Diet ads are everywhere. From the time a new year begins and up until summer vacation season arrives (yes, that means swimsuits), it is hard to escape the constant pitches to lose weight through a new program, pill, exercise DVD or nutrition plan.

But the secrets to slimming down should be simple for frugalistas. Many of the same budget-saving principles that help prevent bloated debt can be used when the goal is to slim down. Here's how to get into those skinny jeans (and maybe a bikini) without spending a dime:

Know the budget and stay there

One of the first rules of frugal living is to stay within budget. The same goes for healthy eating: Determine how many calories should be consumed daily to reach your goal and work within those boundaries. Free online programs like SparkPeople (check out this KCL post to learn more about SparkPeople) and Livestrong have tools to help determine a healthy weight based on age and other factors and then use that information to set a daily calorie budget to obtain the goal weight.

Use Livestrong's My Plate feature to log daily calorie intake. Enter age, height, weight and goal to see how many calories are needed each day to reach that goal. Track calories on the goal with My Plate's mobile app.

Treat those calories like a checking account. Keep track of every calorie "spent" each day and don't go over that set limit.

Work harder to spend more

A dream vacation, a new car or a must-have pair of shoes are considered luxury items that are non-essential for daily living. To avoid debt, it's smart to save up in order to afford those extra treats (by working a few extra hours or cutting something else in the budget, like cable television). When focusing on a weight loss goal, the key is to stay within that calorie budget by making choices: Skip the bread if that dessert is just too good to resist. Spend an extra 30 minutes at the gym to stay within budget when having a dinner out or a special treat.

Search the massive food database on CalorieKing to make it easier to stay on top of meals, know how many calories are in favorite foods, and discover what to eat and avoid in order to stay on track. It is free to use the searchable database (there is also a weight loss program that can be joined for a fee).

Livestrong's Loops feature allows users to map routes for running, walking, biking and hiking and also shows how many calories are burned during those activities. MapMyFitness is another free fitness tracking site where users can record activities and find out how many calories are burned based on different exercises.

Remember the bottom line when facing temptation: If you can't afford it, don't buy it. Don't eat or drink anything that isn't within that daily calorie budget.

Don't look for a fast fix

Get-out-of-debt schemes (and get-rich-quick promises) typically lead to even more debt along with disappointment. The same idea applies to programs that promise rapid weight loss. The goal is a healthier body for a lifetime, not to wear a smaller dress at that summer reunion. Focus on small, daily goals rather than a big number.

Learn your Body Mass Index (BMI) to discover whether your current weight is healthy or how much weight should be lost in order to be within a healthy range. WebMD has a BMI calculator feature that gives users detailed information about healthy weight range, body type, ideal heart rate and suggested daily calorie consumption (based on personal information and goals).

Learn what to expect when losing weight, including how long the process should take, by reading WebMD's advice on diets and healthy eating.


How to Use Frugal Living Habits to Lose Weight