Now that a new year is finally here, you may be attempting to work on some of your financial resolutions and get your money in order. If you’ve practiced poor financial management for a while, it can be hard to break bad habits. Financial expert Michelle Singletary offers a solution that can give you the push you need: a financial fast. Her book, The 21-Day Financial Fast: Your Path to Financial Peace and Freedom, is a guide that may help you learn how to cleanse your financial life of all the clutter and rebuild one day at a time.
What is a financial fast?
A financial fast is a way for you to clean up your finances and readjust your financial mindset. Once you stop spending on “extras” for an extended period of time, you’ll start to see that you really didn’t need them. The concept is very similar to a diet cleanse. A financial fast is not about squeezing all of the joy out of life. Rather, it is about learning how to make meaningful choices with your money.
“Typically, people fast from food or all the sweets, but this is a different type of fast. I’m going to have you fast from unnecessary spending. That [includes things] like buying coffee or going out to get dinner or going to the movies, for 21 days. You also can’t use plastic…If you’re in debt or you can’t seem to save, this fast is for you…” Singletary said in the book’s video introduction. She also says even those who do have some money and little debt can benefit from a financial fast.
Why you need a financial fast
A financial fast can help you reset and stay focused on your financial goals for the rest of the year. You may have committed to a few financial resolutions this year. Know that it’s common to fail a few times before you get it right. A financial fast can be a great way to kick off those financial resolutions and provide a means to transition to a new way of managing your money before you actually jump in. It’s a good way to practice before starting to work on your financial resolutions. A financial fast can also provide more insight into how you approach money and help you see poor money habits you need to change. It will give you a clear picture by showing you what you can do without.
Find an accountability partner
Singletary recommends finding someone who can do the fast with you so he or she can hold you accountable and cheer you on. Meeting your financial goals can be easier with a support system.
“The accountability partner is the person who you’re going to call and say ‘I’m about to [give in], can you talk me off the ledge?’ and that’s the person who is going to do that for you,” said Singletary.
At the end of your fast don’t go back to your old habits. Take what you’ve learned and actively apply this knowledge. Continue to approach your money with your newfound knowledge by practicing the improved financial habits you’ve learned. Just because your fast is over doesn’t mean you can go back to spending recklessly. Resist the urge to return to your old ways, especially when it comes to using credit cards. Resolve to only use plastic for emergencies.
“There’s a real danger in relying on credit even if you pay off your credit card bill every month. Paying with plastic just makes purchasing too easy. Swipe, and within seconds you can be mired in debt,” warned Singletary.
Embrace better money habits
You may realize you can be a lot more independent and that you don’t need certain services as much or at all. Perhaps you’ll learn that you can cut your own hair and frequent trips to the barber are not necessary. Or maybe you’ll come to the conclusion you have more time than you thought and you can mow your own lawn, make your own coffee, or make more home-cooked meals.