Spending fast – 5 steps to plan it and save money

Spending fast - how to do it?

In July I made a terrifying observation that a vast majority of my money was going to rent and food. I analyzed my spendings and I was shocked – five bucks here, three there – some random coffees, vegan fast food for lunch when I slacked on meal-prepping, bottled water or diet coke… I realized I needed a spending fast immediately. Confronted with the fact that my mom is visiting me for a vacation soon, I decided to cut all my expenses to a bare minimum and I developed a plan to follow now – and after the vacation to rebuild my budget.

Do I need to curb my expenses?

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If you are unsure if you are a good candidate for a spending fast, go ahead and answer the following questions:

  • Do you compensate for your bad mood with a sweet treat or dinner out?
  • Do you spend evenings scrolling through online clothing stores just to see if you like something?
  • Are you afraid you are not saving enough money for emergencies?
  • Do you have a vacation or large event or purchase ahead of you that you’re planning to use a credit card or loan to pay for?
  • Do you feel like you have no control over your expenses?

If you answered yes to some of the questions above, you will benefit from a no-spend challenge or, in other words, a spending fast. If it doesn’t bring about some serious mental changes, it will save you a few bucks that you can then mindfully invest or spend. You can’t lose!

Spending fast – how to go about it?

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Step 1: Analyze your spending.

You have several options at your disposal. If you mostly use cash, spend a month preparing for the fast, and write down all your expenses in a notebook or a spreadsheet. If you do card payments, go through your statements and categorize your spending. Alternatively, you can use an app – I use Mint, but there are more apps which you can use, and they will categorize your spending for you. I suggest that you use the following categories:

  1. Rent/mortgage
  2. Mobile phone (and landline)
  3. Utilities, cable, internet
  4. Education and self-development
  5. Entertainment (movie theaters, bowling, subscriptions, netflix, spotify etc.)
  6. Food (groceries, fast food, restaurants and coffee shops)
  7. Gym and wellness
  8. Health (doctor’s appointments, tests, dental work, medication)
  9. Insurance (home, health, car…)
  10. Transportation (public transport, bike, car, gas, etc.)
  11. Personal care (beauty products, skin care, etc.)
  12. Clothing
  13. Home (repairs, furniture, accessories etc.)
  14. Travel expenses
  15. Alcohol and nights out

Step 2: Write down your priorities.

Write down what matters to you the most. My priorities consist of my health and fitness, so I’m not going to cut down on these. For you, it may be your education or your social life – make sure you know what matters to you and what you are okay with putting on hiatus for the duration of your fast.

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Step 3: Create a budget.

Now, let’s go back to your spending summary. Some of the items will be fixed, but some of them we can definitely cut down on, or cut out completely. Here is an example:

Legend: fixed value or to remain as is / cut down on / cut out completely

  1. Rent/mortgage
  2. Mobile phone (and landline)
  3. Utilities, cable, internet
  4. Education and self-development
  5. Entertainment (movie theaters, bowling, subscriptions, netflix, spotify etc.)
  6. Food (groceries, fast food, restaurants and coffee shops)
  7. Gym and wellness
  8. Health (doctor’s appointments, tests, dental work, medication)
  9. Insurance (home, health, car…)
  10. Transportation (public transport, bike, car, gas, etc.)
  11. Personal care (beauty products, skin care, etc.)
  12. Clothing
  13. Home (repairs, furniture, accessories etc.)
  14. Travel expenses
  15. Alcohol and nights out

When you’re done, analyze your last month’s spending and set up a budget you are not going to exceed. Make sure you do it carefully and don’t forget about any necessary expenses. Then, after you get paid, transfer all money above the budget into your savings account.

Step 4: Shop and make payments once a week only.

Meal prepping will now be your best friend – cooking at home is way cheaper than eating out. To save even more, plan your meals weekly. To simplify the process, shop once a week. This way you will know you have food at home (or packed with you), and won’t be tempted to eat out. To make it even easier than that, you also pay your bills the same day, and order food online. Some stores offer free delivery – use that to your advantage!

If you need ideas, feel free to have a glimpse on my delicious gumbo recipe or make some pierogi! Alternatively, the true Biblical poor man’s meal – mujaddara – will help you out on your lazy days when you’re craving something tasty and filling.

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Step 5: Detach money from how you feel emotionally.

Whether you are going through emotional difficulties or you just lack discipline, splurging on clothes, food and nails do not solve either of these issues. Spend some time reflecting on what it is that’s making you an emotional buyer, and find some new ways to make yourself feel good and pampered, without ruining your budget and putting yourself in a stressful financial situation. Some good ideas of spoiling yourself include, but are not limited to:

  • preparing dinner with your significant other at home;
  • movie night with a bottle of wine;
  • a homemade face mask and a nice bubble bath;
  • yoga practice;
  • calling an old friend;
  • journaling;
  • a homemade mani-pedi;
  • dressing up to see a new museum on a free day;
  • free wine and cheese at a gallery opening.

Do you have any more tips? Please let me know!

Woman Restated

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