I did it. I finally started The Spending Fast.
If you haven’t heard of the Spending Fast, it’s the creation of blogger and photographer Anna Newell Jones. I’ve been following her blog And Then We Saved for years, and after reading her new book and forcing myself to confront the truth about my spending, I officially began my Spending Fast.
I finally went through my personal bank and credit card statements and not counting a lot of spending while on my vacation in Tallahassee, I managed to blow through $2,000 in 2 months! Holy. Shit.
Not all of it was completely reckless spending, but, let’s be honest: did I need to buy a Rebecca Minkoff handbag just because it was on sale? Is it actively improving my life? No. Is it hella cute and am I glad I have it? Of course. But c’mon: the fact that splurging on designer handbags had become so commonplace in my life should have been a red flag that I noticed a long time ago.
Here’s what $2,000 could have been spent on:
- paying off one of my student loans in full
- paying for my summer course in cash
- paying off almost half of my car loan
- paying off 100% of my credit card debt
But nope. It went to dinners & drinks out, home décor trinkets, and clothes. When I went through my finances, I noticed that I make plenty of money to pay my bills, including my future student loan payments. The problem isn’t my job—it’s me being an absolute maniac with my money. I’m so done with that life.
I’m blogging about this publicly in the hopes that it will keep me accountable. I’m going to admit every time I screw up (so far, $27 total on Chardonnay, water bottles, and breakfast/coffee at school), so I can’t deny it or hide it.
The typical Fast period is a year long, so I’ll aim for that. However, because of the unique circumstances of my 2016-2017 (a planned vacation, a wedding, and a honeymoon), the Fast year will have to include a few Fast vacations, which, in the lingo of And Then We Saved, I’ll call Spending Diets.
Here’s how it works:
You have to split all of your spending into two black & white categories, “Wants” and “Needs.”
- cell phone bill
- car loan payments
- summer class & textbook
- student loan payments (current & impending)
- medical co-pays (not that I ever go to the doctor)
- Netflix & Hulu (reducing to one service soon)
- wedding expenses (be as frugal as possible and pay cash for everything)
- new clothes, accessories, & shoes
- dining out
- tech gear & accessories
- haircuts (going to try to barter with my cousin/hairdresser for trims)
- misc. online shopping, i.e. Etsy
- home décor (will talk over all changes with my fiancé and work together to finance genuine improvements to the house)
- music & concert tickets (we are huge music people, so this is going to be VERY tough)
- premade & convenience food items
- freedom from debt (duh!)
- to eventually quit my job and blog/pursue passions full-time
- to stay at home if/when I become a mother
- to learn lasting money management skills
Some “Needs,” like groceries, can be wide open in terms of interpretation and actual dollar amount spent, so I’m narrowing it even further to exclude junk food and convenience items. My concentration will be on fresh produce and bulk grains/beans. It will require an added investment of time, but I’ll have a lot more free time once I stop internet window-shopping!
There is another component to the Spending Fast that is NOT fun to think about, but it’s an aspect that can’t be ignored: the Spending Fast and sobriety go hand-in-hand. I’m not talking about total teetotaling, but alcohol 100% of the time falls into the “Wants” rather than “Needs” category. There is never a time when one needs to drink. Therefore, apart from the bar of Chels (aka the liquor I acquired prior to the Fast, which I have to make last an entire year), no more drinking for me.
The Bar of Chels (bottle opener/Modcloth)
This is definitely a first-world problem, but I am naturally a very shy person who is easily overcome in noisy crowds (think: big family holidays), so being able to have a couple of drinks has been my emotional band-aid for years. Not great, Bob. I also suffer from depression, so it will be interesting to see if my mood lifts as a result of this major cutback. I’m hoping that this alleged sacrifice will actually turn out to be one of the most life-affirming and positive parts of the Fast.
So, wish me luck! I’m on day 5…only 360 more to go!
*all photos taken with an iPhone 6 and edited with A Color Story