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.

Impromptu Experiment

This week I’m trying a new experiment – one to which I hadn’t given any previous thought.  Life is like that sometimes – at least it is for me!  Earlier in the week, I had the joy of being able to spend time with my youngest grandson.  After a couple of days of seeing his little face all the time, it’s really hard to leave and go home.

See why it’s so hard to leave this guy?

Since he’s still at the age where he takes three naps a day, I take my computer along with me so I can do some email or write or do research or, let’s be honest, waste some time on the Internet.  In addition to my backpack for staying overnight, a cooler (for snacks I brought along), a bag of groceries I’d picked up on the way there, and my purse, I had an enormous bag of books I picked up at the library on the way there (I’m going through A LOT of books now that I’m doing the screen free bedroom!) Somehow I left behind my laptop and didn’t realize it until later that night when I went to use it.

After briefly considering driving back the next day to retrieve it (and my sweet daughter-in-law even offered to bring it halfway), I decided it was a good opportunity to do an experiment to see how it would feel to be without it for a week.  Fortunately, I’m able to use my aunt’s dinosaur of a computer for some things.  Except that it took me a long time to remember how to get to the backend of the blog so I could actually write and post something.  Unfortunately the document with all my notes and blog posts I’ve started is on my laptop so I’ve had to wing it.

Flying by the seat of my pants isn’t normally how I like to do things, but I didn’t want to go for another week without posting.  The screen free bedroom experiment is going well, especially now that Baby Ben is hanging out in my room with me.  As long as I remember to wind him every day, I can tell what time it is without having to get out of bed.  With temperatures and wind chills hovering in the teens and single digits for days and days, this has been a godsend.

Thanks for letting me borrow Baby Ben, Mom!

Once I have my computer back, I’ll post an update about this year’s Spending Fast.  If you’ve never done a Spending Fast, I highly recommend it!  If you’d like to read some of my insights about previous years, please feel free to go here to check it out.

It’s taken a lot of time to get even this little post written and ready to go so I’m not sure how many more I will do before I get my computer back.  How do you handle the unexpected?  Are you able to go with the flow or does it ruin your day?  Please leave a comment on the blog or on Facebook!

Work and Leisure

Somehow over a year has passed since I retired from my position as the head of Customer Service for a publishing house.  Retirement hasn’t looked exactly how I thought it would – I envisioned seemingly endless days filled with reading, writing blog posts, playing with Hannah, lounging in the hammock or swing, leisurely walks, and spending time with friends and family.

In reality, it seemed that nearly every day was packed full of one activity or another, some of which included the above, but there were also things to dismantle and things to repair, chores to do, gardens and orchards to tend, food to preserve, new babies to welcome into the world, and laying my Dad to rest.

After being in the corporate world for so long and willingly working far more hours than I should have, I thought it would be a year to rest and recover from pushing myself so hard.  Apparently I don’t know how to rest and keep from pushing myself too hard, because I’m still feeling pretty worn out in this new life.

It’s been difficult to realize and accept that the problem was never my job and the expectations of others.  It was my own work ethic and well, insanity, that caused me to live the way I lived, which was long hours at work, usually six days a week at my job, blogging or spending time with family and friends in the evening, and sleeping a scant five or six hours a night.

Here’s the thing, though.  It’s possible that I can’t live any other way.  Hard work feels good, whether it’s physical or mental and I love the sense of accomplishment I feel at the end of a day.  Sure, there’s stuff that doesn’t get done, but I’m going to get up tomorrow and tackle it with the same gusto I felt for the work today.  The other thing is that I love serving – even when I did work for a corporation, the work wasn’t just for the corporation, it was doing my job the way I would if God were my boss.  Not just for his pleasure, but to use the gifts I’ve been given and put forth my very best, not skating by or calling it good enough. 

I spent a lot of time eradicating thistles last year

Pretty thistles are still thistles

All that said, I need to do a much better job at Sabbath rest.  It’s no coincidence that I saw countless articles last year about increased creativity and output after a period of rest and the fallacy of multitasking.  This is one of the things that prompted some of my 2018 experiments, like the screen free bedroom, hoping to achieve eight hours of sleep at night and devote at least some portion of each day to rest and maintaining a full day of rest each week.  It will be hard and if I’m honest, knowing myself, I’m not likely to be one hundred percent successful.

Another area I need to focus on is being more conscious of what I say yes to. Almost everything sounds good but I’m finding that I don’t always accomplish everything I want to do because I’ve said yes to so many other things.  Since I didn’t think I’d have to schedule my day when I retired, this is going to take some time to figure out.

How about you?  What does your work and leisure look like?  Are you making time for both? I’d love to hear from you in the comments or on Facebook!