The Spending Fast


Lately I have become OBSESSED with money. 

Don't get me wrong, since I was out of work for a year, I have been money conscious, but it's never been like this.  I have always hated money.  That tends to happen when you grow up in a house where there is always a money shortage...  I just hate it.  When I was out of work, I taught myself to coupon.  Extreme coupon even.  I learned to only buy things if they were on sale and if I had a coupon or multiple coupons.  While I saved a-crap-ton of money, I still ended up with a bunch of stuff I didn't need, and had no room for.  Couponing taught me that I was spending less, but buying more.  My spending habits were still out of control. 

Do you know how many times I've gone to Target for toothpaste, and come out with a receipt for $150 and a bad case of buyer's remorse.  Did I mention I would usually forget to buy the toothpaste?  But hey, I saved $94.63!

I don't know what it is, but for the past few months I have been really worrying about "being prepared" (prepared for what?  I don't know, just prepared) and "money" and "saving" (as evidenced by previous posts, and my monthly Save Money Series).  I feel like I am nowhere close to where I should be financially at this stage of my life, and the more I think about it, the more anxious/worried/sick I feel.

I do have a savings account to which I contribute 10% every pay period.  But I usually chip into it to support unnecessary spending, so by the end of each month, my savings account is essentially non-existent.  I am finally out of (consumer) debt, and yet, I still find myself "broke" a lot of the time.  Even though my current job is paying me twice my asking price, I keep thinking the problem is that I need to make more money (isn't that the case with everyone). 

The real problem is that I have a "leaky bucket," and rather than fixing it, I'm just getting frustrated that all my water is leaking out.
I've tried budgeting.  I create these totally awesome Excel spreadsheets where all I have to do is enter the total amount on my receipts.  It tracks my money, tells me how much I can still spend, and would help me stay on track.  I create it, and then never look at it again.  I've tried being like Audry Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's and only using cash. They say using cash creates a mental drive to stop spending, because you physically feel the money leave your hands.  I've tried only using my debit card- bad, bad, bad idea.  The only thing I haven't tried is to just stop spending (Duh! Doesn't it seem like this should be the first course of action rather than the last?).

While cleaning my room this weekend, I had the TV on for background noise, and the Clark Howard show was on.  He had a guest named Anna who became debt free in just one year!  How did this young, thirty-something State Clerk/part-time-photographer go from having $19,000 of debt to getting rid of it in just one year without getting a new job or adding income? I had to know.

I started reading her blog And Then She Saved, and ended up reading every.single.entry.  Anna basically cut out unnecessary spending for an entire year.  In 2010, she paid her bills, and bought only what she considered to be essentials - food, gas, insurance, phone, medical, and even a gym membership.  She cut out everything else - travel, makeup, eating out, music, coffee, salon trips, entertainment, even gifts (all Christmas, Birthday, Shower gifts were handmade or re-gifted items) etc.  By the end of the year, she had saved almost $20,000 and was able to become completely debt free! 

While reading about The Spending Fast I thought, "eww fasting..."  In our church we are encouraged to fast on the first Sunday of every month.  If I'm being honest, I've never done it.  I've tried, believe you me, but usually around three o'clock I feel a migraine coming on, and have to sneak a few Cheerios.  The word "fasting" is kind of a dirty word, and even though many blessings come from any kind of fasting, it is, well, hard.

I decided that I want to try  do this Spending Fast.  I am going into this knowing full well that it is really going to suck, and at times I might fail, but a small failure is OK, I'm not going to let it deter me from the big picture.  I am starting on July 1, 2010 and am going to continue for a year.  There are a few roadblocks in my way already, because I do have at least two trips planned this summer but again, I won't let it deter me.  I am blinded by the lights and glitter of $20,000 which for me, would be a down payment on a house!  I'm a little nervous but mostly kind of excited.  Not quite "I'm going to Disneyland excited" but more than "Tomorrow is the first day of school" excited.

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P.S.  This year, Anna is doing a Spending Diet, which is a little easier than the Spending Fast (this time she allots $100/month for spending money).  For anyone who wants to try this out, check out her blog to get the rules!


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