In the Catholic faith, believers give up something they love for 40 days. From what I’ve been told it is done to reconnect with the divine, detach from excess and appreciate what God has given you (among other things).
Friends of mine have given up things they love- chocolate, television, alcohol, fast food. They have reported that while it was a struggle to give up something they’ve formed as habit (like eating ice cream with dinner every night) for 40 whole days- the sacrifice of that one thing amplified other areas of their life in positive ways.
Giving up something for awhile is a small action that can have big results.
What do you really want in your life? To feel free and pay off debt? To have the comfort and stability? To pay for a big-ticket purchase (like a wedding or new car) in cash? Giving up something you do habitually for a month will not only free up your money, but will also connect you to the bigger picture and more satisfying personal and financial goals. It’s not just about sacrifice, it’s about evaluation and reconnecting with what matters most to you by clearing out the emotional spending habits.
Step One- Identify a habit that is keeping you from your “bigger picture goals”
-Shopping (especially when you aren’t tracking your spending)
-The small habitual spending that adds up over time (Morning lattes, fast food, magazines at the check-out stand, laziness that racks up fees and charges on your monthly statements)
-Going to the movie theater
-Unnecessary (and expensive) splurges- getting your nails done every week, visiting the tanning salon, car washes, shiny new technology because its “new” or you just got your paycheck, ordering takeout.
Step Two: Create a Plan
-How long are you giving it up? Why are you giving it up?
-What will this challenge bring into your life? What’s your “bigger picture” goal that’s worth sacrificing the little stuff for? Hold onto that good feeling and do what it takes to achieve it.
-What will be the reward for completing the challenge (NOTE: Make sure you don’t rebound into old habits or reward yourself in a way that cancels out your progress). Will you use the money you saved towards a credit card payment or put towards a retirement plan? What reward will really make you feel empowered?
-What will you do to avoid temptation? (During my No-Shopping challenge I completely avoided stores because I knew I had no willpower).
Step Three: Fill Your Life With Something Else
-Creating a challenge like this means you will suddenly shake up your habits.
If you’re giving up lattes, brewing your own coffee at home or making tea might be a habit worth forming. If you’re giving up shopping, use the newly found time you would have spent at the store in finishing projects you’ve been putting off, having movie nights with friends, or learning to cook. Take this opportunity to form a new positive habit.
-Realize you might be tempted to “cheat” in other ways. If you’re decreasing your spending, be aware that you might be tempted to overspend in other areas, especially if you haven’t adjusted your habits accordingly. You might be saving money by not dining out, but that does little good if your grocery bill triples.
Step Four: Focus on the Goal
-Why are you doing this? If you keep your gaze upon the non-material prize (i.e. feeling fabulous about paying down your debt or eliminating that terror when you open your phone bill at the end of the month), the sacrifice won’t seem so daunting. Remember, this is about how you feel- chances are, your bad habits are the results of bad feelings. Cutting out the bad habits lead to better feelings!
Step Five: If You Fail, Try Again!
-You can learn from your slip-ups. I failed the first time I tried to cut out shopping for a month. I got to day 20 and gave into temptation. I learned from that experience and avoided the home decor section of Target the next time!
-Remember, it’s only failure if you give up. Trust me, once you get through a challenge that really pushes you, it will change you in positive ways you don’t anticipate. It’s worth it!
So what’s your challenge going to be, or what’s kept you from starting? Do you have a “big picture,” goal that’s worth challenging yourself for?