Is it a WANT or a NEED?
This financial fast forces you to ask the all-important question with every considered purchase: is it a want or a need? The rules of the financial fast are simply this: you can only spend money (CASH only, no debit or credit card usage in these 21 days) for basic necessities such as groceries, gasoline, utilities, rent. You cannot spend money on luxuries. You cannot spend time window shopping or shopping as retail therapy. No spending money on manicures or beauty/spa treatments. No buying things on line. You cannot dine out or buy coffee/tea out of the home. You must bring your lunch to work. You get the picture.
I believe in the power of accountability and know first hand how helpful an accountability partner can be – that is, someone who knows your goals and holds your feet to the fire. Whenever you attempt to take on something BIG and need to change your habits and actions to achieve it, an accountability partner can be the motivating force to help you achieve your goals. That’s how I completed and published my first book Networking Ahead for Business: The Best Vehicle to Get More Customers, Make More Friends and Create More Opportunities for Yourself and Others (Kiwi Publishing)
Michelle Singletary strongly encouraged us to find a partner/friend to do the 21-day Financial Fast with us. Despite a few invitations, I couldn’t find anyone who was willing to do the fast with me and start the very same day. So I decided to do the 21-day financial fast and share my experience on Facebook. (social media as your accountability partner. Hmmm… interesting idea).
Below is the daily record of my experience on the 21-day financial fast as recorded on Facebook:
- DAY 1 – Keynote speaker Michelle Singeltary inspired me and 500 other women today at the YWCA’s Money Conference for Women. She challenged us to not use any plastic (credit or debit cards) and not buy anything except absolute necessities for the next 21 days. Today, I did buy gas for the car, bu…t I resisted the impulse to rent a RedBox movie for $1. Instead I went to my local library and checked out 6 movies for FREE.
- DAY 2 – I found myself at Ocean State Job Lot today to purchase an outdoor flood light for the house. Paid $10 cash and left. I had my hands in my pockets to avoid touching items that might tempt me. In the past I have easily spent $40-50 on incremental items at this store. Later I was gardening… and found two dollar bills in the garden. This financial fast is working.
- DAY 3 – Now I understand what author Michelle Singletary meant by having a “Life Happens Fund.” My car has been making odd squeaking sounds. Trip to the mechanic cost me $527.88 – new brake job. To be true to my financial fast, I did NOT use my credit card, but wrote a check from my account. Nex…t time, I will bring cash and dole out 5 big bills..to feel the pain.
- DAY 4– I managed to resist the urge to stop for coffee and take myself out to lunch. Went straight home where I knew that food was plentiful (and already paid for). I am wrestling with whether or not I should pay to get my hair cut before a photo shoot I have scheduled next week.
- DAY 5 – I spent some money to promote my business today (SendOutCards); but the real financial wake up came when I picked up some new clothes that I had purchased the prior month. That was the most expensive skirt and blouse that I ever purchased. Ever. And YES – I charged it to my credit card. …Last month’s spending decision hit me hard today. It’s good to fast!
- DAY 6 – Following Michelle Singletary’s advice, I have spent the last few days cleaning my office, my house, my closet. It’s amazing how much STUFF that I have. Don’t really need more. I was
also intrigued with Michelle’s thoughts on the Evils of Entitlement.
- DAY 7- Today was the real test. My husband and I were invited to go out to dinner with a group of friends. My decision: he goes; I stay. He pays cash for his dinner. I stay home with our boys (avoiding babysitting expense). I feel really GOOD about this decision. It shows discipline!
- DAY 8- Paid cash for postal shipment, business items and even walked into the bank to take real cash out for necessary (only) purchases. I also returned purchases that I didn’t really need. Here’s an inspiring article about a woman who went on a ONE-YEAR financial fast. Check out the creative ideas implemented to save money.
- DAY 9- It’s Halloween today and was tempted to go and buy more candy for the trick’ o treaters. Then I calmed myself and realized that I had already purchased candy and could make cute little bags with a few pieces, rather than loading them up with sugary, unhealthy food that would hurt them more than help them. Note to self: use what you have; stay out of the stores.
- DAY 10- I needed to create a gift basket to use as silent auction item for an conference that I was speaking at. I re-used a few wicker basket that I already had (have ton of those) and limited myself to $20 cash to purchase food items (crackers, cookies, cheese, kitchen towels) to adorn the baskets. In the end, I had enough goodies to create not one, but two gift baskets. Note to self: buy less than you think you need.
- DAY 11– Another wake-up call from my old “buy today – pay tomorrow” philosophy. I’m holding an Ann Taylor bill for $239 on those 2 new outfits. Signing up for a store credit card “saved” me an extra 15%. This is another lesson I’m enjoying on my 21-day financial fast. It’s a new way of thinking …about what’s important – clothes that last a season, or the quality of my lifestyle in retirement.
- DAY 12 – Good things happened today. I went into Wal-Mart to purchase 3 HBA necessities (contact lens solution). I was determined to pay CASH. I thought I had a $20 bill, but turned out to be only a $10. I put a few things back and walked out financially in tact..with what I needed. Horray! AND.…..I did get that haircut ($30 cash) and had a fantastic photo shoot with Cynthia A. Lang today
- DAY 13 – I returned a new skirt that doesn’t really fit, but I kept the killer white blouse that looks like a million bucks. That financial compromise feels good to me. Tonight, I’m going to the movies with my YWCA board members to see a documentary film called “Waiting for Superman”. I will pay… CASH for the $8.50 movie ticket and I will eat BEFORE I go to the theater.
- DAY 14 – Okay, it got tough yesterday. I wrested with the question of whether wine was a WANT or a NEED. After spending 5 years in the wine industry, I had “convinced” myself this beverage was part of a quality lifestyle. But yesterday, my financial fast discipline prevailed & I drove right by …the wine store. No money spent. Instead I had a San Adams beer that was already in my refrigerator.
- DAY 15 – Saturday was bit more challenging, as I really wanted that glass of wine in the evening after an invigorating panel discussion at the Total Woman Conference for Girls & Young Women. I budgeted $10 and paid in cash. Then I went to the grocery store and set a budget of $20 cash. Walked ou…t $17.73 (horray!) and managed to avoid the RedBox movie rental machine again.
- DAY 16 – I attended the The Well-Healed Woman” conference in CT with my friend Sharon Alleman. I avoided buying a $23 scarf that I didn’t need but liked. Allowed myself to enjoy the keynote speaker without buying her book. Came home and learned that my husband had purchased a $15 jacket for my son… at a Ski Swap Meet. Now that was money well spent on a true need – winter jacket!
- DAY 17 – My husband and I were reviewing the School Pictures package offers. Outrageous! $23-69/child just to get those wallet size photos, when really you can snap a better photo yourself for less. But then there’s the emotional aspect of having your official school photo. It’s called “belongin…g” and “right of passage.” What would Michelle Singletary say? Two words “college fund.”
- DAY 18– I’m in the home stretch now. Perhaps I am weakening, as yesterday I purchased $10 worth of raffle tickets at an event I was speaking at. I could visualize winning the great prizes. I guess this is not unlike the lure of the LOTTERY – a sinkhole for your money. Oh, by the way, I didn’t win any of the prizes. That was my real lesson!
- DAY 19 – I’m reflecting on what John Barb taught us yesterday at the CSAE conference. He asked us to identify our biggest personal problem. I wrote down ‘Spending too much $ – Impulsive.” Then he asked us to write down “What’s Working” and “What’s Not Working” in his Do What Works Worksheet. Wha…t IS working for me is this financial fast. It may become a new lifestyle!
- DAY 20 – I had a business networking coffee and treated my friend Bernandine. $ 5 cash paid including tip. Acquired cool new things thanks to my friend Rahna who was decluttering her house with a TAG Sale. One (wo)man’s trash is another (wo)man’s treasure. Isn’t it amazing what we Americans accumulated? STUFF. Tons of stuff. And tons of our money tied up in our stuff. Eye opening.
- DAY 21 – I did it! I made it! 21-days of the financial fast. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been rewarding: financially, emotionally, intellectually and physically. I encourage YOU to take the 21-day financial fast. My final poll question: My generous mother-in-law gave me $100 for my birthday …next week. WHAT should I do with this money? Spend it on ME? Save it? Invest it? Donate it?
- Here is my decision: I spent half of it donating to charity, helping a woman in need get back on her feet and feeling supported by other women. The other half I am going to open up a new savings account (at a different back without any debit card access!). This will be the start to building my EMERGENCY FUND. This is one Michelle Singletary’s recommendations.
Are you up to the challenge?
I highly recommend the 21-day Financial Fast. It is easier to do than you think and will give you an incredible boost of motivation, insight and, well, more money to save and invest. Consider reading Michelle Singletary’s book The Power to Prosper: 21 Days to Financial Freedom. You can save money and check it out from the library or borrow from a friend. Use her book for read-along inspiration as you experience each day of this empowering fast. It is an illuminating and empowering experience that I highly recommend. Go for it! Take control of your financial future!
Special thanks to the YWCA Hartford Region (especially Deb Ullman/CEO and Shari Smith) and the many sponsors who helped make this incredible conference happen including: Prudential, Bank of America, Travelers, Hartford Courant/Fox CT, CT Light & Power, Yankee Gas, Northeastern Utilities Systems and the State of Connecticut department of higher education. You made it possible for over 500 women to enhance their financial literacy and confidence. This is a critical step towards economically empowering women and girls.
- Want to help economically empower women and girls? Become a member of the YWCA today. Click here to enroll as a member on-line today.