budgets die a death of 1,000 cuts as we buy little things such as coffee and lunch. Write down everything you purchase. Yes, it's more fun to spend money than it is to track it, but this is key for taking control.
4. Make a plan. Every dollar you earn needs to serve a purpose—savings, fixed and variable expenses—otherwise, it invites irresponsible spending. So create a budget and allocate each and every dollar.
5. Allow for some guilt-free purchases. Give yourself an allowance to spend on anything you want, but remember that once the money runs out, that's it! You'll have to wait till next month to indulge yourself again.