I cannot believe it has been more than a year now since I picked up Anna’s book and decided we NEEDED to do a Spending Fast and, in addition, that we made it through almost a whole year of a Spending Fast. It has been an interesting and enlightening year (to say the least), and without any further ado, here is where we landed:
Total Debt Paid off: $35,745 (SF start date Sep 1, 2016)
CC debt: $6,664 (down from $31,682)
Loans (cars and personal): $21,676 (down from $29,692)
Student Loans: $38,026 (down from $40,737)
I still can’t believe we paid off $35,745 of our debt in the last year, of which $26,869 was in extra payments. I am beyond grateful to Anna for sharing her story in the Spender’s Guide to Debt-Free Living. Reading Anna’s book was the beginning of my husband and I realizing there was another way to live our life. There were times in the last year that sticking to the fast was not easy, and other times that there were distractions, but I truly feel this has been the beginning of us realizing there is a path to financial freedom.
Here are the things that helped us be most successful with our Spending Fast:
1. Having a small amount of spending money. Without this, my husband would not have agreed to participate in the Spending Fast, and for me, it was a small budget so I still could attend some social events that really meant something to me. Many times, I didn’t eat out. Instead, I bought one drink, or only an appetizer and no drinks. It also helped me spend much more consciously than I had been doing previously, and live within a ‘socialization budget’. Some may say this is a “Spending Diet.” To us, it didn’t matter what it was called as long as we were spending less money!
2. My husband and I having a thoughtful conversation about our needs and wants at the beginning, and then reminding each other when we wanted to deviate that we were committed to that list. We were each other’s support for staying true to the Fast.
3. Making some Christmas gifts, buying used gifts for the kids, and setting firm (decreased) budgets for gift giving in general. (We were unable to convince some family not to give gifts for a year.)
4. Not forgoing our family vacation tradition, which is a low-cost trip to Vermont with neighborhood friends. (We get a rental house for free.) We set aside money from our tax refunds so we still could go on this trip during month seven of the Spending Fast. That really helped give us a break, then we could get re-energized to make it to the finish line. In addition, we made as much food as possible, packed lunches, and didn’t buy as many gifts or souvenirs as we’ve done in previous years. In the end, we spent $650 (including gas and groceries) for the entire week.
5. Unexpected things come up on the Spending Fast, just like during any other time. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t meet a self-imposed goal for savings (extra payments) in a month. This took me a while to realize, and I wish I had been more positive and easier on myself from the beginning.
6. Seche Vite Top Coat – This seems silly, but I had bought it last summer before my Spending Fast and it really helped me feel like I was getting my nails done at the salon, using this at home.
7. Research, research, research and use your library! We switched cell phone carriers, the bank that holds my husband’s student loans, and our grocery store for better prices or interest rates. And I feel like a fool for completely not using a library for the past 15 years!
Now that our Spending Fast is over, we definitely are continuing with the same rules until we are done with the credit card debt. Once we finish paying that off, our plan is to start splitting what we save each month 50/50 into an emergency fund and extra payments to our car loan. My plan, for now, is to save attacking the student loans until the end, since we are able to write off the interest on them. I am going to consult with a financial advisor regarding that next month.
Again, thank you, Anna, and the whole andthenwesaved.com team. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I am truly grateful. Best of luck to everyone out there starting a Spending Fast or Diet of their own!