Thursday, March 6, 2014

Financial Fast, take two

Last year's Lenten Financial Fast was revelatory, so we're at it again. When we started the fast, the goal was to save money. In the end, yes, we definitely saved money, but the whole experience was so much more enriching than just austerity. You can see last year's reflections here, but in a nutshell, besides keeping more dough in the bank, we saved time and pressure, learned true financial mindfulness, and realized we'd rather spend our money on experiences than on things. It was eye-opening, and the fast's virtuousness carried on throughout 2013 as I constantly found myself questioning whether I was spending carefully, if I truly needed or just wanted an item, and if I'd rather have this thing, or an evening out.

So this year, we're following the same rules, but our main goal is to try out new budgeting/saving systems to see what works best for us.

These are the rules:

:: Use cash only - no plastic.

:: No shopping. Necessities only.

:: Record and categorize every single purchase (see photo -- we're using worksheets for this, at least to start).

:: Allow for planned exceptions. We have a lot of pre-scheduled commitments for March and April, so we're honoring those and also budgeting for one date night per week. Must be paid for in cash. No spontaneous dates allowed - must be pre-arranged and have money set aside.

I'm not sure this fast will be as eye-opening, since we know what to expect, but I'm really hoping it helps us establish a longterm savings schedule so that we (mostly I) actually become savers. We didn't go into any new debt in 2013, but we didn't put much into savings either. Here's hoping this financial re-set will help us tighten up a bit, get a longterm system* for budgeting/savings in place, and put aside more in 2014. I'll keep you posted on what we come up with in terms of a savings/budgeting system; we have a family finances meeting scheduled for Sunday. (Yep, we're dorky like that.)

*Question: Does anyone out there use an online tracking system like In theory, it sounds good. I mean, I'm sure it's secure, and it seems really easy to use, but it's scary to hand over your financial information to the cybervoid. Skeptic over here. If anyone has a tried and true budgeting/saving system, or otherwise, I'd love to hear.

We started the fast yesterday. Oh! And also, instead of 40 days, we're going 36 as we'll be on vacation after that.

Let the deliberate simplicity begin.

PS: We got the idea for a financial fast from this article. All posts relating to 2013's financial fast are here.

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