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.