Ladies and gentlemen,
I am on a spending diet. Last month, I spent $3,000, which is 50% over my already lenient budget. *quietly sobs in the corner* The total balance of all my credit cards exceeds my checking account by $1,000, so it’s time to make some serious adjustments until my next paycheck. Between September 1st and September 15th, my goal is to limit my spending to $200, which is what I need to keep my spending under in order to just break even when I get paid on the 15th.
Wait, all this, to just break even? Honestly, that’s a little ridiculous! Suffice to say, this cash fast will be the first of many I will embark on to better rein in that category of “miscellaneous expenses” that inflates so quickly. These fasts will vary in length and magnitude, but the ultimate goal will always be the same: spend less.
How did I do in Round 1? Here’s a list of all my expenses within the 2 weeks:
- Sep 1: $42 on commuter card auto-refill (can’t really control when this happens, and a girl’s got to get to work).
- Sep 2: $22 on Amazon for some household necessities. Okay, one or two things may not have actually been necessities… whoops.
- Sep 3: $18 semi-monthly recurring payment to Gold’s Gym (This charge really bothers me, because I made the most of this pass while still living in DC, but the gym’s membership rules mean I can’t cancel until next month – I’m counting down the days).
- Sep 4: $0. I spent the day napping by the pool. Can’t spend money if I’m asleep!
- Sep 5: $33 on gas for Labor Day travels, and a snack at the gas station.
Quick check-in: Okay, I know it was a long weekend and all, but I’m already over halfway through my limit! I didn’t even have to cover my own food costs for the weekend. Now I have to make $85 last for 10 days. *ohshitohshitohshit*
- Sep 6: $0. I scrounged up leftovers from the fridge and had a very sad lunch of baby carrots, olives, leftover potatoes and some apple sauce. My appetite is used to much more food.
- Sep 7: $35 on a bridal shower present for this weekend. I knew this expense was coming, but the purchase still hurt to make.
- Sep 8: $18 on groceries.
- Sep 9: $4 on a card and ribbon for my friend’s bridal shower.
- Sep 10: $14 on breakfast, 1/2 of an Uber trip, and a tea from Starbucks.
Two-thirds through. Total spent to-date: $185.15. Just a few days to go before payday!
- Sep 11: $13 on groceries.
- Sep 12: $0.
- Sep 13: $5 on a recurring monthly subscription (which I completely forgot about).
- Sep 14: $0.
- Sep 15: $26 at Gap because I had a coupon and I can’t seem to restrain myself.
Well, that was a bust.
Allotted budget: $200
Total damage: $229.16
As an exercise in restrained spending, I actually think I failed quite spectacularly. All my spending was extremely front-loaded into this fast; I had to actually see how little money I had left before I could better restrain myself. Also, I’ll be honest and tell you all that there are a bunch of large purchases that I pushed off until the 16th, just for the sake of this cash fast. Nearly all of them a wedding-related, though! Being part of a wedding is definitely costly.
What’s the silver lining?
Even though I wasn’t truly successful in this initial endeavor, I learned a lot about my spending urges, and I did manage to reduce the negative balance of my account somewhat. The most positive effect of the past two weeks for me has actually been weight loss! Not allowing myself to eat out and doing more meal prep, while reducing snacking, made me drop 5 pounds in 2 weeks. That’s a number I’m really excited about, and it’s definitely motivation for me to keep going. I’m attempting to do the Whole30 diet, and so far, I’m feeling fantastic! See? When you get you financial life in order, other aspects just seem to fall into place as well (this is a working theory, obviously).
Want more cash fasts? You can read Round 2 here.