Saving Money Is Like Losing Weight

How Much Are You Putting Away?

A lot of things in life are easier said than done. I think this is also true when it comes to saving money.

How does one go about saving money? Well, quite easy really. You simply spend less money than you receive on a regular basis. All the thousands of books, articles and television shows on personal finance really just regurgitate this simple equation. I’m guilty of the same.

You can talk about clipping coupons, skipping a daily latte and finding a gas station that’s $0.03 less per gallon than every other gas station in town, but you’re simply missing the forest for the trees. You’re focusing on small potatoes. If you’re really serious about trying to become financially independent at a young age you need to stop cutting coupons to save $1.00 off your $4.00 purchase and cut the $4.00 purchase out of the budget completely. You need to stop thinking about finding cheaper gas and start thinking about how to live without a car, or at least drive it significantly less.

I laugh at all the infomercials you see on losing weight and the new fad diet pill that promises to help you shed 20 lbs. in three months. Or, the new exercise machine that will make it fun to get your sweat on. I really think people need to wake up sometimes. If you want to lose weight, you need to take in less calories than you burn. It’s as simple as that. You want to build muscle? Then you need to exercise. There is no magic pill that will all of the sudden allow you to look like David Beckham or Kate Beckinsale. Having a healthy body and losing weight actually requires hard work and patience. Try selling hard work and patience at 3 in the morning.

The reason why magic diet pills sell and why cutting coupons is popular is because they’re easy and they’re immediate. Saving money and becoming wealthy requires lots of patience, and lots of time when you’re acquiring it the good old fashioned way: saving and investing. Unless you win the lottery or inherit millions of dollars from a long lost oil baron Uncle, you’re going to spend a lot of your time on Earth accumulating wealth by spending less than you take in and investing the difference. It’s as easy as that, but much easier said than done.

When Dr. Thomas J Stanley did research for his book The Millionaire Next Door, he found something shocking to most, but quite obvious to me: that accumulating wealth requires a lot of hard work and patience. You mean people don’t get rich by winning the lottery? Say it isn’t so.

An excerpt from a synopsis of The Millionaire Next Door:

“In The Millionaire Next Door, Dr. Stanley shattered the contemporary held beliefs about America’s rich – and how they got that way. It is seldom inheritance or advanced degrees or even intelligence that builds fortunes in this country. Wealth in America is more often the result of hard work, diligent savings, and living below your means. The Millionaire Next Door reveals the common denominators that show up again and again among those who have accumulated wealth.” 

It’s the same process with anything in life. If you’re constantly looking for shortcuts to anything you want in life – better health, more money, love – you’re going to be sorely disappointed, I believe. 

So, it’s time to take control of your future and realize that cutting 20 pounds off your weight or saving $50,000 are both easily attainable, but you have to be ready to do what it takes to get what you want. You have to put a plan together and stay committed to your plan.

For instance, I put a plan together when I first started my 12-year journey to early retirement and, for the most part, I’ve stuck to it to the best of my ability. Here we are more than two years later, and I now have more than $80,000 in my Freedom Fund after funding it with a seed of about $5,000 from my checking account and I’ve gone from $0 in monthly passive income to my most recent total of $357.82.

You can probably guess where I’d be today if I were still sitting around watching infomercials and waiting to win the lottery. 

Make a plan. Stay patient. Set realistic, but challenging goals. Budget your expenses and make sure you’re cutting all unnecessary fat from both your budget and your diet. Stay true to yourself and imagine a better you. Track your progress. Be diligent and maintain your perseverance. Try to maximize your income, save as much as you can and invest the difference in high quality, diversified investments.

None of this is easy, but nothing worth having ever is. How bad do you want wealth and health?

Thanks for reading.

Photo Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Comments

    • says

      Investing Early,

      Great point there. A lot of people have this assumption of how millionaires think and act, and their preconceived notions are, for the most part, wrong. And those preconceived notions about what it takes to get rich and how rich people act are likely one of the main factors that keep them from becoming wealthy.

      Best wishes!

  1. says

    Great post DM! So often people, which I’m guilty of as well, of wanting the quick fix. The problem is that even if the quick fix gets you where you want to be, if you haven’t changed your underlying behavior then you can’t expect different results. There’s a reason that a significant portion of lottery winners go bankrupt. Al they did was increase their cash, but instead of using it wisely it gets wasted away.

    According to this website

    http://www.statisticbrain.com/lottery-winner-statistics/

    44% of lottery winners had spent all of their winnings within 5 years. That’s just crazy to me.

    • says

      PIP,

      I agree completely. You could redistribute all the wealth in the world and it would likely end up exactly like it is today due to underlying behavior. The poor tend to be poor due to behavior and the rich tend to be rich due to behavior. It’s certainly not magic!

      Best regards.

  2. Anonymous says

    Good article DM! When I finally got serious about saving for retirement that was one of the first books I read. To think Obama wants to take more of their hard earned money and pass it on to those who don’t work hard and don’t save a dime!

    Bill from Wmsport

    • says

      Bill,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Yeah, that’s a great book for getting a peek inside the lives and minds of self-made millionaires. It’s not hard to become wealthy, but wealth usually doesn’t come fast.

      It’s like a garden. You can give a patient and thoughtful gardener seeds and water and you can give John Doe an entire pre-made garden that’s lush and full and then check back in five years and see which one has a fully functioning garden. I’m guessing you already know the answer.

      Take care!

  3. says

    Preach it DM!!

    “…stop cutting coupons to save $1.00 off your $4.00 purchase and cut the $4.00 purchase out of the budget completely.”

    If I had realized the power of this little comment earlier in life I would be much better off.

    Good post man. May I ask what your motivation for writing this post was? You sound fired up. Wasn’t sure if it had been something you were thinking of for some time or if a recent experience inspired it.

    Cheers

    • says

      The Stoic,

      Nothing in particular really fired me up to write this article to be honest. This is going to sound corny or cliche, but I have this fire burning inside me all the time. Sometimes it just so happens to show up in my writing.

      I hope all is well with you. Glad you enjoyed the post!

      Best wishes.

    • Anonymous says

      I got that same fire going DM

      “Cry of the wind, spirit of fire
      The heart of a lion
      Taking control, burning desire
      Your flame never dying”

      Each quarter as I receive more dividends than the previous quarter I continue to get more and more motivated to keep raising my dividend income.

    • says

      Anonymous,

      Glad to see you have that fire too! It burns pretty hot, doesn’t it?

      Those rising and tangible dividends are really nice. They give you the “proof in the pudding” that the plan is indeed working.

      Best wishes!

    • says

      High Yield Soldier,

      Hey, better to have a reputation as a cheapskate while your portfolio grows than to be someone who’s known to be the spender while you’re drowning in debt!

      Keep up the great work.

      Best regards.

    • Anonymous says

      Here! Here! My family calls me “snap shut wallet” because I don’t spend money on stupid stuff like a high priced cell phone plan. The funny thing is everyone in my family is BROKE! My Dad is 65 and still has a mortgage. I’m 43 and should have my house paid for in the next two years.

      The Millionaire Next Door is a great book that helped me realize I wasn’t being stupid in my financial choices.

    • says

      Anonymous,

      “Snap shut wallet” is a pretty funny nickname. I like that!

      It sounds like you’re in pretty good shape and a trailblazer in your family. I share that quality. Good for you!

      You’re definitely not being stupid by making smart financial choices and building wealth. Great moves.

      Best regards.

  4. says

    I was lucky to learn building extra income in my twenties. My cousins seem to think I’m a freak for only buying cars for cash, meaning not driving german models like they do. I have been on a sabatical for 4 years and its my 40th next year. I have to decide whether I go back to work or retire permanently. And they still think staying (working from) home is stupid. They are forgeting that, when they were driving the latest car models, I was investing that amount. And I can now choose how I spend the rest of my life. Most importantly, I taught my son from the age of 6 to be smart with his finances. He has savings and a positive networth at 9.

    • says

      Soso,

      Wow, taking a sabbatical sounds really great! 4 years of freedom…you must be really enjoying that. Good for you. I’m really glad to hear that.

      That’s awesome that you have found freedom and you’re not even 40 years old yet. I most certainly hope to be in the same spot as you at your age.

      Keep up the fantastic work!

      Best wishes.

  5. says

    Thanks for the great post. It is easier to spend the money of others than the one we have. Chose a partner for life that shares your views. Live like a poor and be rich or live like a rich and be poor ! I still play some lottery but with very small amounts weekly like an insurance. One third of the times they pay me back my bet. Stocks are also like an insurance against inflation and they require a lot of patience, the more you move the less you get. Sorry for my English, my mother tongue being French. good to you.

    • says

      Aspenhawk,

      Thanks for stopping by. Your English is fine.

      It sounds like you are well on your way to financial freedom by living below your means and investing the difference. That’s the name of the game!

      Take care.

  6. says

    You hit the nail on the head….
    “None of this is easy, but nothing worth having ever is.”
    Congrats and a pat on the back to you for growing your freedom fund, most people do not have the fortitude and patience to do such a thing. I am currently building a dividend portfolio as well and it is refreshing to meet other people who are like minded! Keep up the great work!

  7. says

    Congrats on building your freedom fund. Most individuals do not have the fortitude or patience to accomplish such a tasks. If we could get young men and women to start their investing education early coupled with saving I believe a lot of people would be better off.

    • says

      Marvin,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      I like your “brick by brick” theme. That’s exactly how I’m doing it. It’s a true path to wealth, I believe.

      It looks like we’re similar in age and have similar investing theories. Best of luck on your journey. I hope you stay diligent and reach your goals!

      Take care.

  8. says

    Great post. A fun follow-up might be titled “Just Don’t Get Too Skinny”. It could explain the importance of remembering that fat provides flavor mixed in with all of the cutting/trimming. Maybe emphasizing that minor splurges that help you stay sane are well worth it in moderation.

    • says

      Headed Home,

      Good stuff. I may have to put something together like that. It always comes down to the frugality vs. quality of life argument, something I think about often.

      Everyone’s comfort zone and tolerances are different, so what’s “frugal” to me may be extreme to some people or not frugal enough to others. Always best to keep in mind that this is all for the long-term, and anything too extreme for your personal taste will only lead you back to where you started.

      Best wishes!

  9. Anonymous says

    Hey Mantra; I would like you and your readers opinion on something. I’m in retirement and have been reading that a 50/50 split between stocks and bonds in appropriate for my age (66). The stock portion of my portfolio is mostly dividend stocks the same as you. Do you or your readers think I should still keep the stock portion at 50% or, since they are stocks like JNJ and MCD I could go up to 60 or 70%. Won’t need this money for several years because of pension and social security. What do you all think?

    Bill from Wmsport

    • says

      Bill,

      Gosh, it’s hard for me to comment on something like that. That really depends on a large number of factors like risk profile and how much income you need to live on. It would really be almost impossible for me to give you an educated answer on something like that, and even then I’m certainly no professional advisor.

      Personally, I do plan to eventually have an allocation to bonds, and probably at 25% or more. I simply greatly prefer equities right now because fixed income yield is so low right now. Treasuries have gone from risk-free return to return-free risk, in my opinion. The bond bull run appears to be over, and yields will eventually rise. Once yields are suitable for me than I will shift allocation over to bonds.

      Actually, what would be perfect for myself is for bonds to start really paying out decent yields right around the time I’m ready to retire and I start aggressively purchasing long-term bonds.

      I know that the historical advice for a stock/bond allocation is to allocate the percentage towards bond to match your age and so for you that would be 66% bonds and 34% stocks. You can say that certain blue chip equities behave almost like bonds (KO for instance) and so the risk profile isn’t really there for some of the big blue chip dividend growth stocks we invest in. On the other hand, equity risk is always there. However, like I said earlier I believe the greater risk actually lies in fixed income right now due to the lack of return.

      I’m sorry I couldn’t help more.

      Best wishes!

    • Chad says

      Bill,

      While not a professional adviser, I will give you my opinion. A lot of people view their Social Security and pensions as part of their bond allocation. If you view it as such, you won’t need to have 50% in bonds. If I was you, I would view them as part of my bond allocation. I would also view my dividend growth stocks as partial bonds too. Hope this helps.

    • Anonymous says

      Thanks Chad, I never thought of my pension and social security as part of my bond allocation. I appreciate it.

      Bill from Wmsport

  10. Shean says

    “Saving Money Is Like Losing Weight”
    Can´t do that I´m already too thin :)

    My father raised 8 kids and his wife alone. It was not tough but we have nothing extra, but that way of life taught me alot because when I couldnt get nice shiny stuffs that children used to get when they´re young now that I´m much older I don´t feel like I need to buy anything at all..

    My father who is poorly educated as old people used to be didn´t taught me much about finance.
    Most important thing that I learned is not to buy things I don´t need to and that have helped my quite alot. I don´t buy stuffs I need so my net income is always positive.

    Later when I hit 25 I started to save some money for my future house, but later after that I found out the world of investing and started to think compound interest is really good if I start if ASAP.

    Now I´m 29 getting around 1800€ from dividends per year. It always warm my heart that my dividends is as high as my monthly salary and it gets even higher every year despite the past, recent and coming troubles :)

    Having good financial position made it possible for me to go back to school and do some part-time job.

    High school is not enough at thise troubled times that´s they way the world is going to go. After 2 years I see myself in good position having education.

    My situation is similar with anonymous whose father and my father are 65 years old with mortgage but my father is so poor that I need to give financial help to him.

    Summa summarum; the way I live today and why I dont want to spend too much money and the reason to invest on stocks is because of my father and mother who are poor and have tough times financially. They say money doesn´t bring happiness but in certain way if your parents have money and time to spend with your children there comes happiness but for me I used to read and watch tv my childhood. No good and happy memories about parents.

    Lesson learned.

    • says

      Shean,

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing that. It’s always great to hear personal stories like that, and it really gives one a healthy dose of perspective.

      I hear you on coming from a background where there wasn’t a lot of “extra” to go around. I grew up in Detroit, in a particularly rough neighborhood. My father left my three sisters and I when we were all very young and my mother wasn’t around much either. I suppose “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and I’m likely much stronger because of these events, but it certainly doesn’t make me want material possessions right now simply because I didn’t have any when I was young. I think that quite an opposite effect happens, in that I really want to make sure I’m financially secure so that I never go back to a place like that ever again.

      Thanks again for sharing. I’m glad to see you’re on this journey so young!

      Best regards.

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