My friend Rachael wrote a guest blog post about her spending fast plan back in May 2015. I thought this update from her would be an inspiration to anyone on a similar path. There are lessons here that I think apply to more than just spending fasts.
The spending fast: what it is, and why it changed my life
I first started paying back my student loans at the beginning of 2014. That first year of debt repayment was pretty easy. I managed to pay the minimum amount and tried, as best as I thought I possibly could, to add extra payments when possible.
In November of the same year, there was a problem with payroll and it would be weeks, going on months, before I would receive a regular pay cheque. I didn’t have any savings, and was feeling the weight of this debt looming over me.
On top of feeling frustrated with where I was career-wise, this financial hiccup was certainly not welcomed. I moped around for a bit, lingering in my victim story. But then something truly remarkable happened.
As I found myself living very frugally for weeks, I discovered that overall, my baseline of happiness was still pretty consistent. I had food to eat, a roof above my head, a chance to make a difference through volunteering, a job. I had a cat; I had love; friends and family in my life. *Cue that Jann Arden song*
As long as I was able to have opportunities to connect — albeit in simple, going-out-for-coffees-or-a-walk kind of ways — I was, for the most part, happy. It was a simple contentment.
Then I thought to myself: if I am feeling stuck career-wise, maybe there is another area of my life where I can channel my energy that will give me that accomplishment I longed for. That was when I asked myself one of the most important questions of my life: how quickly can I pay off the rest of my student debt?
I put out a Facebook post asking friends for their best frugal living tips and stated my intention. Then a friend introduced me to the spending fast (via andthenwesaved.com), which involves limiting spending to basic needs, and I knew this is what I needed to do.
I set out to pay off $10,000 in one year (interest included). Up until that point, I had managed to pay off approximately $7000 in eleven months. I thought an extra few thousand would be a reasonable goal. To my surprise, I reached this target at the mid-point of 2015, half-way through the year!
I had vastly underestimated how much I would save by cutting out the small-medium things — clothes, drinks, concerts, things for the home, products I believed I “needed” to have a good life. Those $30-$100-here-and-there costs.
The quote that best summarizes the spending fast is from Benjamin Franklin: “Beware of the little expenses, a small leak will sink a great ship.” The biggest changes within myself happened in the everyday choices: walking away from a store, bringing lunches to work, opting for a change of plans with friends that didn’t involve spending.
This past year took a lot of effort. There were times I wanted to quit and times when I lost my focus and spent more than I would have liked, but I always managed to identify my triggers, pick myself up and get back on track.
My experience with the spending fast has changed me for the better. Probably the most significant was that I learned to become grateful for what I already had in front of me. I found that once I deconstructed and consciously moved away (as best as possible) from those messages of needing more and more things and costly experiences to have a good life, I found myself looking around at what I had, and realized it was pretty great.
A thank you goes out to Anna (founder of the blog andthenwesaved.com) for introducing me to the concept of the spending fast which has forever changed my life. I also want to thank my family who offered so much support during this process, even when they thought I was a little crazy absolutely insane! And to my fiancé for cheering me along the entire way, seeing this as an opportunity for him too, and helping me stay on track when I started to veer.
My debt — something I thought I would take decades to pay — is finished after two years, and it feels incredible. I am truly in awe at the power of spending fasts!