On Tuesday I had a little bit of spare time during lunch so I decided to go to one of my old haunts. (That’s a funny word). Into Forever 21 I went. I used to go there pre-spending fast ALL THE TIME. Mindlessly I would buy things that caught my eye. They would sparkle and twinkle and I was hooked. (Here’s a post I wrote on Day 5 (!) of The Spending Fast about that ol’ store.) The items there are cheap and new and trendy and by the time I got sick of them they were worn out anyway since they were so cheaply made that it was super easy to put them into the giveaway/buy-sell-trade-store/thrift store bag and I could rationalize buying more! Which is exactly what I wanted to do.
Apparently, those days are over.
The Spending Fast went and ruined shopping for me.
I never thought I would see the day but the day happened. And. It was on Tuesday.
yes. it’s true.
Since I’m doing The Spending Diet this year and have a $100 limit on “non-needs” per month I was already over my limit when I walked into the store.
This was off to a bad start.
Maybe I wanted to “test” myself. Maybe I wanted to see how things were different. Maybe I wanted to see if things were the same at all.
Had The Spending Fast changed me at all!?!!!?
I had to know.
Forever 21 just made a huge 2 story store here (Denver). It’s quite nice compared to the old one. When I walked in I found myself saying “Nah.” “Eh”. “Uh”. I wasn’t picking up anything! This was suddenly good. I had made a secret resolution to myself that I wouldn’t buy clothes from there anymore. I wanted to buy clothes that I LOVED and thought would last. “Quality Over Quantity” I reminded myself. Accessories from there were ok. $5.80 for sunglasses are a good thing. That is, if I needed sunglasses. Did I ever tell you I used to hoard sunglasses? Well, I did. It was a problem.
Anyway, back to the story. So, I was easily saying “No” to things and then I started to pick things up. Suddenly, my arms were full of clothes. NO!?! YES!! NO! YES! I was walking into the dressing room. I was trying things on. What was happening? In the dressing room with me were oh, probably 7 striped shirts. NOT including the one I wore that day. Oh my. What was I doing? I don’t know! I DO know that I’m getting bored with this story so I’ll speed it up. I ended up walking out of there without purchasing a single item and I felt very good about it.
The Spending Fast went and took the joy out of shopping and I’m glad to report that it seems I’m ruined Shopaholic. Happily ruined.
I found this recipe for homemade laundry detergent over at Ballpoint + Pen. I’m totally into house stuff that has less chemicals and is cheaper than the store bought stuff. Maybe it’s the hippie in me but I’m totally into it.
These are the fronts and backs of a couple of my latest site cards. They were made from old cereal boxes. I like the brighter more recognizable cereal boxes. Bright and fun and free. Just a little sweat equity and I’ve got some new cards! Here are the originals that I made when I first launched this blog!
This week I’ve been thinking about how The Spending Diet should work. I thought I had it figured out and then I didn’t and then I did and well, I wanted to have a plan that would work for me for life. Not something that I wouldn’t be able to keep up. So. I think I’ve got it sorted out now and I’m ready to spill the details.
The other day I was talking with a pal I hadn’t seen in awhile and he’s all “I’m doing the budget thing too” and I’m all “Oh, I’m not budgeting” then he’s all “Yeah, you are.” Me, “No, not really I wasn’t spending any money at all.” Him “That’s budgeting.” Me “Uh, no it’s not”. Him “Uh”. Me “Uh”. Him “Uh”. And so on and so on for like 5 minutes maybe more, and then we said our “goodbyes” and that was that.
Since budgeting is something that I tried pre-Spending Fast and since I didn’t have success with it I never considered that what I was doing was a budget technique. I don’t know, maybe it is? Maybe it’s just the word that I don’t like. That is a possibility. It’s kind of like the word “networking”. That word is scary but that’s all that’s scary about networking. Anyway, that’s totally off the topic. So, for me budgets weren’t a fit. I don’t like the category thing and defining a certain amount for each category and then going over or under categories and what if a certain thing goes into 2 categories?! Then WHAt!? Then WHHAHHHHATTTT!!!?? PANIC!!
Budgets work for millions of people and that’s cool. There’s a ton of different ways to do the same thing.
Anyway, here is my Spending Diet plan that I don’t think of as a budget:
How to do a Spending Diet
1. Make list of my NEEDS. These are things like: shelter, phone, food, utilities, mortgage/rent. See my original Spending Fast Needs list here. I’m going to re-do this list. Re-evaluation is a good thing.
2. Out of my NEEDS list figure out where costs can be reduced.
3. Stop spending money. (simple but not easy!)
4. When a NEED from the NEEDS list pops up I’ll spend money on those. Those are NEEDS. Those are okay.
5. Since this is the Spending Diet and not the Spending Fast I am allowing myself a $200 $100 limit on “non-needs” for the month. Things that go into this section are things like: clothes, make-up, entertainment, dinner out, other random “non-needs” stuff. I’ll follow this criteria for purchases so I don’t go buck wild buying corn dogs and bubble gum.
6. I’ll keep a running monthly tally of the money I’m spending on “non-needs” and once the $200 $100 is hit then that’s it. I’ll stop spending money and go into the Spending Fast mode for the remainder of the month.
There you have it! My Spending Diet Guidelines!
With this plan I hope to have a life long livable plan that works for me. I’m hoping with this plan I will be able to live in the world of “Enough” and not feel the deprivation I felt with the Spending Fast and also I won’t feel the tedious-ness that a budgeted life makes me think of.
Sometimes you have to be hard on yourself in order to save money. Anna Newell Jones should know. At the beginning of 2010, Jones, fed up with her prodigious spending habits and mountain of debt, decided to go on a “Spending Fast,” which she documented on her blog, And Then We Saved.
That meant no spending on anything except necessities, including her mortgage, car payments, and utilities, for an entire year. She denied herself new clothes, hair cuts, eating out, movies, and more (see her full list of self-negation here). The only luxury Anna allowed herself all year was hair dye–she is a professional photographer and needs to look good for clients.
What did Anna get for her 365-day foray into financial asceticism? More than $13,000 in savings. No more credit card debt. Much less student loan debt. And, perhaps best of all, a better way of managing money.
Despite her pain and suffering–or perhaps because of it–Jones serves as a personal-finance inspiration for 2011. I caught up with her to talk more about her project, her accomplishments, and what she plans on doing next.
BP: Can you list your five biggest accomplishments for your year of saving in 2010, starting with the biggest?
Wow! There have been so many accomplishments this year.
#1 is definitely that I met my main goal of eliminating all of my consumer debt. I never thought that would actually happen and it was the driving force behind deciding to go forward with the Spending Fast in the first place.
2. Paying off my parents. They took out a college loan for me years ago and I had been trying to get it paid off forever and I could never seem to make a dent in it until this year when I did the Spending Fast. Actually getting them paid off is such a huge weight off me emotionally and mentally that I’m just beyond overjoyed to have that debt wiped out.
3. Learning to say “No” to myself and that learning that just because I have money doesn’t mean I should buy whatever I want.
4. Learning the concept of “Enough”. Before the Spending Fast I was never satisfied with what I had or did because I was always trying to have and get MORE, MORE, MORE… my wants were completely insatiable. I would compare myself to others and could never be satisfied since there was always something new that I needed to make me and my life perfect. Because of the Spending Fast I’ve found that I can get by with a lot less and be okay with it.
5. Lastly, starting and actually completing the Spending Fast for an entire year is pretty huge accomplishment. I’m kind of shocked and amazed that I actually did this for an entire year! Did I really just not spend money, except on necessities, for a whole year?! It’s crazy to think that I really pulled this off.
BP: What was the hardest part? What about the easiest part?
The hardest part of the Spending Fast was the beginning. I had to force myself to get used to a completely new and foreign way of thinking about money and spending and saving and debt re-payment.
There were some rough moments there for a while, and I knew I would’ve given up on the whole idea if I wasn’t being held accountable by the blog I had started to document my year with the Spending Fast.
Knowing that I had to write about any failures made me work even harder at doing well because I didn’t want to write that I had messed up. It was also surprisingly hard at certain points to decline on some things because of the Spending Fast and then have people offer to pay my way or pay for my dinner so I could participate. Those situations were a little awkward. I had to explain that I chose to do this and I was going to deal with the good, the bad, all of it.
On the other hand, the easiest part has been that after I got the hang of the Spending Fast and got used to telling myself “No,” the Spending Fast has actually been okay. More okay than I ever anticipated it would be. At this point, at the end of the Spending Fast, I’m feeling far more comfortable with not spending money and I’m way more comfortable with finding creative ways to do things that need to get done rather than automatically going for the quick fix of buying something new.
BP: What are the main things you learned? Will you take any of them with you into the future, or do you think you’ll eventually just revert to your old habits?
I’ve learned so many things. I found that I had to want to be out of debt more than I wanted whatever item I had my eye on. As I mentioned earlier, learning to say “No” to myself has been very powerful and I learned that I can be okay with having less. I’ve also learned that having everything I want is not all that amazing and that I’d rather be doing other things than maintaining, managing and caring about things that I own. I’ve got better things to do with my time! I have learned throughout this year that I am very industrious and that once I set my mind to do something I will do it. I learned that I can make zombie portraits and people will actually pay me for them (www.etsy.com/shop/annanewell). That is very awesome.
I’ve also learned that getting that first credit card paid off was an amazing feeling. Getting that first card knocked out encouraged me to keep going. There is no doubt in my mind that I will take what I’ve learned this year with me into the future.
There’s no way I could go through an experience like this and not have it affect me. Though, I have to admit I have been panicking that once the Spending Fast ends I will become possessed with some wild spending craze and go buck wild again. I hope that doesn’t happen and doubt that it will.
Throughout this whole past year, I have been creating new habits regarding money and spending and my financial life. Now my finances are in the best spot they’ve ever been in before. I won’t let myself get into trouble with money like I did in the past. I can’t go down that road again. I won’t let the year long Spending Fast be for nothing.
BP: What’s your plan for 2011 in terms of saving money?
In 2011 I plan on doing a modified version of the Spending Fast. It will be a Spending Diet and it will be quite a bit less extreme. I still have a college loan hanging over my head and I plan on wiping that out as soon as possible. Getting funds into a savings account and investing are some of my other goals for this upcoming year. I will continue to write on my blog And Then We Saved, since I’ve found that accountability so beneficial.
BP: Can you share any advice for people who want to get out of debt?
I would recommend starting by cutting out one thing a week. Maybe it’s making a gift rather than buying one or wearing something to an event that you already own. Change one thing per week and just keep adding healthy spending/saving habits in there. It is a process.
Money and spending and saving have so much symbolism for so many people and it taps into the priorities and values that we each hold for ourselves. Changing those ideas about money is not something that happens overnight.
I also highly recommend going on a Spending Fast for a couple of months or for even just a month, if not for a whole year. In a lot of ways my life has been re-calibrated because of the Spending Fast.
My style has changed, my financial life is in order, I feel empowered, I appreciate the hours of my life a lot more and I am no longer willing to sell the hours of my life for things. The Spending Fast has literally changed my life.
Anna Newell Jones is a freelance photographer based in Denver, Colorado who shoots a lot of conceptual gallery work. She’s married to a fellow photographer and they travel all over the UnitedStates shooting weddings. She started a year-long Spending Fast in January 2010 along with an accompanying blog to document her progress and setbacks throughout the year. Because of the Spending Fast, she has managed to save $17,911.89 in one year and get completely out of consumer debt.
Hi, I'm Anna! I paid off close to 24k in debt in only 15 months & it completely changed my life! I want you to have a debt-free life too so here you'll be able to read all about: How to do a Spending Fast®, saving & making more money, DIY's, & a lot about living awesomely with less. Let's do this!
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