Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Number Crunching

Debt reduction and weight loss are both about numbers. It's math, really. And the equations are pretty much the same.

When calories burned are greater than calories eaten, you lose fat.

When the money you bring in is greater than the money you spend, you can pay down debt and build wealth

End of story.

It's amazingly simple.

Well, not really.

Because nowhere do those equations consider that there's this strip across my abs, right above my ribs, that feels like it's about to pop because of sit-ups I did yesterday morning.

Nowhere do they consider that I have to spend this month praying there's not one single emergency because it's not in the budget.

Yeah, on one level it's just math. But I've never had so much emotion tied up in a math equation.

Now just because the process ain't easy doesn't mean we can't use the formulas. If weight loss and financial freedom come down to two factors each, we should do everything in our power to take control of those factors.

Take the fitness equation. Usually when we think of weight loss, we talk about "diets." And diets work, in theory. Regardless of whether we did one tiny smidgeon of exercise, if we merely ate just a wee bit less than we burned, we could lose weight.

However, there comes a point where you hit a wall. You can't stop eating altogether. Despite what this diet or that fad will tell you, your body really does need fat, it really does need protein, and yes, it really does need carbs. You can't cut back on all calories completely or your body would start reacting in odd ways like, well, dying.

It's the other end of the equation where we have greater potential. There are billions of things you can do to burn more calories. Simple things like parking farther away from the store. I read somewhere that drinking ice water burns calories because your body has to heat all that chilly liquid up to 98.6 degrees. You can also:

1. Exercise. Duh.

2. Build muscle. Your body has to burn calories just to keep muscle on your body. That means you'll be burning more calories even when you're just sitting around.

3. Eat more often. Note that I didn't say eat more. Just eat more often.

4. Fidget. Every movement burns calories, so do some movement. If you're watching TV, knit or cross stitch, whatever floats your boat. I practice card tricks.

The list could go on, really, but that's another post.

The point is, once you simplify the insanely emotional factors involved in these things down to an equation, it brings some order to the emotional chaos.

Before I started thinking of money in terms of this equation, I thought saving money only meant cutting back. I had to find ways to live more cheaply. Believe me, I'm doing that--you'll hear about all the ways I'm doing it as the days go by. But even if I was able to completely eliminate all possible expenses--If I got my room and board free, if I got my food free, and if somebody filled my gas tank for me, I would still be limited in how much I could save. I'd be limited to my salary.

As with weight loss, it's the other side of this equation that has more potential. The amount by which I could potentially increase my income is far greater than the amount by which I could potentially reduce my expenses. In fact, in a perfect world, my potential for income would be infinite.

Of course, there's really small number in my Quicken register reminding me this isn't a perfect world.

But by realizing both weight loss and financial independence come down to two factors, you can save yourself the frustration of trying to solve either one with only half a solution.

Because that would be like riding a one-pedaled unicycle.

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