Use Dieting Knowledge to Lose Debt, Weight
Same skills can translate into healthier body, healthier budget
SAN MATEO, Calif., Aug. 27, 2008 - Americans struggle with too much debt and too much weight -- but fortunately, individuals also have the tools to resolve both issues, and sometimes those tools are the same, said Andrew Housser, co-founder and co-CEO of free online consumer portal Bills.com.
Americans have the highest obesity rate in the world.1 At the same time that they are growing heavier, they continue to increase their personal debt.2 In addition, research shows that having too much debt creates stress that impacts individuals' health, just as obesity does. A recent study found that people with debt-related stress report significantly higher levels of health problems, including migraines, ulcers and muscle pain.3
"Most Americans could shape up their physical as well as their fiscal well-being," said Housser. "Fortunately, just about any American who has read a magazine or flipped on a TV self-help program knows more than his or her fair share about how to lose weight -- and those skills can translate to better financial well-being, too."
Housser offered a look at how losing weight compares with losing debt -- and what Americans can do to get both health and finances in shape.
- Understand "spending." The first step to a successful diet and to a successful budget is to understand current patterns of consumption. Many nutrition counselors recommend dieters write down everything they eat. Similarly, to get spending habits in control, use a small notebook or PDA to jot down every penny you spend, at least for a week or two.
- Create a plan. With overspending, as with overeating, we cannot change our ways without knowing where we are going. In terms of a diet, individuals can consult with a physician or nutritionist to understand caloric needs, and then plan meals, snacks and exercise to live within that caloric budget. In terms of finances, draft a spending plan that includes all income and expenses. First, add up all mandatory bills such as mortgage, car payments and utilities, as well as debt repayment. Any extra money can go toward extra debt payments -- and if some is left over, it can be spent on "snacks" like hobbies and entertainment.
- Use discipline. Sticking to any new program -- especially one that requires restrictions to your former lifestyle -- can be challenging. Setting, maintaining and working toward goals - and, for many, doing so together with family members - can help. When it comes to your finances, remember that it is all in the service of a greater end: your freedom from the restraints and pressures of being over your head in debt.
- Plan for the unexpected. Dieters might face challenges such as a vacation or a luxurious dessert bar during an evening out. As a new spending plan gets rolling, similar hurdles might arise: a great price on a cruise, a dream house going up for sale or simply another night when an individual does not feel like cooking and would prefer the ease of dining out. "Before these occasions come up, think of how you might handle them," Housser suggested. "Stock the freezer with some pre-cooked meals, save a few dollars every month to take a vacation and wait to upgrade your TV until your debt is paid off. By budgeting ahead of time -- whether calories or dollars -- you will stay ahead of the game and have a reward to look forward to in the future."
- Visualize. Take a few minutes every day to imagine the new you. Dream about how your discipline will pay off in the end. A dieter might post a picture of a swimsuit they hope to fit into on the refrigerator; budgeters can sit back, close their eyes, and imagine a time when no requests for late payment arrive in the mail, there are no mounds of loans to pay back and they can look forward to the results of planned savings, such as vacations, new furniture or even retirement.
- Plan a reward. Set goals and provide some self-encouragement with a planned reward. To stay on track, be sure the reward does not reinforce the habit you are trying to break. For example, a dieter might reward a weight-loss goal with a new workout accessory, not a bowl of ice cream. A budgeter who achieves a financial milestone might plan a weekend picnic or other outing, not splurge on a new video game system.
"Achieving significant goals, whether for your physical or financial health, requires dedication," said Housser. "Both can be achieved, however -- and in the end, both kinds will make you healthier, in body and in spirit."
Based in San Mateo, Calif., Bills.com (www.bills.com) is a free one-stop portal where consumers can educate themselves about complex personal finance issues and comparison shop for products and services including credit cards, debt relief assistance, insurance, mortgages and other loans. As the online portal to Freedom Financial Network, LLC, the company has served more than 40,000 customers nationwide since 2002 while managing more than $1 billion in consumer debt. Its RSS feed is available at www.bills.com/news_releases.
In 2008, Entrepreneur Magazine ranked Bills.com as the No. 3 fastest-growing U.S. company on its Hot 100 list. Bills.com also was named a finalist as "most innovative company" in the American Business Awards in 2008. Company co-founders and co-CEOs Andrew Housser and Brad Stroh were named to the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal's "40 Under 40" list in 2008, and are recipients of the Northern California Ernst & Young 2008 Entrepreneur of the Year Award.