We’re often looking for easy fixes. Marketers know this. That’s why they flog all kinds of bunk. There are plenty of bogus solutions to Lose weight now! and Grow rich today!

Some are 21st century corsets that temporarily compress fat and organs.

Others include abdominal crunching devices. “Build 6-pack abs like these young beauties,” they imply. Most have the gall to add, “Without any effort at all.”

You’ll see foreign currency or day trading software that promises to make you millions. But they don’t deliver what they promise.

Be critical of easy fixes. But don’t dismiss them all. Here’s one that works to help you lose weight and grow wealthier. It takes about 5 minutes a day. You won’t break a sweat. Just get two apps for your iPhone or Android. With one of the apps, document what you eat. With the second, track what you spend. That’s it. Job done.

Researchers from Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research followed more than 1,700 dieters over a six month period. The biggest single predictor of whether a participant would lose weight was whether they documented their food intake. It was a better indicator than exercise, age and body mass index. Researcher Dr. Jack Hollis says, “The more food records people kept, the more weight they lost...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.”

No corsets or ab busters were required.

Most people know what they should be eating. Real food­­–--preferably organic. There are plenty of popular nutrition books, all reportedly based on science. But ideas differ. One way to find common ground is to think of your ancient ancestors. Imagine them storming your local supermarket. They would have pillaged fruit, vegetables, nuts, meats, eggs and fish. Nothing else would look like food. If they leaned towards vegetarianism, they would have taken less meat.

Nutritional theories differ. But nobody recommends twinkies, donuts, deep fried foods and sodas (diet, or otherwise). Our ancestors wouldn’t have put an
Oh Henry! chocolate bar anywhere near their faces. They would have buried it instead.

Tracking our food might not stop us from buying the occassional treat. But when we have to record it on an app, it discourages (or shames) us from eating too many. That’s why tracking what you eat is the most effective thing you can do to lose weight.

Healthline.com lists 8 good iPhone and Android apps that work well for tracking food. Most of them are free.

The same strategy works well if you’re trying to spend less. Business Insider lists 7 such apps. I tracked my personal expenses on paper from 1999-2007 and again (with an app) from 2013 onwards. Much like somebody tracking their food, my results were better when I tracked my spending. When I didn’t track my spending, I didn’t fall off the wagon. But I hung off the side, my feet dangling in the dust.

Expense tracking helps us categorize spending. It increases our odds of becoming more like the late Thomas J. Stanley’s Millionaire Next Door. Dr. Stanley surveyed thousands of millionaires during his career as a researcher.

One question he asked was, “Do you know how much your family spends each year for food, clothing, and shelter?” Of the millionaires surveyed, 65 percent said yes. But only 35 percent of high-income non-millionaires could say the same thing.

To increase personal wealth, it might be good to emulate the rich. Tracking what we spend can free up money to pay off debts or invest. It takes just 5 minutes a day. It also beats day trading or wearing a corset.