Last May, I did something I’d never done before. I went on a three-week financial fast. (I think starving for three years on a food fast might have been preferable!) But honestly, it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. It really opened my eyes to how easily money flows through my fingers, often without my even being aware of it. Although technically it didn’t take a 21-day financial fast to discover this about myself.
When I was preparing to marry my first husband Ken, we would have monthly “summits” which the dictionary defines as a meeting or conference between heads of government. We felt since we were going to be governing our marriage, our blended family, our careers—but had trouble agreeing on how to do so—the summits would help. They were a great way to discuss things rationally and reasonably and without a lot of emotion (read: attitude and neck twisting). Each month, we’d meet at the kitchen table with our list of grievances, concerns, and nitpicking petty infractions that the other person had committed during the course of the previous month that had irritated us.
Every month I came prepared with a long list, written out on a yellow legal pad of paper. Ken never bothered to write a list. He had his memorized. Because there was always, always only ONE thing that bothered him about me. It was the same grievance each and every month. When it was his turn to speak, he would clear his throat, push his glasses up on his nose, purse his lips, clasp his hands together as if in prayer, and say quite eloquently without a hint of animosity but with loads of awe and amazement, “You spend money like it’s water.” He would then clear his throat again, unclasp his hands, and finish his oration with “That is all I have to contribute to this summit discussion at this time.” That was twenty-three years ago.
So last year, I stumbled upon Michelle Singletary’s book, The 21 Day Financial Fast: Your Path to Financial Peace and Freedom, and those summits came flashing back at me. Perhaps it was time to approach my spending habits a bit differently. All I can say about the book and the experience is that they were both “life changing.”
Now, in my head, Michelle and I are besties. So through her book, she tells me what I need to hear about myself in a style I like to use when I’m telling other people about themselves (read: You). Non-judgy. Zero side-eyes. Straight with no chaser. Man, is that effective! Take a peek at the following excerpt. The expletives in parentheses are my additions.
During this fast, you will not shop or use your credit cards for twenty-one days. (@#$WTW?!*$#) For three weeks, you must refrain from buying anything that is not a necessity. And by necessity, I mean the bare essentials, such as food and medicine. (@#$WTW?!*$# Why isn’t Nieman Marcus considered a necessity? Who IS this woman?)
During this fast, you will refrain from going to the mall or retail stores to shop for clothes, shoes, jewelry, nonessential household items, or other stuff that creates a drag on your financial life (and clutters your home). Even window shopping is off limits. (Downright inhumane @#$WTW?!) Browsing leads to temptation, which in turn can lead to buying something you don’t really need.
No restaurant meals – fast food or otherwise. (@#$WTW?!*$# But Al and I will starve to death! @#$WTW?!*$#) This includes buying breakfast or lunch at work. You can’t stop for coffee. Make it at home instead. During the fast, forget about going to the movies.
Cray Cray, right?!
And to think I inflicted this madness on myself! Ken isn’t even around anymore!! But I’ve never forgotten his concise summit speeches. The financial fast hammered home just how out of control my spending is, especially now that I have money.
It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I was inconvenienced. For the first week, I was perpetually pissed off. I felt restricted. I was grouchy. But you know what? As the time slowly dripped by, I adjusted.
My spending habits and my attitude toward money, and God and the blessings He’s given me changed. I’ve never felt more powerful. Or grateful. Or prosperous. After ten years of saying I would, I finally purchased my dream cottage less than a month after the 21-day fast. I’m certain it was because I achieved clarity for the first time about my financial baggage and beliefs about money. My priorities were crystal clear by day 22.
I no longer spend money the way I used to. Yep, I regress from time to time, which is why I plan to do the fast at least once a year. I highly recommend you give this book and the fast a try. Do it when you are mentally ready. Do it when you feel your life is lacking. Do it when you are truly ready to step into your power.
Let me know how it works out for you.