Thursday, April 4, 2013

Financial Fast 2013 - Reflecting

I spent the morning spring cleaning. Getting rid of things is such a satisfying feeling, don't you think?

After blogging about our Lenten Financial Fast for the past month and a half, it's time to bring some closure to the subject - at least for this year. I've held off on blogging about the fast because I wasn't sure how to adequately describe it. What I've come up with is this: It was honestly one of the best experiences for us as a couple, and for me personally. I know that sounds melodramatic. I mean, how could not buying non-essentials for 40 days be one of someone's "best experiences"? Here's how: Not shopping, not thinking about shopping, not spending time in the mall, not bringing anything new into the house, not worrying about a new outfit for some event, etc. surprisingly left a lot of time, mental space, and clarity. With this free time, space and clarity, I was able to dedicate my energy to more creative pursuits. I found myself doing more reading, baking, and blogging. I was spending more time doing fun (usually free) things outdoors, and taking more photos. Not shopping left us with more time, money, control, simplicity and joy.

The fast helped me honor our home more. There's a heightened appreciation of the things you already own when you're not figuring out what to do with more stuff in your house.  I "went shopping" in my own closet during the fast to come up with new outfits and made some cute combinations I never would've thought of before. We already have a lot of great things tied to great memories or great uses in our home. In today's spring cleaning, I got rid of anything that didn't fit the useful, beautiful, or joyful criteria. It was so rejuvenating, and I'm looking forward to only bringing things into our space that we mindfully choose, that are of good quality (Adios, Forever 21), and that we cherish.

{De-cluttering. Spring cleaning. Stuff to donate.}
The fast helped me appreciate the value of a dollar more. By using only cash, instead of swiping a card, there was a visual reminder of the money I earned leaving my hand. It made me sooo much more careful about how I spent. I mean, teaching is hard work. Did I really want to spend my hard-earned money on the more expensive paper towels? No. I cut back on pricier versions of almost everything.

The fast helped me realize I prefer to spend money on experiences, not things. Good meals out, happy hours, Pilates classes, good bottles of wine, flowers, manicures/pedicures (I missed those most!), Netflix rentals, buying ingredients for a really fantastic meal, etc. enrich my life greatly. Experiences are so much more rewarding than new stuff. This was such a personal epiphany - I didn't really know that pre-fast.

In this country of privilege and wealth, we get caught up in the race for stuff. We take things for granted. We start to believe indulgences are our rights. We think we are entitled to more because we work hard and because everyone else has more. There is pressure for conspicuous consumption. But I'm realizing there is emptiness in that thinking. There is emptiness in this disposable culture. Your expendable money shouldn't be filling your life with more stuff - that's stressful. Your expendable money should be making your life richer.

I hope this post doesn't come off as pedantic..? I've been deeply embedded in the race for stuff since forever, and was definitely not perfect on the fast (there were some cheats, there was using of the debit card when I was too lazy to go to the ATM) and I am definitely not free of my spending habits now. But I do feel a little more enlightened and surprisingly, I feel no compulsion to go out and buy.  I do have my eyes on some worthy treats, but will not buy them impulsively. Instead, I hope writing this post will keep some of the fast's virtuousness going so I don't revert to old ways. I plan to repeat the fast next year. In the meantime, I'll re-read this post as a sort of "check" when I'm thinking about purchasing something. I'll ask myself: Is it useful, beautiful, joyful? Does it enrich my life? Will I appreciate and cherish it? Is it worthy of my time, space and energy?

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