Like Anna encourages in her book, The Spenders Guide Debt-Free-Living, I have done several Spending Fasts to meet some life-changing financial goals. Recently, I did an entire no-spend summer to boost our family’s efforts to save for a down payment on a new home. (We’re still looking!)
Each time I’ve done this exercise, I’ve learned something about myself and my spending habits. Here are some examples.
I often rush to buy something to solve an imaginary problem
I have seven kids. Sometimes I buy things to assuage the kids’ boredom, but this is almost never necessary. My kids have enough stuff already. They probably just need a little encouragement from me, a little nudge toward a creative activity (instead of toward the ever-present siren song of the screens!). I’ve found that my kids almost always get excited about an activity if I invite them to join me instead of pushing them toward it.
When it comes to homeschooling, I’ve also purchased something new too often, thinking it would help solve some problem a child was having, when the answer to the problem was much simpler. Usually, the child just needed more time to grasp a concept, not a fancy new curriculum.
I still have too much crap
My personal litmus test of whether I have too much crap is if my closets and storage areas are bulging. If yes, I need to purge! I like to keep them no more than two-thirds full for maximum efficiency and ease of use.
Sometimes, having too much stuff is a simple matter of lack of organization. Ask me about the time I cleaned out my daughter’s dresser and found 17 bras. 17! Because it had been so long since I had organized and de-cluttered her clothing, I had no idea she had so many. I had been buying her new ones occasionally because she insisted she needed them (which gives you an idea of the state of her dresser).
I’m lazier and less creative than I think I am
I like to think of myself as a productive, creative frugalista, but the truth is, I’m not nearly as creative as I wish to be. My knee-jerk reaction to some problem in my life often is thinking of some product to buy. This is such a bad habit, but very common. I’m working on releasing it. Instead, I want to think in terms of what I can produce myself (DIY/homemade) or obtain for free through my local Buy Nothing group. Or, do I need a product at all, or can the problem be solved some other way?
For example, do I really need to buy those nifty spice organizer things (you know, the ones that look like a stair step, allowing you to see all the spices at a glance — yeah, I still kinda want those), or do I just need to move the spices I rarely use to the top shelf? Or perhaps lower the two bottom shelves, so there’s not so much space in between them, allowing for more spices to be at my eye level? (Yes, I recently made this change and it totally solved the problem without buying anything. And I kicked myself for not thinking of it earlier!) Frugality really can stretch the creativity muscles, which creates a nice spillover into other areas of life that have nothing to do with finances.
I’m more productive when I’m not spending
On a Spending Fast, my house is cleaner. I get more writing and blogging and homeschooling done. I cook and bake more, leading to more savings. I exercise more because I have more time and energy.
As it turns out, shopping is rather exhausting and time-consuming. And since it automatically creates more waste, there’s more stuff to dispose of and organize. Staying out of stores always boosts my productivity.
What benefits, aside from saving money, do you notice on a Spending Fast?
Carrie writes about homeschooling and raising seven kids frugally. A wannabe French girl, she enjoys reading, biking for her errands and rising early to write at CarrieWillard.com. Her new ebook, The Temporary Tightwad, shows how she used Spending Fasts to change her finances and life.