Tell me what you need and I’ll tell you how to get along without it.
There are many different reasons to commit to a spending fast. Mine are detailed here. A lot of people are committing to lowering their budget or to being more frugal. Those are great goals and they can definitely help one be more aware of their financial situation.
My reasons for doing a spending fast had more to do with my heart and less to do with my debit card. This could help anyone with budgeting and saving but it’s really intended for those who need to break down the idols of shopping and acquiring things as a means of entertainment and worship.
If you spend more time in Target looking at things you think you need each week than reading your bible, this may be for you.
- Commit to God that you want to make a change. Write it down. It helps to see it and know what your mission statement is.
- Make a budget of all spending for bills, utilities, business costs, and housing payments. Continue to pay those as you always would.
- Make a list of all the things you need on a monthly basis. Need, not want. This would include anything that you already have and use regularly and will eventually run out. For instance, toilet paper would be a good one to put on there. Diapers, laundry detergent etc. This is only for things you already have and use. Don’t include clothes. They don’t run out, no cheating. If these items run out during your spending fast you may restock. Go with a list, get in and get out. Don’t spend your time wandering aisles. Shopping can take a tremendous amount of our time, especially when we go aisle by aisle looking for what we want and don’t streamline the process by having a specific checklist. Spend your saved time enjoying the weather, hanging with your kids, or exercising to relieve stress.
- Now decide on an amount of time you will commit to this. It shouldn’t be less than a month. It takes at least that long to really break those old habits and tendencies and build new ones. We did it for 6 months. We stuck to it strictly for 3 months and then allowed more room for dining out and entertainment but stuck by the principles for the rest of that year. We also ended up being able to pay off a huge chunk of debt and free up money to help those who were truly in need.
- There are two ways to manage grocery shopping. In our case, we ate primarily from our pantry and only bought staples during that time. It’s amazing how easy it is to reinforce bad shopping habits by randomly putting whatever catches your eye in the cart. If you choose to continue to buy food or have special dietary needs, I would suggest lowering your budget and making a list before you go. Only buy the shopping items on the list and nothing extra. This eliminates all impulse buying.
- We eliminated outside entertainment expenses by getting dvds from the library, reading more, and watching Netflix, which was included in one of our monthly expenses. We ate at home or packed a lunch.
- If you are used to using shopping for entertainment and stress relief you will need to find a new outlet. Take advantage of the time to get some time in with God. Time to pray for strength and a changed heart. Time to fall in love with Him. If our hearts are not transformed and redeemed from our sins, we have nothing but moralism, and we will still be left empty. Ask God to fill you. Journal your time. It can help to see your journey. Just don’t go out and buy a fancy new journal.
- Don’t be as the pharisees when you fast. Don’t moan about how you can’t spend. Don’t let ungratefulness creep into your spirit. Make it a habit to thank God regularly and specifically. Don’t make lists in your head of things you want. Nothing combats the need to spend more that contentment and thankfulness. These are powerful principles.
- Don’t just think of yourself. If you are a parent, you’ve probably inadvertently taught your children about how you view possessions, shopping, instant gratification, and covetousness. This is a great time to sit down with your kids and have some talks about priorities and stewardship.
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
(Matthew 6:16-18 ESV)
After you’ve finished your designated amount of time fasting, I recommend learning how to live day-to-day with financial wisdom. This is not my area of expertise so I will gladly refer you to a blog that I’ve found very helpful with a lot of financial tips. She just had a book come out that I’m reading now. You can visit her at moneysavingmom.com or order her book The Money Saving Mom’s Budget: Slash Your Spending, Pay Down Your Debt, Streamline Your Life, and Save Thousands a Year She also has an amazing heart for the Lord with the stewardship of her money and her commitment to giving.