Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Fiscal Fasting - My Month on a Spending Diet

You may not know this, but Roger really enjoys watching TV. Since we don't own a television, we often watch Netflix before bed, and this has led to a lot of interesting choices in shows. Just as the New Year was turning, our interesting show of choice was Extreme Cheapskates. I really hate reality TV, and I think it's our modern day equivalent to a freak show - voyeuristic, exploitative, and usually a little sick - and this was pretty much exactly that, except for one thing: it showed us what a Fiscal Fast was.

If you've never heard of the concept, it's pretty simple: a set period of time where you spend no money at all.  That's right - $0.  After reading up a little bit on it, most people do it for about a week.  It sounded like a really interesting idea to me, and after talking with a few internet buddies, Roger and I decided to take on the challenge for a month along with a few friends.

As you know, one of my goals for 2014 was to spend more mindfully, and I think starting the year out with a Fiscal Fast is going to help immensely with that.  I'm hoping it gets me more in touch with the many free things to do in the city, along with reducing my carbon footprint a bit.  We're both lucky enough not to have any debt, but we aren't as good about saving as we should be.  Since my school stipend ended last May, I haven't adjusted to my new lower income very well, and with some big trips on the horizon, we need to get better at putting away money, so this should help with that as well.

Of course, because it's a month and not a week, we're going to have to make some exceptions.  Here's what the group agreed to:

1) It's okay to buy some groceries if necessary, but you must first try to use things you already have in your pantry. Plan your menu and stick to your grocery list.  I'm hopeful that we'll be able to keep our groceries truly minimal, because we already do a dinner share, so some of our weekly food comes from that.

2) Transportation spending is okay, within reason. Our metrocards come straight out of our paychecks, so we're going to continue to use the subway rather than find a way to walk/bike the 5-10 miles to work every morning in January.  But, we're not taking any cabs or planning any non-subway/bus travel for the month.

3) Emergencies happen.  If one of us gets sick, we're going to the doctor.  For the group, if their furnace or car breaks, they're getting it fixed.  We're not going to be penny wise and pound foolish here.

4) The fast will happen over Valentine's Day, and also covers some birthdays.  Some people might start the fast a day or so early and end a day or so sooner, but we're going to try and make our own fun instead of a fancy dinner out.

5) We'll all be paying our regular bills- rent/mortgage, cell, Internet, insurance, student loan payment or credit card payment. For us, this also covers the gym, which we're hoping to use more often during the month. 

The fast begins tomorrow!  You're not supposed to stock up, so we've tried not to, but we're down to one roll of toilet paper and only $2.50 on our laundry card, so tonight I'm planning to buy toilet paper, milk, and fill up the card.  Then, I'm putting all my credit cards in a drawer so I won't be tempted, and won't be spending another dime until February 15th.  I'll post updates sporadically and let you know how it's going.  Wish me luck, and if you're interested, feel free to join us for a week or longer!


  1. You're doing it for a month? I am super impressed. I ended my clothing fast a few weeks early. Good luck! I am inspired!

    1. Your clothing fast was really inspiring to me! Even if you ended a little early, I still think you did a great job.

  2. Curious to see how this goes! I taking a different approach lately by trying to use up everything I already have. I had tons of hair and face products under the sink, in my cabinets and on the shelves. So I finally put them out on my bathroom counter where I can see and actually use them. My goal is to get through all of them this year and be rid of them! Not that they're bad, they're just there being unused!

    1. That's a great idea! I tried that with my clothes last winter, and was pretty successful at it, so hopefully this works out well for you, too. And it's funny you should mention using up the bathroom products you have - we're almost certainly going to run out of body wash during this month, and while I was originally tempted to buy a bottle to have when we do, I realized that we have a ton of bar soaps in our closet that we can use. Not quite as nice as the body wash, but they're just going to waste if we don't use them!