Healthy finances are like a healthy body.

As I’m standing here, washing the dishes and folding the laundry, thinking about bills, because its Christmas and that’s often (if you plan poorly, as we have) the time of year when money is tight, and the thought occurred to me, as it often has, that making a commitment to have physical health shares so many similarities with the commitment to have financial health.

A problem with runaway spending is so similar to a problem with runaway eating — and often, you don’t realize how out of control things are until it becomes a really life-overtaking problem.

I made an active decision about two years ago to take charge of my financial health. That doesn’t really coincide with an event where I realized “holy crap things really got out of hand” — it was more a combination of two things:

  1. I finally had a career and the commitment to “spend only what I make” no longer meant extreme sacrifices like restricting my grocery budget to $10/week, and
  2. My husband and I were planning a wedding and I didn’t want our marriage to begin with a lot of debt.

We planned our wedding budget by a) choosing a date, and b) establishing how much we could realistically save per week.  The wedding was beautiful, and we went on our honeymoon all the happier knowing that every last cent was paid for (and we paid for most of the wedding and honeymoon ourselves, though we never could have pulled it off without the amazing help cooking, cleaning, decorating and organizing from our family members).

And honestly … we didn’t have much of a choice. To not save up the money first.  This is where that “holy crap things got really out of hand” moment comes in.  My credit wasn’t super great because I was paying the minimum balance on an embarrassing amount credit card debt I accumulated over several years of “I’m not saying no to this trip/evening out/concert that I can’t afford, so lets swing it on MasterCard.”

OK, now substitute that situation for “I gained 40 pounds because of several years I didn’t say no to those extra helping of dinner rolls.”  It’s the same idea — having a budget (of money, of calories) and doing your best to not spend (eat) what you don’t have left, or to earn more (work out more) when you want to spend (eat) more.

It’s been two years since I used a credit card, save the RARE purchase where it made sense (we had to buy a new washer, dryer and fridge when we bought out house, so we bought those on an interest-free credit card and will pay it off before the deal expires). And it feels really, really good, even during those times we have to go without in order to balance the budget at the end of the month. Because there is so much less stress in life.

It’s easier to just avoid checking the bank account balance and keep spending like the money is still there. Or use a credit card and not worry about how you’ll pay it off at the end of the month. But in the end, it pays to be on top of it every day, always managing what’s there, and making every decision on how to spend money fully informed as to how it will affect the bottom line.

Likewise, its easier to eat until your satiated and not worry about how many calories you eat in a day. But if you’re on top of it, you don’t have to feel guilty about every little slice of cheesecake or glass of beer because it’s in the budget.

Two and a half years ago, I couldn’t cover all my bills without my credit cards. Today, I have a beautiful husband and two adorable dogs in a sturdy house in a good neighborhood and almost no credit card debt.

A plan is control. And control is peace.

This week, I’ve started budgeting calories again. 1800 net calories per day. I’ve been happy with my weight loss so far, but I fear without a plan I won’t keep going. Getting to a normal body mass Index is why I started running in the first place, and its one of the more important things I should do to be a faster runner.

Two and a half years from now, I hope to say such great things about my healthy body, too.

Pattie Reaves

About Pattie Reaves

I'm a new mom and renegade fitness blogger at After the Couch. I live in Brewer with my husband, Tony, our daughter Felicity, and our two pugs, Georgia and Scoop.