Today is the third day of my fiscal fast, otherwise know as a week without money. It’s more difficult than I imagined. No big issues, but I find myself wanting to run get something to drink instead of waiting until I get home, or craving an afternoon snack. It figures. Groceries are the area in my budget most likely to leak coin.
To help avoid the temptation, I’ve removed all the cash and cards from my wallet for the rest of the week. It doesn’t occur to me to run to the store when I know I have no way to pay for it.
There are a couple of things I need… prescriptions to refill. I’ve budgeted for them, and part of me wants to run and get them NOW, when I know I’ll be fine if I wait until Saturday to pick them up. I really didn’t expect this week to teach me anything about patience.
Next week will be my Food Stamp Challenge, and I’ve been planning the last two days. I’ve researched the budget, done some price comparisons at local markets, and need to narrow down a menu. I want to see if it’s possible to eat on the food stamp budget and still manage to include some organic produce. It’s always said that the thing that is most difficult in the challenge is getting fresh foods rather than processed. I’m looking forward to figuring out if it’s true.
It’s hard to believe that I’m already reaching the halfway point of the Financial Health month. August seems to be flying by.
I still have two week-long projects to complete. Tomorrow begins my week without money. My fiscal fast.
What is that, you ask?
Actually, it’s very simple. For seven days, I have committed to not spending any money. None at all. No random purchases. No going out to eat. For a week, I will just make do with what I already have.
It’s an exercise in restraint. I first read about it several years ago in a book by author Jeff Yeager. He came up with the idea while socked in during a particularly bad snow storm. His family was trapped at home for a few days due to the blizzard, so they had no choice but to make the best of what was in the house. It resulted in some creativity in the kitchen and some nice familial bonding.
I just want the practice. I want to be more mindful of what leaves my pocket.
And it will give me time to plan the other remaining challenge for Financial Health month. I’ve wanted to complete a food stamp challenge for some time. I actually started one last year, but had to abandon it because of a hospitalization. For one week, I will commit to preparing my meals on a budget consistent with the allowance received by an individual in the SNAP program. I will need time to research current food prices and plan menus for the week. I want to make the week as healthy as possible. That will be part of the challenge as well.
It is the thing I am most ashamed of. It keeps me up at night. It makes me scared to answer the phone or the door. It keeps me from going to the doctor for needed treatment. It makes me feel like less of a person. It makes me feel small and weak.
It’s not as bad as it used to be. I’ve worked very hard at reducing the debt, and I’ve made a lot of progress. Thing is, it’s like when I weighed 300 lbs. You lose 10 or 20 or 30 pounds, and you’ve still got SO FAR to go.
So for the second month of my Happiness Project, I’m going to focus on Financial Health. My goals for this month can be divided into two categories. One category will be daily challenges. Like last month, I’ve set some goals for each day.
Track every penny I spend (cash, credit, whatever – write it down)
Purchase only needs – not wants
No credit cards (with the exception of work-related travel)
No Starbucks (a big cheat in my budget)
I also have some one-time challenges to complete before the end of the month.
Start an emergency fund (I had one, then I had emergencies, and I haven’t built it back up)
Write a zero-based budget (I learned this in a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace course. You account for every single penny before the month has started.)
Complete a 1 week Food Stamp Challenge (For one week, prepare all of your meals within the constraints of the daily allotment for a person on assistance)
Complete a 1 week Fiscal Fast (I originally got this idea from author Jeff Yeager. For seven consecutive days, don’t spend ANY money)
I’m actually looking forward to this month’s challenges. It’s exciting to think of how much I might be able to squeeze out of my budget. Not that I wouldn’t like an iced latte or a new fall skirt or pair of trousers, but it would be nice if just for a few weeks I could be in control of my finances rather than be controlled by fear and worry.
One of the important pieces of a Happiness Project is the identification of some personal rules. Gretchen Rubin would call them “personal commandments.” These are a set of ideals, specific to you, that you feel are important to follow to be the best person you can be.
On the Happiness Project website, there are lists of things that people have added to their personal commandment lists, and it’s interesting to see how different they can be. I’ve been pondering this idea for a few months, and though I don’t think my list is done, I think I’ve made enough progress to share it.
I’ve changed the name. As a devout Christian, I have trouble calling anything a commandment that isn’t from the Bible. (Weird personal quirk – I know!) So I’ve decided to call mine Guiding Principles instead. Here they are, as they stand now, subject to change.
God first. Family Second. Work Third.
Accept yourself just as you are, even if you know you want to change.
Do the right thing even when it’s uncomfortable.
Eat for fuel, not entertainment.
Control your money or it will control you.
Live below your means.
Collect experiences, not things.
Don’t allow anything into your home that you do not know to be useful or beautiful.
Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.
If helping you is hurting me, it’s not OK.
There they are! For now anyway. I’ll explore them a little more as the project progresses.
Do you have any rules, commandments or guiding principles? I’d be interested in hearing them. As I said, this list is subject to change.