In her virtual manifesto on the spending fast, “My Year of No Shopping,” author Ann Patchett discovered that, “The unspoken question of shopping is ‘What do I need?’ What I needed was less.”1 After refraining from shopping, she found she was “living with abundance once I stopped trying to get more.” These feelings of freedom and gratitude are possible for anyone.
BREAKING THE CYCLE
Thankfully, anyone can jumpstart a new life of savings through a vacation – from spending. This adventure goes by many names, such as a spending “challenge” or “fast” or “diet.” No matter the name, it’s a call to stop the cycle of mindless spending. Then, you can take it one step further and redirect your cash surplus mindfully toward more meaningful experiences or things.
There’s one simple rule for a shopping break: If it isn’t essential for living, don’t buy it. If this sounds daunting, know that you don’t have to go it alone. Jerry Maldonado, Financial Representative with Pacific Advisors LLC, believes that goal setting and self-rewarding can go a long way. “Reward yourself with a nice dinner, new outfit, new tie, or a planned vacation. I look at it like going to the gym; in order to see the results that I want, I know it takes lots of discipline and commitment. Being a better saver takes discipline and commitment!”
WANTS, NEEDS AND IN-BETWEENS
The wants include dining out, buying new clothes and shoes, a streaming TV service, and anything else you can live without. (No, really, a life without streaming is possible!) For one month, skip these expenses.
The redirect: Put the money you recover into a savings account. Even if a small amount, it will get you into the savings habit and likely help you realize how much stuff you don’t need.
THE FAST: NO-SPEND MONDAYS
You’ve heard of meatless Mondays, right? Well, this is its fiscal cousin. Sure, you may still have some ongoing bills that occur on a Monday, like rent or car insurance. The point is to deactivate your wallet on Mondays. Bring your coffee from home, pack your lunch and walk to work (if possible).
The redirect: If you spend, $20 every Monday, for example, in one season you can plug the money you save from your no-spend Mondays into a very nice $260 dinner for two.
THE FAST: CASH-ONLY WEEKENDS
How much do you spend on a typical weekend? Let’s say it’s $150 out the door. Now imagine if you trim this figure by a third, to $100. Over the course of fifty-two weekends, you’ll save $2600! A great way to get there is through cash-only weekends. Friday after work, take out $100 cash. Enjoy a movie, or dinner out, or both, up to $100. The other $50 stays in your bank account, building up cash reserves every week.
The redirect: In a half a year, that $50 turns into $1,300, or a plane ticket to Europe.
THE FAST: LIVE ON HALF YOUR SALARY
Everyone has non-negotiable expenses every month, such as a car or mortgage payment. To live on half your salary, it’s important to know the baseline for these expenses. Once these needs are covered, take a look at your variable monthly costs. In other words, separate the wants from the needs.
The redirect: If your take-home pay amounts to $5,000 a month, that leaves $2,500 left over. In one year, that’s $30,000 that could be put toward a down payment on a first home.
A spending fast is an opportunity to recalibrate your financial life, but what should you do with your newfound financial priorities? According to Jerry, the trick is to redirect the lessons from your spending fast into sustainable habits. “Don’t be afraid to refine your spending habits and meet change head on!” he explains. Long term, you should “focus on being a world class saver (saving 15–20 percent of your annual income). Business owners should devise business plans to measure growth and success, and construct a personal, monthly budget to measure progress.”
Behind each of these ideas lies the goal to change a behavior around spending, and channel it into more personally valuable options. So, find new ways to skip the everyday little expenses and commit to more quality, more meaning and more financial confidence. In Jerry’s words: “Commitment is the ability to look yourself in the mirror and make a promise to stay disciplined and focused even when life throws you curveballs. Stay humble, appreciate what you have and not what you need to impress others.”
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2020-109460 Exp. 11/2022