Thursday, August 1, 2013

Go Fast to Slow Down the Spending

Spending Fast

For the month of July we did a spending fast. The basic idea is you only spend money on what you have to; rent/mortgage, food, medical, utilities, gasoline etc…And by food I mean at the grocery store, not eating out or picking up a coffee and pastry at Starbucks (their coffee is burnt swill anyways). Be sure and set some ground rules ahead of time, more on this down below. And have the whole family on board or it will be a failure.

Why we did a Spending Fast? To better learn financial self-control. To be better stewards of God’s money. To set an example for our children!!!!! We don’t need any more financially irresponsible people in this country.  And of course, to save money.

Was it difficult? Somewhat, it did make the month go by slower, but that’s not a bad thing. It was also liberating. Sure I missed seeing the UPS man and the wonderful boxes from Amazon he would bring to me. But it was nice not feeling pressured to go along with the “spendthrift crowd”. In general we are very good about saying no and not spending money needlessly, but on occasion we might slip-up or give in to the kids. And since most people don’t live the way we do, there is a lot of subtle pressure from friends and society to spend, spend, spend. Not that it’s wrong to blow some money every now and again, but it’s easy to fall into a bad habit of doing it early and often. That just can’t be allowed to happen when you have a large family that is living on one modest income in a high-expense area. So this just gave us one more reason to resist spending money like all the lemmings out there.

After a while it actually became fun and competitive. Trying to "beat the budget" had a little bit of a thrill factor to it.

Our results monetarily – we have roughly $850 leftover. This surprised me. I didn’t think we could squeeze much more out of our budget. About $250 of that savings is for items we delayed purchasing. Like driveway sealer ($150). I need to blacktop our driveway this summer and will be doing it this month. So subtracting out the delayed purchases, we are ahead $600. That’s $600 worth of stuff we didn’t buy, over-priced food we didn’t eat, and activities we didn’t do. That $600 has been placed in a retirement account.

We would have had more money leftover but two of the kids got hurt in separate accidents at Youth Group, and you thought church was safe. That resulted in over $500 out-of-pocket medical expenses that we had to cover. We normally spend next to nothing on medical cause we are healthy and have decent insurance. We also went over our gasoline budget by $162.15 for the month. Someone I’m related to by marriage figured that driving the kids hours away, in a van that gets 12mpg, to do some free activity, wasn’t a violation of the fast...3 different trips...
Will we do it again? I’m sure of that, besides saving money, it reinforces what we already believe. It’s like athletic training for the finances. And like I said above, its a great example for the kids.

Who should do this? It probably wouldn’t hurt for anyone to give it a try. But those who are having money problems really should give this a go.

My wife thinks people need to try just a week at first because it’s too hard. Well too bad, it’s not supposed to be easy. It’s a fast. I think people that have really screwed-up finances need to do at least 3 months, and even up to a year in extreme cases (people with maxed-out credit cards, no savings, late on bills etc…). If you are obese, and apparently a lot of Americans are, who wouldn’t diet for a week and then go back to your lousy eating habits and expect to look like Christie Brinkley. It’s the same with your finances. You have to go hardcore, eye-of-the-tiger like Rocky training in Siberia. Not buying a donut in the morning on the way to work for one week ain’t helping you. Suck it up princess and do this the right way.

For the family this means: no going out to eat, anywhere, anytime, for any reason. No vacation. No new clothes-make due with hand-me-downs, no new house furnishings, no buying a car. Cancel/suspend all memberships if possible: pool, country club, gym, gun club etc…

For dad it means: no beer, no golf (it’s not real exercise anyway), no fast-food, no eating/buying food out…at all. You must pack your lunch and coffee for work. You forget to bring your lunch, you don’t eat until you get home. No new running shoes, I gotta tell you, this one hurts deep down.

For mom that means: same as above if you work. No getting the nails done or the hair (you look better in long hair anyway), no wine coolers, cancel that gym membership you use once a year on January the 2nd. No treating the kids to a Happy Meal and McFattie’s cause they got a participation ribbon at the swim meet.

For the kids that means: no activities (told you this was hardcore stuff), no sports (junior isn’t getting a scholarship anyway), no horseback riding, no camps, no gymnastics, etc...reasonable birthday gifts are ok (I’m not a total tyrant). But for the love of Pete, make the cake yourself and have a low-key party at home. Obviously sports and other activities that have already been paid for are allowed.

Basically you are paying the bills that you have to each month, buying groceries (no prime rib), putting gas in the car and doing any car or home maintenance that must be done.
Just be sure to set the rules ahead of time. And that you and your spouse agree on them. No go worth and save.

Checkout my wife's blog for more details. She did a lot of posts during July on how the fast was going.
Not being financially responsible is a sin (Matthew 25:14-30)

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