The Money Diet: One week down and so far, so good

So I've been on "The Money Diet" for one week now, and it seems to be working. According to my scale, I've lost 11 pounds.

Now, don't be too impressed. I'm not. I 'm confident that whatever I've lost was mostly water and holiday fat that hadn't quite solidified into more or less permanent fat. If you've ever tried to lose weight before, you know that it's often pretty easy to lose a quick 10 pounds or so, and then things go a lot slower.

But the premise is this: Last week, I declared my intentions to try to lose weight this year and get in better shape. (Well, that's the problem, really. I'm in shape all right. I just have too much shape.) So I figured, since nothing else has motivated me to lose weight, I'd take a look at how a diet might help my bank account. As in, if I'm eating less, I'm hopefully saving more.

That said, I have no idea if this is actually saving me all that much money. In fact, my wife went grocery shopping the other day and bought me snacks like All-Bran crackers and a Quaker Oats' brand of oatmeal called Weight Control. So we're still spending money on food -- foods we wouldn't have purchased if I wasn't on a diet -- and for all I know, we're not saving much.

Still, the idea is pretty simple, I think. I'm tracking what I'm saving by not buying the foods that I'm sure were hurting my bottom and my bottom line. And by keeping track of these admittedly alleged savings, it's helping to keep me focused on my real goal -- losing weight.

So here's what I figured I've saved so far this week.

Money saved:
  • Half-gallon jug of eggnog that I would have bought on a grocery trip a few days ago. I love eggnog, and it was on sale in a big way with the store clearly trying to get rid of it, and I know I would have bought it if I hadn't been on a diet. In fact, I reached for it. Debated. Finally decided that while it was a great buy, the cost was still too high in terms of fat content and calories, so I didn't buy it and saved a whopping ... $0.59
  • On the same trip, I avoided buying two bags of the kind of pretzels I often buy and then snack on when I work and in the evenings. It's a regional brand, I think; they have a "buy one, get one free" sticker on every bag, so they're basically forcing you to buy two bags every time. Anyway, it's a favorite of mine, and I avoided the snack aisle entirely and didn't buy it ... $3.29
  • On my grocery store trips, I sometimes buy a frozen pizza for the family -- and didn't -- so I probably saved ... $5.99
  • I avoided buying any fast food meals this week. It's hard to say what I've saved, but let's assume that without my money diet, I would have broken down and gone to a fast food outlet for a meal once this week ... at least $5
  • I didn't make any impulse purchases, like a bottle of pop at a gas station or a candy bar at a grocery store ... $2
  • I didn't "steal" any of my wife's soda stash in our refrigerator, and stuck to my own diet soda, meaning we weren't going to the store more often for soda. (Please don't write and tell me how bad soda is. I know. I have vices. I'm taking it one day at a time, you know.) Estimated savings: at least $4
So I may have saved -- let's work it out on my computer's calculator -- $20.87. Of course, as noted, some of that savings was offset by other choices. Like when I didn't buy the $0.59 eggnog, I did wind up buying myself a one-gallon jug of skim milk, which cost $1.98.

Still, it's an interesting practice, I'm finding. If I buy those pretzels once a week -- and I'd say that's pretty much been the case for several years now -- that means I'm spending $171.08 a year on pretzels. I guess that's not terrible. Everyone's going to spend their money on something. But that still seems like a lot of money to spend on bags of pretzels.

I also went to the gym at our YMCA twice in the last week. We started a membership there more than a year ago, mostly so we could take our kids swimming and get them inexpensive swimming lessons. But I knew that I wasn't getting as much out of it by not taking advantage of its gym, so if I'm not exactly saving money by exercising, in this case, I am making our money go farther. So that's been a pleasant offshoot of this diet as well.

Anyway, I said last week that this week I'd probably be brave enough to broadcast my weight. So here goes ... sigh. When I stepped on the scale a few days before January 1, the number shot up to ... 264.

According to the scale now, I'm 253.

We'll see what next week brings. As I said, so far, I'm not impressed. I'm encouraged, but I know that losing weight is just going to get harder the longer this goes on. For instance, I did break down two days ago and had a small bowl (okay, two small bowls) of some barbecue-flavored potato chips. But for the most part, I'm committed to this idea, and so are my wife and kids, who are monitoring my trips to the kitchen pretty carefully.

It could be a long week.

Geoff Williams is a frequent contributor to WalletPop and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Race and co-author of the new book Living Well with Bad Credit.
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