Now, I am sure you are thinking “How is Financial Fasting connected to education and adventure?” But honestly, you can make anything about Education and Adventure. For Big Sister and Brother, this is a great lesson on not taking everything for granted and getting creative. It also is a wonderful lesson on preparing what you need before you leave the house.
My children are so used to the idea of just getting something in a quick and easy way. $5 here, $5 there-to them it doesn’t matter. And to be honest, I’ve become that way too. But when it is time to only spend money on the necessary, the children become shocked!
“What! No Chick-Fil-A!?!”
“ No bounce house or trampoline parks?”
“ No visiting the indoor playground at that really cool book store?”
“We can’t get a cake pop while you drive through Starbucks for a coffee?” (I’m not going through Starbucks for a coffee either.)
You might be thinking “Really? How privileged are you that you only take a month off from all these frivolous activities.” And you are right. We are pretty lucky. I know several people that do this and it is not called “Financial Fasting.” Instead it’s called “life.” As I write this, several Americans are struggling to find ways to pay for their homes and food because of a government shut down. For them, there is no extra money to spend on anything BUT the necessary. And I know it can be very hard if not almost impossible. But that is part of the point. Not only to rediscipline us but to remind us how lucky we are and how we can give it a second thought when we want to stop at the gas station to buy that drink.
SO WHAT IS FINANCIAL FASTING AND WHY DO YOU DO IT?
I got the idea of doing a financial fast when someone mentioned it on one of the Mom Facebook Groups that I belong to. As you can guess from the term “fast,” a lot of people use it as a way to grow in prayer as well as focusing on contentment and thankfulness. But that does not mean you have to take a spiritual walk for a financial fasting. Practicality and spirituality CAN be one in the same or you can choose to only focus on the practicality part.
In 2019, it is so easy to spend money without thinking. Amazon has the “buy now” option and with one click of a button you can get whatever you need delivered to your home. There is easy access to almost EVERYTHING! For me, it is so easy to think “Oh. It’s not that much. NOT A BIG DEAL AT ALL.” And then all of that adds up. This is our way of disciplining the WHOLE family all over again so we become wise in our spending habits. Because, our children see our spending habits and learn from us right? For instance Brother (whose three) will have a toy that he mistreats and it breaks and he just says “We’ll get another one…” Hhhhmmmm….
So you choose what is absolutely necessary to live and that is all you spend your money on for at least 21 days (the typical time for a fast.) And you have to figure that out for yourself. Obviously, food is a necessity. But do you need to get the bottled water or can you fill up your own bottle from your home? And necessity means just that. ONLY WHAT IS NECESSARY. Delivery or drive through, or eating out is a no go. EVEN ON THOSE DAYS YOU ARE SO TIRED AND JUST WANT SOMETHING CONVENIENT (Did I mention, we also eat ALOT healthier during our month of Financial Fasting?) You don’t need luxuries. No going to the movies, that haircut can wait, and you can live without that song or app from the iTunes store. You must resist the temptation to spend on any of this. Be honest, it’s the small purchases that are the hardest. If it were that easy—-we’d do it all the time. It can get really easy to get addicted to spending and this fast helps us make smarter choices.
WORD OF CAUTION
You and your partner MUST be on the same page on what is necessary during the Financial Fast. I’ve heard about so many couples who get into arguments because one thought they were doing wonderfully and everything was easy peasy and then they found out that their partner was NOT putting the same effort into it. A few people I know, told me they will never do the fast again because it just caused them to get into arguments with their spouse.
I’ll be honest, last year The Hubs and I got into an argument for that very reason. I cried and he was a deer in headlights wondering what on Earth did he do wrong. Why? Because we weren’t on the same page. This financial fast IS a journey and it CAN get emotional. It can be a lot of hard work to give up convenience. We agreed that we would only spend money on the necessary food. For me, that was only groceries. Nothing else. But for The Hubs, he understood it to be only what we NEEDED to eat. So when he was traveling around the area for work and got hungry he drove through McDonalds. He had to eat right? Of course! But for me, it was about packing a lunch instead of buying it. Or bringing a water from home instead of stopping at the gas station to get that soda. It was about being prepared ahead of time. Both our reasonings were right but we needed to make and follow the same rules. In other words, COMMUNICATE COMMUNICATE COMMUNICATE.
This year, we are on the exact same page. I hope…the fasting is all about learning and growing. At least, I won’t react the way I did last year if I find that we misunderstood each other again.
WHEN AND HOW LONG
We always choose January for our fast. For us, it’s perfect. We are recovering from all the holiday spending we just did and there really isn’t as much happening as in other months. No birthdays or special holidays. We also choose to do it for the entire month. We start the first week in January and continue until January 31st. But most people only fast for 21 days. You pick the best month and time frame for you. But remember it does need to be long enough to rewire that brain of yours or else what is the point.
Like I said, Financial Fasting isn’t easy. It’s not supposed to be. And there are plenty of things that make it hard along the way. It’s inevitable. You are going to get that birthday party invitation. You are going to get an invite to that really cool playdate to that new place the kids have always wanted to go to. The dinner you cooked burned in the oven and now all you want to do is order a pizza. Your friends planned that ladies’ or men’s night out at a really cool event.
Last year, there was a Daddy Daughter Dance that Big Sister would have loved to attend with The Hubs but the registration was due during the time of our financial fasting so she missed out on it. Even though the actual event was after the fasting. This year, we put money to the side specifically for that event because we know how important it is for her.
You are going to have to say no to a lot. It’s just how it is. If there is no entrance fee for that ladies’ night out, sure join them. For me though, I knew I didn’t have the discipline to not buy that one drink or that small appetizer while sitting with my friends. So I simply said, “no thank you. I’ll go next time.” Explain to everyone why you can’t go. Most people will understand. Some will offer to pay for you (it’s up to you to decide if you want to accept that offer. We did not.) Make the birthday kid a homemade birthday gift or explain to the parents why you are showing up empty handed. Many people just want your child’s presence at the party.
Also be careful that you are not just putting off expenses to the next month. It won’t help if you if there is something you really want and you just wait until next month to buy it. We learned this the hard way last year. We had just moved into a new house and I wanted new window curtains, shower curtains, trash cans for the bathroom, etc. After awhile, I started to make a list of things to buy after the fast. (I LOVE LISTS.) But at some point, I looked at the list and thought “this is crazy! I’m not saving money if I just make a list of things to buy as soon as I can!” One of the important lessons during the fast is how to pace yourself which you don’t do if you just wait until the fast is over.
WHAT ABOUT THOSE MONTHLY SUBSCRIPTIONS?
The whole point of the fasting is not to spend money on NEW luxuries and only on necessities. If you have a contract with a business and that contract has you paying a fee on a monthly basis-most of those businesses won’t let you skip a month or disrupt the service temporarily like that. Sure, some will. For instance…I LOVE MY STITCH FIX BOXES and my ESSENTIAL REWARDS for YOUNG LIVING. But they give you the option to skip if you need it. A lot of companies give you the option to skip online and some you might need to call. But for the others, we chose simply not to worry about it because paying a hefty reinstatement fee once the fast is over defeats the whole purpose of the fasting.
DOES THIS MEAN I HAVE TO STAY HOME ALL MONTH LONG?
Of course not! You do not have to be a recluse during the fast. There are plenty of fun and free things you can do all year long and the adventures don’t have to stop. In fact, figuring out what to do creates more ideas for fun family adventures. Favorite, Fun, and Free for the Whole Family has some great ideas for free adventures with the Family. Some of my best memories from 2018 are things we did during our financial fast. This year, we will be visiting some places were we already have memberships. Also, a very kind friend gifted us free admission to a local childrens’ science museum and we are very excited to visit it!
Just be careful, you need to research how strict certain businesses are when it comes to letting outside food in. If you plan on going somewhere for an entire day-you’ll need to eat and you should probably pack your snacks, lunch, and drinks (or whatever you need. I’m diabetic so I have to be sure I have something healthy for me wherever we go.) We will not go to one local theme park that we have annual passes for even though we don’t have to pay admission. Why? Because they are VERY strict on not allowing any outside food into the park. Even bottled water. So that place is a no go. But if you can pack a picnic or bring some snacks in-go for it!
Financial Fasting sounds like it can be easy. But there is a definite learning curve to it. It is a journey and there are always adventures in such journeys! For us, we chose this to be an annual tradition. Every year brings brand new lessons and brand new ideas. I hope the same will be true for you!
What lessons have you learned and what rules does your family have during a Financial Fast? Leave a comment below.