A spending fast is about learning your spending habits. It’s your defence to cope with merchants. Have you noticed how aggressive some firms have become? Some create favorable conditions for you to spend and spend and spend. Others generate sales and deals almost each month. They play offence while you play defence. If you don’t fight back, financial stress will control you and merchants will decide your future. At least yearly, go on the offensive, get off merchants’ agendas, and do a spending fast. You will not regret it. Let’s look more closely at what, why, how, how long, and when to do a spending fast.
Webster’s definition of a fast: “To eat sparingly or abstain from some foods.” A spending fast is different. You want to eliminate some spending, but the purpose is to learn about you. This is my definition of a spending fast: A specific period when you spend for items ethically, legally, morally, and life sustaining only, recording all spending, and procedures followed before spending.
Before starting, understand ethical, legal, and moral relate mainly to prior commitments you must honor: rent, mortgage, credit card balances, taxes. Life sustaining refers to needed food, groceries, and medications. Examine your diet and medications and understand you don’t need all you buy.
Review your eating patterns and grocery list—if you don’t have a base list, prepare one. Exclude junk food such as pop, chips, and other unhealthy items. Do you smoke, eat out often, and know why you buy most items? This preliminary review might suggest areas needing future attention. Don’t try to fix them now; note them for later reference.
Do you know most folks don’t know their spending habits, drivers, or patterns! They don’t know leaky areas, weak spots, or how to control spending—they look at “cutting cost” instead of changing behavior. The goal of the spending fast is to learn your spending drivers, habits, and patterns: why you spend, when you spend, and the procedure followed before spending. That’s it; it’s not to save money. With this knowledge, you start behavior changes leading to a new spending approach, which will lead to lower spending.
You need a couple aids. A notebook or computer file with headings, date, description, amount, comments, is vital. As you spend, record the date, enough description for later review, amount, and most of all, how you decided to spend. For instance, did you look at need, compared with want? Was it needed legally, ethically, morally, or life sustaining? Don’t try to change your habit now; this is not the goal. Do what you wish, just record it. Remember, your goal is learning about you.
Next, you need someone to hold you accountable to complete your goal. Choose a reliable, positive person and define his or her role. Agree in advance review times with this person. Irrespective of review times, daily, write comments in your notebook or file and note specific learning for later action.
The longer the better; if you decide to do the fast you will learn much about you. You will spot leaky areas and opportunities to change behavior to reduce spending. I recommend a calendar month. But, a week is better than nothing.
At the period’s end, based on knowledge gained, develop goals and plans to change specific behaviors. You might notice you spend $5.00 each week day for lunch, and you might decide to take lunch to work and cut $5.00 daily. You would save this amount only if you deposit it in a savings account or use it to repay debt.
September or October, ahead of the the holiday season, will provide great learning. If you want to be bold, try December. Again, I remind you, the goal is to learn why and when you spend: drivers, patterns, and spending habits.
Most folks don’t know their spending drivers, patterns, or habits. Do you shop when you are bored? Tired? Frustrated? Depressed? Do you spend regularly on Fridays? Wednesdays? How much do you spend eating out regularly? These are a few questions your spending fast might answer.
After the fast, the results will challenge you to behavior changes that will help you get on top of your finances. Try it. There is no downside. Most folks I know who have tried this fast, saw at least $250 monthly they could stop spending immediately.