My problem lies in reconciling my gross habits with my net income.
Building wealth and losing weight are both simple in theory. There’s really only one step to each. To lose weight, simply burn more calories than you eat. That’s it. If you do that consistently, day after day, you will lose weight. You may not lose as much as you’d like as quickly as you like, but you will lose weight. Period. Nothing can change this fact — not your metabolism, genetic profile, family history, or any other excuse or rationalization you can come up with. No one can escape the laws of physics.
Similarly, if you consistently spend less than you earn, you will get richer. Again, perhaps not as quickly as you’d like, but your net worth will grow.
Simple, but not Easy
The first thing you need to realize is that “simple” and “easy” are two very different concepts, especially when addiction dynamics enter into the equation. After all, to quit smoking, all you really need to do is never light up again. Simple, right? But as any smoker who has tried to quit will tell you, it’s anything but easy.
Our collective addictions to consumption in general, and overeating in particular, likely come from a common source. Humans evolved in an environment where food was scarce, without any effective means of preservation, and resources were limited. It’s only natural in such an environment to eat more than you need to survive when the opportunity presents itself, building up stores of fat for the inevitable lean periods. Similarly, it makes sense to hoard whatever resources you can get your hands on whenever possible.
Neither of these behaviors make much sense in our modern world of effectively limitless food and access to resources, but in the grand evolutionary timescale, humans have been living under these conditions for a blink of an eye. Our natural tendencies have yet to adapt.
So if you’ve gotten into trouble with your spending in the past (as I certainly have), or if you’re in trouble now, first off, give yourself a break. You are human, and succumbed to human nature. Beating yourself up about it will accomplish nothing.
At the same time, there’s no excuse for continuing the pattern. Realize that you and only you are responsible for your spending, and take action. There are many natural tendencies responsible adults must suppress to live healthy, productive lives. (I, for example, must constantly suppress the perfectly natural urge to assault anyone who plays Nickleback in my presence.) You’re just going to have to add one more to the list.