What We Learned About Finances Will Help us Lose Weight


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’m not doing very well with my weight loss goal. As of last Friday, after over three months of effort I’ve lost a total of 1.1 pounds. I know the problem is that I struggle with eating too much. With the start of a new year, Vonnie also has made a commitment to be more healthy. We investigated several weight loss programs including Weight Watchers, which we have been a part of in the past and were very successful. We were literally putting our coats and shoes on to drive to a nearby center and enroll again when something stopped me. It occurred to us that there was no need to shell out $90 a month in program fees.

We took control of our finances, and we can do this too.

We decided to make our own program. We started to discuss the major components of our program, drawing comparisons between taking control of our finances and taking control of our health.

Money vs. Calories

When you boil it down, taking control of our finances required learning how to spend less money than we make.  Despite all the fancy diets and fads, losing weight is a simple matter of eating less calories than we burn each day.

Tracking Expenses vs. Tracking What We Eat

The first step in taking control of our finances was to track how we spend our money. Taking control of our eating isn’t any different, we need to track what we eat.

Spending Plan vs. Eating Plan

Each Thursday and Sunday Vonnie and I map out our spending for the next few days. Eating shouldn’t be any different. If we meal plan before grocery shopping, and each morning we plan what we’re going to eat for the day, we control what and how much we eat.  We wouldn’t think of purchasing something without knowing how much it cost, and we shouldn’t eat something without knowing how it affects the nutrition we need for the day.

Increasing Income vs. Increasing Food Intake

If we want more money to spend, we need to take on an additional job to increase our income. If we want to eat more, we need to increase how many calories we burn through exercise.

Unplanned Expenses vs. Unplanned Eating

Sometimes the car needs a repair, or an appliance needs servicing. Sometimes we get invited to an event, or a special occasion comes along that we may want to enjoy a drink or two, or a little extra desert. We need a way to be able to handle these situations.


As part of each budget meeting, Vonnie and I review whether we’re within the bounds of our spending plan. We can see it in black and white in the information that we keep regarding our finances. The scale is our accountability for our weight loss program.

With this information and requirements, we came up with the rules for our program:

Weight Tracking

  • Official weigh in will occur weekly on Friday using the Wii Fit.
  • Weigh ins will be done immediately in the morning before exercise or breakfast

Calorie Calculation

  • Calorie Intake will be calculated using this calorie calculator.
  • Calorie Intake will be recalculated based on official weekly weigh in.

Food Tracking

  • Calories eaten will be tracked
  • Water intake should be at least eight, 8oz servings (64oz)
  • Participants should eat 4-6 servings of fruits and vegetables per day
  • Participants should have 1-2 servings of dairy per day


  • 50% of calories burned from exercise can be added to that day’s calorie total
  • Calories earned from exercise can be “banked” and used anytime within the same week.

Free Day

  • One day each week can be designated as a “Free Day” where food does not have to be tracked

Using what we learned from being enrolled previously in weight loss programs, as well as through our struggle to take control of our finances we are confident that we can take control of our health and improve the quality of our lives.

Have you ever tried to lose weight on your own? How did it work for you? Have you ever noticed the parallels between taking control of your finances and taking control of your health?

About Travis

34 Responses to “What We Learned About Finances Will Help us Lose Weight”

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  1. Sassy Mamaw says:

    Travis, I love your blog. Twelve years ago, I lost 100 lbs. I’ve kept 70 of it off. As I have learned more about personal finance, I have seen the similarities between losing weight and paying off debt. Both certainly require a fair share of will power! If you have trouble losing weight with your new plan, you may want to revisit the idea of the ‘free day’. After all, you wouldn’t recommend doing that with a credit card! That being said, I wish you and Vonnie the best of luck with your plan. It also gives you a new area to exercise your will power, since you are achieving your financial goals!

    BTW, you really do ROCK!

    • Travis says:

      I can understand your point about the free day, but I’m taking a slightly different view of it….I make the analogy of what some people put in their budget called “free money” – an amount allocated to each person to do with what they want. It allows them to “splurge” so they don’t feel so restricted. But if the program doesn’t work (IF we’re following it), that’ll be the first thing to go. LOL. Thank you SO MUCH for your kind words, Sassy Mamaw, and your encouragement. Most of all, thank you for continuing to read and comment – always great to hear from you!

  2. Great post! Totally agree. It really about discipline and choices. Do I choose to spend my money on that want and do I have that extra slice of chocolate cake. I think a weight lose program can work on you own as long as you have someone else holding you accountable. That’s why programs like WW are so successful, the lay out a plan and make you weight in once a week.

    • Travis says:

      Structure and accountability…..a true recipe for success, right? I hope you’ll stop back and see how we’re doing in my weekly updates on Fridays..thanks for stopping by!

  3. Don’t feel too discouraged about the weight loss. I def. go up and down on my weight too. I think its clever the way you are looking at it in terms of looking at it like a financial thing. Good luck on and I hope you get to the weight that you want.

    • Travis says:

      I was discouraged…but now that we have a plan in place I’m again hopeful! Thanks for the well wishes, Debt and the Girl – stop back on Fridays for weight loss updates!

  4. Great plan, Travis!! I am in the process of working on a weight loss goal too. Our scale broke, so we’re going to buy a new one, and then I’ll be able to see how much I’ve lost (or not lost 🙂 ) since November. 🙂

    • Travis says:

      Keep at it, Laurie….but you gotta get a scale for that accountability!! LOL. Are you following a program of any kind? Good luck to you on your goals, my friend!

  5. There are very much similar to each other. I went on a workout plan two years ago. I lost weight and gained muscle mass, which was what I wanted. I felt great. That was until my son was born, then I fell of the wagon. I am working my way back on the wagon and this is the year for me!

  6. Great correlation Travis! I think there can be a lot of similarities seen between money and dietary habits, one of which I need to work on myself. 🙂 The free day idea is definitely one that can work, my wife did that years ago and was a big part of her losing about 90 pounds over the course of about a year. It helped her feel like she wasn’t always restricting herself, but it also helped her learn how to find the balance she needs.

    • Travis says:

      You’ve hit the idea behind the free day right on the head. I have a friend who is a body builder, and he does “carb loading” on Sunday where he basically eats everything he possibly can. He can gain somewhere between 10-18 pounds in one day. Then he spends the rest of the week eating completely lean and clean. The goal is to compare weight on Saturdays when he’s at his “lightest.” It works!!!

  7. A suggestion for you Travis, if you’re up for it. Watch the film “Forks Over Knives.” You might then be inspired to adopt the way of eating suggested by the film. If you do, you’ll lose weight, and you’ll feel better too!

  8. I absolutely think there are parallels to both! They both require discipline and focus. It’s interesting though that I did read in Jean Chatzky’s new book where she said you can save money or diet, but you can’t do both. In a way that kind of makes sense because it’s so hard to focus on so many serious goals at once. So perhaps don’t be so hard on yourself about losing a lot of weight right now until the debt is finally paid off (and you’re so close)? You already workout a lot so you are living a healthy life, but OK so those last few pounds are not budging. It’s just a reminder to also be kind to yourself about all these disciplines and goals. 🙂

    • Travis says:

      I have all the respect in the world for Jean…but just to play devil’s advocate, maybe doing them at the same time can be perfect too – if you’re working on one goal, just transferring the same ideology and efforts to another goal may work well. I actually did lose about 35 pounds while paying off debt a few years ago – which is my primary motivation that I can definitely do it again!

  9. JMK says:

    I admire your tenacity to find a solution that works for you. What makes sense and inspires one person to success doesn’t necessarily work as well for another.
    There is another similarity between cutting spending and weight loss – you can reduce but you cannot eliminate.
    I think the hardest part of losing weight is that you can’t just go cold turkey and completely cut if from your life. I know quitting smoking is extremely difficult, but you can eventually cut if from your life. You can’t do that with food, you must learn to reduce your consumption adn live with boundaries and make sound nutritional choices. Can you imagine how difficult it would be for a smoker to cut down to 3 cigarettes a day, no more no less? Unless you can devise a lifestyle were you can live completely free and selfsufficiently there is no way to avoid at least a minimum level of spending for the rest of your life. You’ll repeatedly be faced with spenging opportunities that do not fit within your plan. Others will try to temp you to fall off the wagon and “live a little” whether it’s a high fat treat or a new X that wasn’t planned for in the budget. So it becomes an exercise in modifying your behavour rather than eliminating it completely from your life.

    • Travis says:

      Agree 100%, JMK…and not only is it an exercise in modifying the behavior…it’s modifying it *permanently*! We can’t just pay down the debt, or lose the weight, and then go back to our old habits – the debt and weight will just come right back. Great to hear from you!

  10. Now that you mention it, there are a ton of parallels between personal finance and fitness/health. I think both really come down to discipline. The more disciplined you are and the more effort you put forth, the more likely you will be successful in your goals, whatever they may be.

    • Travis says:

      We’re definitely putting forth a lot of effort, DC….losing weight and getting more healthy is at the top of our Goal list. Our “get out of debt” journey has reinforced in us that we’ve got the skills, the determination, and the motivation to get it done! As we leave our mountain of credit card debt behind, improving our health will bring our quality of life to a level we’ve never experienced before – looking forward to it! Thanks for your perspective, DC!

  11. For me, money management and eating management are tightly linked because 90% of the time I spend money unnecessarily, it’s on food! I allow myself to gain weight over Christmas, and I’ve got 5 extra pounds right now to prove it : ) Then I always swear that I’ll be extra good in January. That hasn’t happened yet. All the best with your made-at-home, free program. Motivated by your post, I hereby pledge to drop that Christmas 5!

    • Travis says:

      yeah, I’ve been there, Prudence…..but promising to be “extra good” – or swinging the pendulum too far the other direction rarely works…at least not for me. 🙂 The goal is to be consistent, week after week. There will be the occasional slip up, but if we can do “good” more often than we slip up, we WILL be successful. I’m happy to hear that you’re motivated – hope you’ll stop back and tell us how you’re doing!

  12. Brad Chaffee says:

    Travis this is an excellent post my friend! It’s inspiring on many levels! I absolutely love how you were already in the car and ready to go and you stopped yourself because your brilliant mind said , “wait just a minute, we already know how to do this!”

    That was so awesome!!! I can’t wait to hear your updates Travis!! I’d buy this book —> “Common Sense: All you need to know to get out of debt and lose weight” by Travis Pizel! 😀

    • Travis says:

      LOL….best selling author – I can see it now! Thanks for the support my friend – looking forward to following along and supporting you on your latest quest for fitness as well!

  13. If you can practice that kind of self control and discipline with your finances, you can absolutely do it with your diet and exercise. Good luck!

  14. I think different people react differently to different weight loss plans and there isn’t one “right plan” for everyone. My sister basically lives the weight watchers lifestyle because she overeats otherwise. It works for her. I have never had a weight problem before other than carrying around an extra 7-8 pounds since I had kids. However, I transitioned from vegetarian to vegan on January 1st and have already lost 8 pounds.

    • Travis says:

      I agree, Holly – there’s more than one way to achieve success, and the same thing will not work for everyone – for any goal, not just weight loss. Sometimes you have to just keep trying things until something “clicks” with you. That’s how Vonnie and I were with our budget system…we tried countless methods and systems before we came up with one that worked for us. Good luck with the vegan lifestyle, Holly – hope it works well for you!

  15. Great post, Travis! I love the parallels you drew between money management and weight management — they’re spot on! Best of luck to you and your wife with this journey. Your plan sounds like a great one and I love that you created a cheaper alternative based on a strategy that’s worked for you in the past. Having ownership of the plan will likely make it even more effective!

    • Travis says:

      I like the term “having ownership,” Kendal – it also allows us to tweak it a bit if it isn’t working out for us. Being in control of our own destiny feels great!

  16. zimmy says:

    I did one of those new years resolutions that I need to drop a few pounds. It seems the more money I spend the more weight I gain. i guess that I should simply spend less money.


    • Travis says:

      It would be interesting to see if there was a relationship between the two, wouldn’t it, Zimmy? Try it out and see what happens, and let us know how it goes. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, haven’t heard from you for a while!

  17. Michelle says:

    I’ve actually heard over and over again that debt also mimics weight. If you watch Peter Walsh (the organizer guru on Oprah), Larry Winget, and various other finance gurus they do talk about how weight/organization of the home tends to be an accurate reflection of finances. I must admit I spend a lot of time kind of pondering that. Well, regardless I am in for trying to lose some weight!

    • Travis says:

      I can believe there’s a correlation – even if I’m not a regular Oprah watcher. 🙂 Sounds like I’ve got some closets to go through too! Thanks for stopping by Michelle – hope you’ll update us on how you’re doing with your weight loss!

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