How to go on a financial fast
Going on a financial fast takes courage and discipline. Americans, and many other people in the world, are used to convenience, quality, and having what we want NOW. If you decide on a ‘financial fast,’ it can be done, and it may be good for you, but be sure that your marriage, family, friends, and any other relationships will be able to handle the strain.
Fasting, in its most common use of the term, doesn’t mean going without food. A financial fast doesn’t mean going without spending money. Fasting from food doesn’t mean surviving on minimal food indefinitely, and a financial fast shouldn’t go on indefinitely either.
So, set a period of time for a financial fast. A month is probably good. Long enough to effectively save some decent money, which is the motivation behind a financial fast, but not so long as to be unbearable. Why are you undergoing a financial fast? Too much debt? Save for an exotic vacation? To buy a new car? Not adequately answering the question of ‘why’ will reduce the chances of a successful fast, for most people.
The rest is relatively easy, on paper. Comprise a list of your monthly expenses. Housing, transportation, and food will probably top the list. Clothing and entertainment are also important. Most lists will include cell phone bills, utility bills, credit card bills, and various other bills as well. This is the month when all non-essential items will be cut. You have to pay the mortgage or rent — but you probably will not be doing any home improvements. Even something that needs to be fixed will have to be done somehow without spending. Can you fix it yourself with materials you already have?
You need to eat. But it won’t be at a restaurant. You will be using coupons and cooking a lot from scratch. Are you able to bicycle or walk to where you usually go? Limiting the use of the car as much as possible will be a priority. Busses might work well, although not as convenient as driving. Cut the use of your cell phone; don’t charge anything to your credit cards; and find ways to make your home more efficient, such as always turning out the lights and unplugging unused appliances.
Most people will find these suggestions to be inconvenient, and even aggravating, and in some cases downright painful. The idea behind a financial fast, besides saving money, is inculcating a new set of habits that show life is about more than consumption and that we need priorities in life other than the unachievable task of accumulating enough. So the initial reason behind the fast will have to be more appealing than the idea of doing without a lot of the conveniences you usually enjoy.