There’s no shortage of T.V. commercials promising money-back guarantees for simple devices to miraculously shrink your gut.
“On just ten minutes a day, you too can have the body you want!”
Demonstrating the product will be a 25-year old couple. They could do their laundry on their abs. Instead of grunting and sweating, they’re as relaxed as they would be watching a sitcom.
Forty six year old Mike Wozniak, of Palo Alto California lost 30 lbs. No, he didn’t buy an exercise gizmo through a 1-800 number. “I used a system that included an app for tracking the food I ate to help me lose 30 lbs. in 4 months,” he says.
Tracking what you eat might be the best weight loss strategy available. The Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research conducted one of the world’s largest and longest running weight loss trials. After studying 1,700 participants, researcher Dr. Jack Hollis said, "Those who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records. It seems that the simple act of writing down what you eat encourages people to consume fewer calories."
In the same vein, documenting what we spend can help us grow rich, or at least keep us out of the poorhouse.
Mary Hunt, author of The Smart Woman’s Guide To Planning For Retirement suggests those wanting to increase their wealth should record every penny they spend. It’s the same strategy preached by authors Vicki Robin, Joe Dominguez and Monique Tilford, in their classic book, Your Money Or Your Life.
It seems to be working for 18-year old Alexander Bracho. The student at Texas A&M University has already started an investment account. And he gives plenty of credit to his expense tracking. “I’ve experimented with plenty of online apps to track my costs,” he says. “I eventually selected the Mint Personal Finance app. It syncs with my credit card so I get to see exactly what I’m spending my money on, and it shows me a pie chart to see which spending category is taking up the biggest chunk of my expenses.”
Married couples sometimes need to keep an eye on each other. One partner can’t be shooting holes in the bottom of their money boat while the other bails water. Andrea Dalland Waltho is fully aware of the partnership required.
Originally from Vienna, Virginia she teaches at an international school in Chonburi, Thailand. She and her husband Mark won’t qualify for full Social Security benefits when they retire because expatriates are often unable to make the necessary contributions while abroad.
“Mark and I use an expense tracking app called Goodbudget. It syncs between our two phones so we can see what the other has spent and how much is left in each category (groceries, transport, etc.)”
Those failing to account for costs can have important messages for the rest of us.
Paula St. James, a 65-year old living in Springfield, Missouri used to work as an international schoolteacher, first in Kuwait, then Singapore. Like Andrea and Mark, she couldn’t contribute to Social Security while abroad. Today, she tracks every penny she spends, squeezing as much as she can from her limited income.
“I traveled and lived it up, thinking, ‘I have to do all this now - what if I die tomorrow?’ So I spent like there was no tomorrow. Now I'm at ‘tomorrow’ and I'm saying, ‘Oh shoot, what if I live 30 more years?’”
Those tracking their progress and sharing goals with others may compound their likelihood of success. In a study reported by The Dominican University of California, Dr. Gail Williams divided participants into five groups. Each group was assigned different tasks. She wanted to measure which strategies contributed most effectively to participants achieving their personal goals. Those documenting and sharing their weekly progress were, by far, the most successful.
It appears if we set goals, document progress and share with others, we dramatically increase our odds of success. No 1-800 number required.