You've heard me talk about Spending Fasts before and I thought it high time I sit down and write out my thoughts on it; what it is and why I like doing it. Before we get into it, I'll admit that money is sometimes a weird topic to discuss. Naturally so many avoid talking about it, but in all reality, it's a huge component of our lives! It effects SO much! I'm of the belief that if you don't pay attention to your finances, they will eat you alive. On the flip side, if you do pay attention and learn how to manage them, your finances can serve you in unbelievable ways.
So let's get started, what is a spending fast. There are so many ways you can approach this, so by all means, make adjustments to these thoughts any way you'd like. For me, I approach the fast only in regards to myself. I don't pull back on 'normal' purchases for my family like groceries or birthday parties or even Valentine's Day. We'll celebrate Valentine's Day as we normally do, but since I'm in the midst of a spending fast this year, I won't expand the holiday to more than 'normal' as I often times do. You know, the extra treats or add ons that holidays often bring with them? Skipping those this year with a smile on my face.
The goal is to limit my own expenditures. I had a friend verbalize it perfectly when she said this: It's hard to say no, when you can afford to say yes. We were talking in regards to our kids and entitlement issues we see, but I thought it applied really well in regards to myself as well! I find that when I can afford to say yes to myself, instead of just doing it sometimes, I'll quickly slip into doing it all the time. I'll say yes to lunch out, a new shirt, concert tickets, furniture or other home projects. Spending money quickly becomes the solution to almost everything. Running late? Eat out. Having a bad day? Buy a new outfit. Bored? Go shopping. None of these things by themselves are bad, but all together, they add up to detract from my real goal, which is to pay off my house, live simply and be content. More stuff has never added to my happiness. Ever. In fact, it's usually just the opposite. It creates tension with my spouse (who is the absolute saver in this relationship), clutters up my house and is often a poor use of time.
Just like we head to the gym and adjust our diet when our pants get a bit too tight, I've found that taking a month to reset financially is beyond beneficial. It forces me to discipline myself, which is always hard on the front end, but something I'm always grateful for on the back end. I don't often love the process on the first few days, but now that I've done it a few times, I am more than willing to lovingly discipline myself in order to achieve the results I want on the back end.
During a spending fast, I often slow down my living. I work towards more simple dinners, less outside entertainment and fewer distractions from home. As I do so, my heart is always softened to remember how wonderful home and simplicity is.
Don't get me wrong, there are definitely times I begin down the woeful road of self-pity where I step into entitlement and try to convince myself of something I 'deserve.' It's never my proudest moment, but it does happen, and I've learned to not be too hard on myself when it does. When I catch myself stepping onto that road, I'll often remind myself that the three simple facts that I have a roof over my head, dinner on my table and the opportunity to live in the United States means I live in top 5% of everyone on the planet. It's a stark statistic, but it usually snaps me right out of my entitlement funk and reminds me that I don't actually need a new pair of shoes. In the end, I figure if I still love them in a month, I can purchase them then. By that point though, I've usually moved on and have forgotten about them.
A few guidelines if you want to get started on your own Spending Fast.
Take a minute and write down why you want to do it. I love to do this in a free flowing journal. Some entries are long drawn out thoughts, others are simple ideas I've doodled down. Spend some time with your thoughts before you get started. You might ask yourself; what are you long term goals or how to you want to feel about your current living situation?
Then set up some loose rules for yourself, knowing that you can make adjustments as you go if you need to. I've found that approaching any new thing in this way, allows my mind to relax. I can't possibly predict every spending item that might come up and allowing myself a portion of grace before I even get started makes the process so much smoother. The goal isn't to be perfect in it, instead it is to become more thoughtful in my spending. It is not to deprive or punish myself, it is to recognize all the abundance that is already a part of my life.
Some questions you might ask before you get started are:
Where can I cut back? (Maybe only allow one lunch out, instead of 3 )
How can I simplify my groceries? (You might replace one meal a week with a grilled cheese night)
What activities can we do as a family that are free? (parks, picnics, bike rides)
Spend some time down this thought process and journal your ideas. You'll incorporate some and disregard others, again allowing yourself the ability to make changes as you go throughout the month with the goal always to become better, not perfect, but better.
Hi, I'm Amy. When I'm not scouring the valley for the perfect new house, you can usually find me in the kitchen with a gaggle of kids. Chips, salsa and a Diet Coke are usually in hand.