My idea is to go on a Spending Fast ® for a year – spending money on necessities only to see what happens, how much debt I can get out of and how much I can get into savings.
When I mentioned to a good friend that I was thinking about going on a spending fast for 2010 she sighed and said “Well, that doesn’t sound very fun.” Then, I told my husband what I was thinking about doing and he wasn’t very excited about it either. He said “Great. No more fun. No more eating out. This is gonna suck.”
I have to tell you, I feel the same way. Who would want to not get want they want? I’m the type that buys what she wants when she wants because I work hard and I feel like I deserve it. I know plenty of people who have the same feelings as I do about work and money and spending and not spending.
Inside my head I hear this loudly: “YOU DESERVE IT DARLING!” and truly, I believe that I do. I mean, I woke up early for goodness-sake! I did what was asked of me and I was even nice while doing it! I DESERVE that super cute trinket or hat or whatever from Etsy dammit! Besides, I work a full-time day job AND I run a full-time wedding photography business AND what else can I think of? I do a lot and my spending is justified… until it isn’t anymore.
When I was planning for our wedding that took place in May 2009 my dad gave me a little chunk of money that I could use as needed for wedding stuff. I got really used to having that money around. Being able to spend like I wanted helped me morph a kinda-bad habit into a super-bad habit. And once the wedding rolled around and things changed from “planning the soon to be fond memories” phase to the “Oh, remember that?” phase… guess what didn’t stop when the planning stopped? My spending.
And.. that’s where I am today… starting January 1st 2010 I’m gonna spend money on necessities only and I’m fully prepared for this to suck.
My Spending Fast ® Wants and Needs List
So, I know some of you are thinking “Well… you’ve got to spend SOME money this year don’t you!?” and my answer to all of ya’ll (imagine that with a southern twang) is “Yes, I will have to.” Oh yeah, I’ll HAVE TO. Force me why don’t you. I imagine that this will kind of be like a person who is in Overeaters Anonymous who must still eat but can only consume the “right” stuff. Where it would be a whole lot easier if you could just eliminate it completely from your life.
The goal of this whole spending fast is to get my spending back on track, save some money and get rid of a lot of the clutter and time sucking that comes along with having a lot of stuff and buying the new stuff. Managing it, maintaining it, cleaning it, rearranging it, you know.
Plus, I want my priorities to go like this: people and relationships are #1 and I don’t want things to be at the top or even close to the top of the list. Where as now, that can become questionable sometimes.
Setting up my priorities like that makes sense.
Obviously, situations will happen this year that I won’t be able to predict, so I’m gonna have to weigh those unexpected situations and remember that my motto has to be “Make Do and Mend” rather than “Make More to Spend More.”
Ok. So. Here is the brutal break-down of how things will be going down this year:
What I will have to spend money on (My Needs):
Utilities (keeping lights and water off as much as possible; keeping the thermostat at 68 and wearing a hat and long johns inside, if needed)
Cell phone (taking the internet off of it)
Food (store-bought, off brands, in season fruits and veggies and only when I run out of stuff in cupboards)
Gym membership (local gym, it’s reasonable and health is important)
Photography exhibits (done inexpensively)
Box hair dye (hey, I have needs)
What I’m NOT spending money on (My Wants):
Gifts (sorry friends and family… homemade crafts or re-gifting will be happening. Hopefully you all like macaroni magnets.)
Coffee at coffee shops (sad face)
Clothes (remember: “Make Do & Mend!” and in honor of that I need this. haha!)
Etsy stuff (another sad face)
New business cards (I have a bad habit of getting new ones because I like a different design better)
Coats (see Clothes above)
Fancy html email service (down-sizing it)
Decorative house stuff
Fancy haircuts at fancy hair shop
New music from iTunes
There you have it. There’s no way it can be completely comprehensive but I think it’s a good start.
And, my new name is Mrs. Cheapskate. Nice to meetcha’.
How To Do A Spending Fast ® and Get Out of Debt Quick
A spending fast is considered an extreme but very effective method of getting out of debt quickly. A spending fast works through the elimination of all “non-need” spending.
There are a few things to think about before you start your own Spending Fast and these elements will affect how fast you are able to become debt-free.
These Factors Will Affect Your Spending Fast
- Your income
- The total amount of debt you have
- How much spending you decide to cut out
- How committed you are to the process
- The length of time that you chose for your spending fast
- How much money you can make by selling your unused possessions
- What you chose to do to generate additional income and how much money you can bring in with the side job(s)
It’s time to end the cycle of debt, guilt, and remorse. Let’s do this!
1. List Your Debts and Their Interest Rates
Make a list of all your bills, and then write the highest-interest rate bill at the top of the list with the lowest interest rate bill at the bottom of the list. This will determine the order in which you will eliminate each bill: highest interest rate bill to the lowest interest rate bill.
2. Ask Your Creditors for Lower Interest Rates
Call the credit card companies and ask them to lower your interest rate. They just might do it so it’s worth a shot to call them and ask.
3. Picture the Life You Dream of Living
Determine your priorities by putting actual pen to paper and by writing down your ideal life. What would you be doing if you didn’t have to work for a living? How would you spend your time, and when are you the most happy? Ask yourself, “Is there any way I can reach my goals with the debt I have?” If the answer is “no” and you don’t feel good about it, then it’s time to start thinking about making some serious changes. Be very honest with yourself. Do you find that you’re making decisions about things to do (or not do) based on the amount of debt you have? Does your debt prevent you from living a life that is true to you? Does your debt (and your obligation to it) pull you and angle your decisions in even the subtlest ways?
4. Make The Commitment To Be Done With Debt Once and for All
If you’re not ready to be done with your debt, then you might want to try some other methods first. The spending fast technique requires a lot of commitment and dedication. A spending fast is a way to get extreme results in a relatively short amount of time, but you have to be ready to go forward full-force with it. Your life will change and it will affect every area of life. Getting out of debt and committing to the spending fast is worth it, it’s just not easy!
5. If You’re Partnered, Try to Get Them to Do the Spending Fast With You
It’s a lot easier to change your life if your partner is on board but, if they aren’t, then consider doing the spending fast solo. Separate bank accounts are very helpful if you’re doing the spending fast by yourself.
6. Set a Time-Frame for Your Spending Fast
I recommend a year, so you can get past the difficult beginning part (where all your habits are getting changed) and into the real benefits part (where your debt is getting paid off). A year can seem long day-to-day but at the end of the year you’ll be surprised how fast it goes by. If you chose to do a weekend-long spending fast, a week-long spending fast, a couple of months or a year, you will still get results and it will still positively affect your financial situation.
7. Make a Public Declaration of Your Desire to Become Debt-Free
Tell your friends and family about your decision to do a spending fast so you can have the accountability that comes along with it. In addition to telling your family and friends, take the Debt-Free Life Pledge, and read the entries from others who are committed to getting out of debt too (it’s super inspiring to read the pledges and I always read them when I need extra motivation).
8. Create a “Wants and Needs” List
The “wants and needs” list is the backbone of the spending fast. On the “needs” list include just the necessities needed to live: rent, food, utilities, etc. On the “wants” list, put everything that is an “extra” in your life. Things that went on this side of the list for me were items like clothes, coffee at coffee shops, movies in the theater, gifts, bed linens, new music, new make-up, shoes, etc. (See my original spending fast wants and needs list above) The “wants and needs” list can (and will) be different based on each person’s varying priorities in life. If you decide that something should be on your needs list that wasn’t on mine that’s okay! Just try not to justify adding things just to make it easier. You can do this!
9. Spend Money on the “Needs” Side of the List Only
This is the simple-but-not-easy part of the spending fast.
10. Think About What You Can Buy Rather Than What You Can’t
If find yourself starting to feel bummed out when you’re in the thick of the spending fast, try to shift your perspective, because it will do wonders for your morale. Remember to keep having fun (just the free kind). Remember that the spending fast isn’t forever;that’s why you set a time-frame at the start. Remind yourself of why you’re doing the spending fast in the first place — it’s to get out of debt once-and-for-all and to change your life! Look at the list you made in step #3 when your morale gets low.
11. Become Immersed in a Community of Like-Minded People
Get involved in the And Then We Saved Community. This is where people share their questions, struggles, accomplishments, set-backs, tips, tricks, and most importantly, their getting-out-of-debt successes. It’s a great place to get a reminder that we aren’t alone in our dreams to live debt-free lives.
12. Attack Your Debts
At the end of the month, send all the money that is left in your account to the bill that has the highest interest rate. Continue to send the minimum due on your other bills. Once a bill gets knocked out, be proud of yourself! You’re really doing it! You’re becoming debt-free! Next, start working on the next highest interest rate bill on the list. Become competitive with yourself; try to get better numbers than the previous month and keep track of your savings from month-to-month. To be able to see all the savings at the end of the year is amazing.
13 & 14. Be Committed to the Process and Continue With the Spending Fast Until You Reach Your End Date
It’s unrealistic to think that “mistakes” won’t happen so keep going even when they (inevitably) occur so when they do, re-focus, and get back at you. Stick with the spending fast for the entire time-frame you committed yourself to. If you reach your goal of paying off your debt and you happen to do it before your predetermined end date (um, awesome!), then why not keep going? Squirrel away the extra money and prepare yourself for the next step — financial security.
15. Be Proud of Yourself for What You Accomplished — Big or Small
When you come to the end of your spending fast, look back on all you were able to do. Being proactive and being willing to take charge of your life and finances is definitely something to be proud of!
Throughout the Spending Fast, always be on the look-out for ways to cut the “needs” list down even more, get creative with ways to save money, and be willing to make things yourself in an effort to save.
Before you know it, saving will become (unbelievably) more fun than spending and your financial life (and day-to-day life) will be forever changed!
Get started now and change your life forever! Take the Get Out of Debt Pledge today!
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above image by Erin Hanson