January Spending Fast Update

January has come and gone and February is going by at an alarming rate! Even though the fast is over, I’m still doing my best to eat food that I have at home without buying extra items.  The main reason for the continued fast is because I’m planning something special at the end of the month, which of course, I will talk about then.

Overall, I spent about half the amount I normally spend on groceries. Nothing was spent on clothing, though I did have an unexpected home repair bill.  Thankfully it was a small amount so there wasn’t a big affect on my budget.  It’s also the month that I pay a year’s worth of car insurance, so even though it’s a large amount, I planned for it and it only hurts a little to see that money disappear from my bank account.

Technically, I didn’t spend any money on entertainment, but I did use a ‘gift card’ I got from my cousins to see a movie at the Clinton Theater.  It was a very generous amount so I was able to see a couple of movies AND have popcorn and a soda at both and I still have a little leftover!  Since I’m the one making the rules for the fast, I’ve decided that using my ‘gift card’ doesn’t break them.

One of the best gift cards I’ve ever received!

Thank you to those of you that reached out to be to let me know you’ve been struggling with debt.  It’s very difficult to admit and for most people, it comes with much shame and self-hatred.  I know because I have been there, I’ve berated myself for allowing myself to get in over my head, had buyers remorse, told myself I was an idiot and worse.  That doesn’t help and doesn’t make the situation any better. 

More than once I’ve sat at my computer to write my debt story – I’ve got several paragraphs and think there will be multiple installments of it.  Here’s the thing, though – when I relive those days and those decisions, there’s a lot of darkness there and I find myself needing to take a break from it.  While I don’t beat myself up about it anymore, it’s hard not to think about how foolish I was, especially for someone who knows better.  Even writing all this makes my throat constrict and I’ve got a strong urge to make a joke or add a twist – anything to stop feeling it.  That tells me that I need to finish that story, write down all the gory details and share it.  That’s where the healing happens.  And again, if you are identifying way too much with what I’m saying, there is a way out.  Just send me an email or a private message if you want to talk.

Screen Free Bedroom Experiment Results

It’s been thirty days since I embarked upon the Screen Free Bedroom experiment and took my computer, iPad, and iPhone out of my bedroom. There have been several times when I’ve regretted not having my phone, namely when I’ve gotten text message at night after I went to bed or early in the morning before I’ve gotten out of bed.  Generally, I’ve let the late night texts go without getting up to check my phone, even though I’ve been very curious about what they might be.  When I’ve received early morning texts, I’ve gotten out of my nice warm bed, stuck my feet in my slippers and tiptoed shivering to the living room to see what’s what.  There’s no logical reason for the library to text me at 6:30 AM to let me know my books have arrived, but yet that’s when they let me know.  Other times it’s been family members and I’ve been happy to endure the chilly January weather.

Speaking of the weather, it bothered me at first that I didn’t know the temperature or the windchill before I headed outside to see what the chickens were up to and to take Hannah for a walkabout.  Then I realized it didn’t really matter – it’s January in Michigan and it’s cold.  Knowing the actual temperature or windchill is irrelevant – I am still going to wear all the clothes I can.  If I go out and the weather is warmish – what a delightful surprise!

The main reason I decided to do this experiment was to see if my sleeping pattern and quality of sleep would improve, and while I would like to say there’s been no difference, sadly, that’s not the case.  For many, many years I’ve been able to fall asleep within a few moments of deciding I want to go to sleep. Many people have told me that they are jealous of this ability, but it’s one that I had to cultivate over time.  Going to bed used to consist of worrying about things that had occurred during the day, things I needed to do, things that I feared, things that I wanted, things I was planning to say to people, really lots and lots of things.  Somewhere I heard or read that instead of worrying about the same things over and over non-stop, I should determine to worry for just ten minutes.  This seemed logical since, after all, I did worry about the same things day after day and the same thoughts swirled constantly through my mind.  After some practice, I was able to limit my worrying to ten minutes and over a time, it seemed silly to even worry for ten minutes, because as Matthew says in his gospel, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” The answer is no, so why do it?

Where I struggle, however, is with staying asleep. If I wake up really early, it’s difficult to fall back asleep, which is why I typically reach for my iPad and start the daily ritual of checking my email, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn if I’m wondering what my former colleagues are up to, the news, playing a game of Scrabble or Free Cell, or reading an eBook. Flitting from app to app would fill the hour or two (or sometimes three) of time before it was time to officially start the day.

Without that slim device within my reach, I’ve been able to sleep longer and even when I woke up early, was able to fall back asleep about fifty percent of the time.  My normal six hours of sleep has increased to seven, and that’s after just one month. The other weird thing I noticed once I borrowed my Mom’s old wind up clock was that I’m now able to sense what time it is rather than just using the digital display on my iPad.  Initially I had no idea how long I had been reading and would get out of bed multiple times to see what time it was.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that I feel calmer.  While flitting from app to app was very entertaining, I think it had a detrimental affect on my brain.  I’d get out of bed with a million things on my mind, feeling like I had tons of stuff to do and that there wasn’t going to be time to do it all. It’s as if I willingly gave control of my day to someone else and now I’ve decided to take it back. 

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have read so many books this month, about twenty-six so far.  Since I’ve been wanting to have more time to read, this has been a huge bonus.  It also seems like I’m able to remember more of what I’ve read, likely because I’m not trying to get through it so I can move on to something else on my iPad.

So where have I landed with this experiment?  It seems that the benefits have outweighed the inconveniences so I’m going to keep going, at least for another sixty days.  Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to get to the elusive eight hours of sleep that we are said to require. Hopefully the library will be okay with me checking out eight books a week for the next couple of months . . .

How about you? Do you keep your phone, tablet, computer, or TV in your room?  Do you think it affects how well you sleep?  Do you think it impacts any other area in your life?  If you’ve done a similar experiment, please share in the comments or on Facebook.

January Spending Fast

In January of 2015 I embarked on my first spending fast, based on the book 21 Days To Financial Freedom by Michelle Singletary.  It was my first experiment with deliberately not spending money on anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary.  It challenged me to be very creative in meal planning as well figure out what free entertainment was available in my area.  Errands were postponed to save on gas and I walked to the library for books and free movies. You can read more about that journey here.  In January 2016, I didn’t do a formal fast because I was working on some aggressive savings goals so that I could retire later that year.  Every month that year was a thirty day spending fast and I was able to reach my goal and retired in November.  

This year, like last year, despite being on my normal tight budget, I’m doing the fast again.  It never ceases to surprise me how many times I think of something I would like to buy and have to remind myself that it will have to wait until February.  The curious thing is that most of the time I completely forget about whatever it was that I wanted to buy in that moment. In fact, I distinctly remember telling myself that I could buy something in February, but I no longer recall what it was!

Online retailers have made buying things so easy that it takes very little effort to click a button and have something delivered straight to my door. This is why I keep all my disposable monthly income in the form of cash. It hurts to spend cash, especially when there is a finite amount of it. It makes the decision of whether to make a purchase very deliberate. If I’ve budgeted a hundred and fifty dollars for groceries, it’s the 25th of the month, and I’m down to my last five dollars, it’s very easy to decide that I don’t need that delicious bar of organic free trade chocolate or Lay’s Lightly Salted Potato Chips (you can read about my undying affection for these chips here) and should probably opt for some fresh veggies instead. 

If you’ve ever wanted to find out where your money goes, get your debt under control, or try to figure out how to save for something big, I recommend the following resources:

  • Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. Hands down the best book I’ve ever read for getting out of debt – so good, in fact, that I’ve used it twice to get my debt under control (some life lessons are much harder to learn than others)!  Dave designed a curriculum called Financial Peace, which I’ve not only gone through, but facilitated – it’s that good!  If you ever have the opportunity to see Dave live, I promise – you will be inspired to make changes.
  • How to Get Out Of Debt, Stay Out Of Debt, And Live Prosperously by Jerrold Mundis.  There are great tips in this book and I still use a modified version of the Spending Plan to track where my money goes every month.
  • 21 Days to Financial Freedom by Michelle Singletary.  Michelle’s book is a great resource for understanding your relationship with money and learning a better way to do things.
  • Living Well & Spending Less by Ruth Soukup.  Ruth also has an online course, Living Well Spending Zero, which walks you through a 31 Day spending fast.  It’s great for looking at what you already own and determining what to do with it, whether it’s finally eating the beets in the pantry because you’re not buying groceries until you use what you already have or decluttering to make more space in your life for the things that matter more.

Have you ever completed a spending fast?  Please tell about your journey using the comments button or by leaving a reply on Facebook. If money or debt is something that is causing you a lot of pain right now and you’d prefer that the world not know, but want to talk, please feel free to send me a private message.