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!)
- 4 Ways to Detox from Overspending
- There’s An App For That: The Best Money (& Sanity) Saving Apps
- Mason Jar Money Method
- Choosing a Savings Account
- Manage your assets and investments for FREE with Personal Capital!
- Get a high-interest savings account with Capital One 360 – my favorite bank!