What's Your Mindless Margin?

In his book, Mindless Eating, Why We Eat More Than We Think, author Brian Wasnik introduces the concept of the Mindless Margin. The general premise of the Mindless Margin is we can’t tell the difference between whether we consumed 2,000 or 2,100 calories on a given day. One hundred calories? Big deal right? Well, an extra 100 calories a day over the course of a year can lead to gaining about 10 pounds.

After you stuff your face at Thanksgiving, you know that you’ve consumed too many calories. It’s easy to feel the impact on your body from an extra 500-3,000 calories. It’s a whole lot harder to keep track of the mindless eating we do throughout the day. There are signals and cues all around us that convince us to eat more, even if we aren’t hungry. A candy dish on the desk, food left on the counter at home, or finishing our spouses dinner (I’m definitely guilty of this) makes it too convenient to overeat.

I enjoy studying and learning about ways to live a healthier life. Through my learning I have found many parallels between becoming physically fit and becoming financially fit. The Mindless Margin parallel should be fairly obvious, as to how it relates to finances. It can be very easy to spend an extra few dollars here and there without even thinking about it.

While we’re on the subject of food and eating, remember that eating out and buying groceries is probably the number one area where we have a mindless margin. You probably don’t fill up your grocery cart the exact same way month after month. It’s unlikely that you go out to eat the exact same number of times every month and order the same thing off the menu every time. If you happen to do the two previous things mentioned, then you definitely need a little variety in your life. It’s very easy to spend an extra $20, $50, $100, or maybe more on food without even noticing it. It may not seem like a lot, but over time it can make a huge impact on your finances.

Figure out Your Financial Mindless Margin

Your financial Mindless Margin is influenced by two key factors; your salary and how tightly you budget. If you are just scraping by financially, you’re financial Mindless Margin may only be a few dollars a month. If you make six figures, your Mindless Margin may be a few hundred or even a few thousand dollars.

If you keep a tight budget, you’re financial Mindless Margin may be minimal. One of the main benefits of a budget is that it forces you to see where your money is going. By carefully going through the exercise of building a budget and tracking your spending, you can find areas where you are mindlessly spending money.

You can flip the script on your financial Mindless Margin, through a trial and error process with your budget. Next time you get paid, transfer an extra $20 to your savings account. If that doesn’t have much of an impact, then increase the amount next paycheck. Keep increasing the amount, until you start to notice it. Once the savings starts to hurt, you’ll be more mindful with your purchases.

Ninja Piggy isn’t about condemning all spending. Spending money is a part of life, and there are many things we spend money on that can improve quality of life. The key is to be intentional about what you are spending money on. Mindless spending is detrimental because you aren’t getting the same satisfaction you get when you make deliberate purchases.

Strive to be mindful with your money.