4 Tips for Going on a Financial Fast

by Emily Guy Birken · 0 comments

A financial fast can be a great way to kick-start your savings, figure out the holes in your budget, and find contentment with the things you own. While it may seem a little extreme to go on a financial fast — a period anywhere from one week to one month wherein you refrain from all spending other than necessities — it’s an excellent exercise in self-control with lessons that will last long after the fast is over. Here are four tips for making your financial fast go smoothly and enjoyably:

1. Define necessity ahead of time.

This can be one of the toughest aspects of financial fasting. While taking part in this exercise is supposed to be somewhat extreme, of course you will need to be able to purchase things like medicine and food. But once you allow one necessity, it can be easy to say “I really NEED these new shoes/this lunch out with co-workers/etc.” So before you start, make sure you know what will constitute a necessity, and what you truly can live without.

2. Plan ahead.

Know what kinds of issues may come up during your fast that you would normally spend money on. For instance, if you know your children are invited to a birthday party during your fast, figure out ahead of time how you can bring a gift without having to spend money on it. It may be easy and convenient to stop at the toy store, but re-gifting a gently used toy or book or making something as a gift can be more meaningful and better for your pocketbook.

In addition, even if you define food as a necessity for your fast, you will need to make decisions ahead of time as to what and how much you can buy. For example, you don’t have to eat at restaurants at all, and you may be able to get away without grocery shopping during this time. Your fast could be the impetus for your family to eat through everything in the pantry and freezer.

3. Pay with cash.

If you do need to make a purchase during your financial fast, make sure you leave your credit and debit cards at home. You’ll feel the loss of your money much more keenly if you have to count out the bills to pay for your purchase — and that means it will be much less tempting to cheat on your fast.

4. Avoid temptations.

As Americans, we’re constantly bombarded with messages to buy buy buy! You can make it easier on yourself to avoid this if you don’t hang out at malls or shopping centers during your fast. They may be easy places to meet friends for socializing, but they are incompatible with a fast. (Just like you wouldn’t go hanging around an ice cream shop or an all-you-can-eat buffet if you were on a diet.)

You might also want to limit your exposure to television during your fast. We are all susceptible to advertisements, and it can be awfully tempting to give in and order a pizza after you see a mouth-watering commercial for your favorite pizza chain. By avoiding all buying situations and stimuli, you’ll feel much more in control of your own money. (Here are five more ideas to avoid the temptation to spend.)

Using these tips can help your fast to be a jumping off point for many positive changes in your life.

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