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lose weight on a budget


Lose Weight on a Budget

In this article I am going to talk about how to lose weight on a budget. Find out how you can get back to a healthy weight without breaking the bank!


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15 Simple Steps to Lose Weight on a Budget

You can learn how to lose weight on a budget by following the 15 simple steps below.

As you work to lose weight, commit to going all in! The more focused that you get and the more you work to reach your ideal weight, the more likely you are to be able to stay motivated and to reach your goal of losing weight! And  you can do it by following these steps. I have been able to lose weight (a little weight and a lot of weight) various times throughout my life by following these simple tips to lose weight on a budget.


1. Understand what it takes to lose a pound.

Perhaps the most important step for how to lose weight on a budget is to understand what it takes to lose a pound.

One pound is equal to 3,500 calories. So to lose a pound, you need to consume 3,500 fewer calories than you burn. To lose two pounds, you need to consume 7,000 fewer calories than you burn.

This is a very basic concept, but it is one that I didn’t know until long after high school and college—until I was taking a wellness class sponsored by my employer, in fact. So if you want to lose 10 pounds in a month, you need to burn 35,000 more calories than you consume, or about 1,100 calories per day more than you consume. 

For most people, losing five to eight pounds in a month would be more realistic. To lose five pounds in a month, you would need to burn 17,500 more calories than you consume, or about 565 more calories per day than you consume.



2. Figure out how quickly you want to lose weight.

Next, figure out how many calories to eat and how many extra calories to burn to lose weight at the rate that you want to.

You also need to figure out your basal metabolic rate (BMR). You can do so using this simple basal metabolic rate calculator. That will let you know how many calories your body naturally burns, without doing any extra exercise.

Most nutritionists recommend that you eat no fewer than 1,200 calories per day when you are trying to lose weight. And many women’s resting metabolic rate is to burn about 1,500 calories or less a day. (For example, I burn less than 1,400 calories per day as my BMR.) That might be less than you thought, given the fact that food companies base their recommended daily nutrient percentages on a 2,000 calorie a day diet. 🙁

So that means that to burn the other 300 or so calories to be able to lose at least 5 pounds a month (if you eat 1,200 calories a day to lose weight and naturally burn 1,500, which is 300 calories more burned than consumed but then need to burn about an extra 265 calories a day beyond that to get to 565, the number we figured out above—but I’m just going to round up to 300), you will need to do some exercising in addition to cutting calories. But that is OK, because you should be doing that anyway. 🙂


3. Keep a food journal and record all of the calories you consume in a day.

The next important part of losing weight on a budget is to keep a food journal and log of how many calories you consume throughout the day. This is one of three most important best practices that nutritionists have found helps people to lose weight and then maintain a healthy weight long term.

You can find a bunch of calorie counting apps and websites, such as the ones at MyFitnessPal or Calorie King or A Calorie Counter. Or you can just Google “calories in a Gala apple,” for example, and you will get results from websites with that information already figured out. 

I know that calculating and tracking your calories requires a little bit of time and effort, but there are ways to make it simpler. I will talk about those a couple of paragraphs below. But for now, planning to food journal will give you some great insights into how, when, what, and even why you eat, and so I highly recommend it starting out.

To use our example from above, if we want to lose five pounds in a month, and we are planning to eat 1,200 calories per day, then we would need to plan our meals and snacks accordingly.

You will soon realize, if you haven’t already from dieting before, that 1,200 calories isn’t a lot to work with. What I usually do is 300 calories for breakfast, 300 calories for lunch plus an afternoon snack of 100 calories, and 500 calories for dinner. That keeps things really simple, and I don’t have to (now) write down everything I eat. I just make sure that I don’t eat more than 1,200 calories in a day when I am working to get back to my desired weight, and I don’t worry about tracking what I eat anymore.

So, for example, if I have something different for breakfast where I eat 400 calories instead of 300, then I simply don’t have a 100-calorie snack (like an apple or whatever) in the afternoon.


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4. Have exercise equipment in your home or a gym you will actually go to.

According to the study that I read about that I mention above that determined best practices of maintaining a healthy weight over time, the second crucial part of being able to lose weight and then keep it off is to have exercise equipment in your home that you will use (such as an exercise bike, elliptical machine, or treadmill).

So you may want to consider buying your favorite piece of exercise equipment, even though I know that will cost some money. We bought our treadmill used for a couple hundred bucks off of Craigslist or our local classifieds (I can’t remember for sure which now), and it has worked great. If you want to save a significant amount of money, buying used is a great way to go.

If you truly don’t have space for a piece of exercise equipment in your home or apartment, then choose a gym or rec center that is close and that you enjoy enough that you will actually go there regularly! But again, if you can, exercise at home. Maybe that’s even doing aerobics or Zumba or Pilates or something, if you can burn enough calories doing that.

Or go running or biking, for example, outside near your home when you can.  Because  if you have to leave the house and drive to a gym, that’s just one more hurdle between you and losing weight. And the fewer hurdles you have, the more likely you are to succeed at losing weight and maintaining your desired weight. And of course you save money by not having to go to a gym or rec center, as well.

The simple truth is that the easier it is for you to do things to burn calories or consume fewer calories , the more likely you are to be able to lose weight.

One way to be able to burn a significant number of calories pretty quickly is to use an incline treadmill. If you have a treadmill with an incline of 30 percent and you walk at a pace of 4 miles per hour, then you can burn 20 to 25 calories a minute, or 1,200 calories in an hour. Pretty awesome!


5. Weigh yourself regularly.

The third best practice nutritionists have found for maintaining a healthy weight is to weigh yourself daily. Now, depending on your personality, weighing yourself every day while you are working to lose weight, however, may not be a good idea, as there will be many individual days where the scale won’t budge or where you may actually gain a pound despite an overall downward trend.

So unless it will help you stay on track and won’t demotivate you, I would recommend you don’t weigh yourself every day while trying to lose weight but rather once or twice a week.

But I do think that weighing yourself at least once a week is important while losing weight to make sure you are making progress and so you can see if you might need to adjust something. It is also a great motivation to continue to exercise and eat less when you see that you actually are losing weight.

6. Avoid special diet programs where you have to purchase special food, shakes, or the like if you want to lose weight on a budget.

In general I would recommend losing weight the old-fashioned way, by simply burning more calories than you consume with a healthy, low-calorie diet of regular food.

I have known many friends and family who have bought the foods and shakes for special diets over the years (such as Isogenix, for example), and while they can be effective for a time, they are expensive, and so they may not be maintainable long term. And unless you want to eat that food on the diet plan indefinitely, they won’t help you keep the weight off, either, once you go back to your regular foods.

If you are on a budget, which is why you are reading this article, I honestly feel that eating healthy, low-calorie, regular food is the best way to go.


7. Avoid fad diets if you are trying to lose weight on a budget.

Similar to the point above, if you are want to lose weight on a budget, where you don’t have to spend a ton of money, you should probably stay away from the fad diets because they may require buying food that is more expensive than what you normally eat.

I have tried one or two fad diets in my life (such as Atkins back in the day), and even if they work to help you lose weight, as with the point above, since they aren’t necessarily maintainable long term, it is very likely that the weight will come back on.


8. Drink adequate water.

Another important part of losing weight is to drink enough water. Did you know that if your body is dehydrated, it may actually tell you to eat, just so it can try to get the fluids that it needs? So when you are hungry, you may actually be thirsty. And even if you don’t feel particularly thirsty, keeping adequately hydrated can help you to avoid overeating. And it is better for you than diet sodas and other diet drinks.


9. Cut out (or at least drastically reduce) the sweets and junk food.

One of the simplest ways to lose weight on a budget, though it may not be easy, especially at first, is to eliminate or at least largely cut out sweets and other junk food.

I have a sweet tooth, and I love cookies and brownies and cake and all that stuff. So I know that it can be hard to give up that stuff (or largely give it up) for a time. But it is very hard to lose weight if you eat many sweets or junk food because of all the extra calories you have to then burn exercising. It is easier, in a sense, to give up the sweets or all but say 100 calories worth of sweets than to have to do the work to burn the calories from them.


10. Cut out alcohol and soda and the like.

Alcohol and soda and punch and all that are just empty calories, so cut them out. That is a simple win right there. If you just love your soda and feel you can’t live without your soda (at least, not for now; people do change over time!), then at least drink diet soda (but that’s not really good for you either . . .).


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11. Replace less healthy food options with healthier, low-calorie, low-cost alternatives.

In theory, a calorie is a calorie. So if you choose to eat three 100-calorie cookies for breakfast, a 400-calorie slice of pizza for lunch, and two corn dogs (200 calories each) and another 100-calorie cookie for dinner, you will still be keeping to your 1,200 calories, for example. And you would still lose weight. But that’s not a great plan! 🙂

Your body of course needs nutrients to help it run well and so you will have the energy you need to get done all that you need and want to.

So when you are working to lose weight on a budget, buy a lot of low-calorie, in-season vegetables. These include items like spinach and romaine lettuce and broccoli and carrots and the like, and make your own simple salad with a low-calorie (or even no-calorie!) dressing to save money. Frozen vegetables also work well and lose little if any nutritional value and are fairly inexpensive. Canned vegetables can also be a good option.

Fruits are another great low-calorie option because they a healthier way to satisfy your sweet tooth. And they are fairly low cost (compared to processed and special diet foods).

To save money, don’t buy organic. Or at least limit what you buy that is organic. It costs a lot more money, and it just might not be worth it in your current financial situation.

Buy more healthy, less-expensive meats as well, such as chicken, which is fairly low calorie and fairly inexpensive. and other lower-calorie, less-expensive meats like turkey.

Beans are another great option because they are super cheap (relatively) and are packed with protein. I feel they are one of the most filling food options and a great bang for your buck.

And so are eggs. A large egg is less than 100 calories, and eggs are another one of the cheapest protein items you can buy.


12. Avoid or buy less convenience foods, or buy them on sale.

I admit that buying packaged foods is more convenient, especially when you are trying to count calories to lose weight. But it is also more expensive. So if you are going to buy it, buy it when it’s on sale as much as you can.


13. Stick to the basic foods and keep things simple.

If you are willing to stick with a handful of basic foods that you eat most of the time while you are working to lose weight, you will keep things much simpler for yourself.

Once you start to count calories, it becomes pretty easy over time to know how many calories your go-to foods have. A medium apple is about 100 calories. A banana is also about 100 calories. A tablespoon of peanut butter is about 100 calories. A slice of whole-wheat bread is also about 100 calories. One ounce of cheddar cheese is about 110 calories. And a large egg is only about 80 calories. A quarter-pound chicken breast has about 190 calories. Half a cup of uncooked oatmeal has 150 calories. A cup of cooked pasta has 200 calories.

If you will come up with a basic meal plan with a handful of basic items (and then stick to your meal plan!), you can keep things simple for yourself and be well on your way to reaching your weight loss goals.


14. Set yourself up for success.

When trying to reach any difficult goal, you need to make a plan to help yourself succeed. When it comes to losing weight on a budget, some of those steps to success could be the following:

  • Getting rid of the junk food in the house.
  • Getting your spouse and other family members or friends to support you in your weight loss goal.
  • Putting your exercise clothes out the night before so you have fewer obstacles to getting up to exercise in the morning
  • Buying a piece of exercise equipment to have at home or work (as I mention above).
  • Getting an accountability partner.
  • Finding apps to help you track calories consumed and burned.

Again, take a little time to think about the hurdles that might keep you from losing weight (or that have kept you from losing weight in the past), and figure out ways to overcome or work around them.


15. Go all in.

I mentioned this above, but it is worth repeating here. One thing that can help you to succeed is to go all in. So instead of reducing the amount of junk food you eat, cut it out completely. Instead of exercising 3 days a week, exercise 6 days a week. From my experience, I am more likely to be successful (with both my financial goals and my health goals) if I give an intense amount of effort for a shorter amount of time. That way, our willpower is less likely to give out, right? That has been my experience. 🙂 


It definitely is possible to lose weight on a budget. When I first wanted to get serious about losing weight several years ago, I had over 50 pounds to lose. But I did it all by exercising more and counting calories on the basic, inexpensive foods that I ate. I didn’t buy any special diet foods or follow any diet plan or program. And I feel that doing things that way really does make maintaining a good weight easier because you aren’t drastically changing what you normally eat and normally do.


Are you ready to get serious about losing weight? What have you done to lose weight on a budget? What are your favorite go-to foods  and best tips for inexpensive weight loss?  I would love to hear your ideas! Leave a comment and let me know where you are at in your weight-loss journey!



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