How To Do A Fiscal Fast (A.K.A. 30 Day No-Spend Challenge)

The Fiscal Fast- 30 Days Of No Spending, Usin' What You Got, Pioneering Your Way Into Financial Freedom

 

If you’ve set some big financial goals for the year, to pay down your debts, save for something big or simply have an emergency fund on hand it can be overwhelming to figure out where to cut your expenses.  Like quitting smoking or giving up something totally addictive, we know that “weaning off” something we’re psychologically or physically addicted to isn’t an option- to create profound change, sometimes you have to quit your addiction cold turkey.

A Fiscal Fast is a reboot of my 30 Day No-Spend Challenge.  For one month, you simply don’t buy anything that isn’t necessary to live or contribute to your wellbeing.  While originally, a 30 Day No-Spend Challenge was to drastically curb impulse buys, mindless shopping and consumerism, a Fiscal Fast requires you to not only stop shopping, but mainly, use what you have for 30 days.

 

Essentials Of A Fiscal Fast:

For 30 days, you do not buy anything that isn’t necessary to live.  If it isn’t food or medicine, you don’t buy it.

-While food is necessary to live, you will reduce your spending on food drastically by making it a point to cut food waste and use up what you can. Go through the freezer, finally cook up those frozen foods.  Use up the cans of veggies, the dried pasta and the non-perishables that are collecting dust, doomed to expire. You will still spend money on fresh fruits and veggies, but ONLY if they are needed to complete a recipe with existing foods that you find in the cupboard.

Bread & dairy are also fine, but do your best to get creative with your lunches instead of just packing a sandwich everyday if you have other ingredients for whole meals that are lying around and can be used.

Know that food this month is focused on using up, not creating magazine worthy meals.  Your dinner plate will be a hodge podge of random entrees but that’s OK- it’s just a month and you’re using up those random cans and boxes you would have wasted otherwise.

- For 30 days you will declutter, donate and repurpose.   Dust-collecting video games & DVDs either should be donated, sold or played.   Instead of going out to shop, focus on making space in your life.  You will have free time, so free up that closet space.  Donate what you don’t use, fix what you can, or pitch it. Go through your closets, pantries, and shelves- even the trunk of your car.  You may find that instead of spending the money to buy new doo-dads and organizers, you simply needed to purge and it will feel darn good when you do.

- For 30 days you will make do with whatever you have in the house. Use up those travels soaps and shampoos that are sitting around.  Decide if clothes can be reworked or repurposed to new outfits or donate them.  What can you bake from scratch?  Can you make sugar cookies with existing staples and add in some leftover holiday candy to spruce it up?   Can you make your own snack or trail mix with existing ingredients?

- For 30 days you will focus on finishing those annoying unfinished projects since you will not be spending money on entertainment.  Your half finished scrapbook will finally get done.  That empty recipe book should finally get filled.  Any craft projects or household chores will finally get nipped in the butt.  Fill up the free time you’d normally spend on shopping, spending money out or entertaining yourself with things that need to get DONE.

- Before A Fiscal Fast You Will NOT Stockpile.  It’s tempting to go out and buy a bunch of stuff just for the sake of being “ready” during your fast, but that’s missing the point.  You are going 30 days without shopping in order to make do with what you have, reduce waste, make it last or, alas- go without.

That last part is the painful part- probably why you’ll be tempted to stockpile. “Going without” is much scarier than it sounds, you’ll learn to make do.  Yes, will it be weird eating up those 15 cans of pinto beans- but that’s the point, use them up and find ways to do it creatively!  You may have to come up with 15 different ways to eat pinto beans but you’ll think twice next time you insist on buying more than what you can actually use.

 

In sum- a Fiscal Fast means you do not buy anything you don’t need. You use up all that you can.  You get crafty and finish projects.  You declutter and donate.  

In a pioneering spirit, you use what you have around you and make do with whatever you have on hand for 30 days- your home becomes more than just a place to house your cr*p it’s your entire focus for 30 days.  All you eat, enjoy and work on will be found within, not at a shopping mall.

 If 30 days sounds scary- start with 7 days.

Build your tolerance by just trying to get through 7 days.  No shopping (not even groceries!) for 7 full days and use up what you have.  If you build to 14 days or 30 days, you can allow for grocery purchases, but only if it’s fresh or essential…meaning, no chips or frozen dinners but fresh veggies to use for a salad bowl or tortillas to use up frozen meat and cheese and make burritos.  True essentials like perishables and medicine..the rest needs to be cobbled together for a month.

 

If you can get through a Fiscal Fast, your bank account will recover and you will feel lighter and rebalanced…promise!

 

This winter, fiancé and I are doing a Fiscal Fast to rebound from the holidays.  Since we don’t have a huge stockpile of non-perishables, our focus will be to make our hodge-podge meals on what we can.  For instance, tonight we are using pasta (we have a ton) and meat sauce (way too much frozen meat we got on sale) with frozen kale (Costco impulse buy) and cooking up a bag of carrots.  Totally random, but we are using up whatever we can find on hand to create a meal.

I’m going to finally use up those gazillion beauty samples I get in my subscription boxes and finish the little household projects that have been lingering through the holidays.  I bought plenty of supplies to get them done, but haven’t (sound familiar?) so I’m actually excited to not go shopping for 30 days so I can use up what we have and finish the home projects I ventured to start but didn’t completely finish.

Through the last few years, I’ve done No-Shopping Challenges and Fiscal Fasts and it always make me feel renewed.  I feel productive and empowered- those nagging projects get done, that unused food doesn’t nag at my conscious and of course, saving money and knowing the need to shop can be weaned feels great. I HIGHLY recommend trying this!

 

Have you ever done a Fiscal Fast or No-Spend Challenge?

What did you learn? (It’s okay to fail too, it’s all data!)

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. says

    I did a €10 in 10 days challenge last summer, which highlighted to me where I spend money that I don’t really need to spend.

    I played tennis at the free courts rather than spending money playing squash.
    I ate in every day and night (other than one night – where I spent my €10).

    In 10 days, the challenge wasn’t too bad. However, I imagine after 30 days, it would start to get tricky!

  2. says

    love this idea! After grad school it took me a few years to get a decent paying job so I lived like this out of necessity. Now, I still think for a while before I buy anything to make sure it’s a need, not a want, and it has helped me to save a ton (well, small ton) of money.

    • says

      Totally! Grad school is either a time to sink or swim for most people- either you rack up the loans to get by or you really bunker down to make it work on a teeny budget. I’ve met people who have had to do a bit of both, but you learn a lot!

  3. Kate says

    I’ve been doing a fiscal fast since the 13th, but now I am mulling over some possible spending. The two things I am thinking about are:

    • Buying a $120 yoga pass. Yoga feels like it’s essential to well-being. Buying a pass means it will cost me $8/class instead of $15. But it’s true: I could live without it.

    • Getting a haircut. I really need one and didn’t have the time to get one before I started this fast. I think I would compromise and get a cheaper haircut than usual, going to a place that charges only $20 instead of the $40 I usually pay. A haircut isn’t as essential to my well-being. If I wait until this fast is over I will feel pretty shaggy, especially at work where I try to maintain a professional image. But it’s true: I could live without it.

    What is your opinion?

    • says

      Hi Kate! I would say while you’re doing the fiscal fast, try some at-home yoga with a DVD or Youtube video. I’m not sure if you’re a diehard yoga fan but if you’re even a wee bit not-habitual, this will determine if you’re going to get out there and use the pass as much as you think you will. It took a year and a half of running before I signed up for a gym since I was worried about spending $26-50+ a month that I may not use.

      As for the haircut, listen to your gut. I know myself that if I let one thing slip, the spending starts to slip and things easily get justified. You could also experiment with doing a 1 week fast, then moving to two or three weeks on up. A full on fiscal fast can be a huge commitment at 30 days, so maybe try 15?

  4. says

    I did a “no-spend November” a few years ago. I wasn’t super strict about it, and so I did end up buying stuff I didn’t really need during the month. But it did get me to think more about bringing lunches to work instead of buying at the cafeteria. I think it’s a pretty good idea to help you find money short term, or push you out of your comfort zone enough that you find new ways to do things on the cheap.

    Excellent post! I think I need to join in again for another fiscal fast, I think I get too lazy and stop realizing all the good stuff I already have around me!

    • says

      It’s so true Stephanie! I know even as a frugality obsessed maven like myself, I still slip up… the small things add up really fast or I forget what I have in the closet or pantry and end up buying what I don’t need.

      A fiscal fast, even for 15 days can really be a solid reset!

  5. says

    Wow 30 days sounds pretty tough. I think it sounds like a good way to be conscious of your spending. However- I feel like whenever I tell myself I won’t spend any money today- that always ends up being the day I find something I “must have”.. similar story for eating junk food – I tell myself I won’t be eating any junk food but end up eating a candy bar and a Coke!

    • says

      I feel you! Sometimes being conscious of what you spend makes it that much harder! I would say though- staying away from temptation really helped me.

      For one month, I avoided Target entirely. I used to shop at Target for groceries as well as the other stuff and for a month, I had to shop at local bodegas (which didn’t carry the stuff I normally bought) but it helped me sidestep the triggers that got me to spend when I was trying not to! Good luck!

  6. says

    GREAT idea, and of course, one thinks of it, but you lay out some great points (the clearing out of food…I have bags and boxes of different dried foods, rice/pastas that I stare at month after month lol I found PRAWNS in the freezer! I’m up for the challenge. Thanks!!

  7. says

    Oh man I love this idea but it totally terrifies me! I want to try, but I will definitely have to start with the 7 days. I don’t know if I’d make it 30….I am definitely a shopaholic…and I also don’t have much in my pantry but it would be exciting!

  8. says

    I love this!! Would it be o.k. if I re-blogged this and did the challenge for myself with documentation? Let me know how you would like me to post this so as for all people to be redirected to you and make sure you get credited correctly.

    Best,
    Mary`

    • says

      Hey Mary, if you want to talk about the concept and link me, go for it! Google doesn’t like reposting content (like press releases that are word for word reposted several times) so just be sure not to copy/paste it in or just use snippets. Thanks!

  9. Tammy says

    I did a 30 day financial fast last year which was very hard at first but became easier towards the end. Very enlightening. It helped that I had my circle of friends doing this with me (no one was inviting anyone anywhere where we had to spend money!!) Since it ended up being the same month as my birthday, they ended up throwing a pot luck surprise birthday party for me which was great.

  10. Samantha says

    What if you don’t have food already stockpiled? Hubby and I rarely have a ton of extra food on hand as we don’t stockpile shop. We pretty much always buy about a week’s worth of groceries at a time, and get what we need as we need it. Usually we end up with about one extra meal, because we will eat out on a day we had originally planned to eat in… But definitely never anywhere near 30 days’ worth of food to use up. So would you still say not to go out before hand and stock up on food for the 30 days?

  11. says

    I think I’m going to try this for May. I need to really curb my habits, and reel it in, and since I get three paychecks in May, this might be the time to get things in gear.

  12. says

    I am on day 13 of a 14 day no spend challenge. I started small and made my own rules. (I am allowed to spend on food and entertainment but no stuff). It is my way of easing into something that I feel I can build upon in the future to save more money and get rid of the “stuff” that clutters our lives. Follow my journey at
    Onejourney2014.wordpress.com
    Good luck everyone!

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  14. Emmy says

    I just came across your website and love this idea. I will do this for the month of November. Having just bought my first house and doing lots of work on it and buying all furniture etc my bank account is pretty much empty right now. A month like this will really be helpful in seeing where my money goes and what I can do without.

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