So yesterday was the last of the 21 Day Financial Fast and although I didn't update every day I want to share what I learned across the entire 21 Days.
- It is possible.
I was really worried at the beginning that it would be hard to give up morning coffee runs, convenience lunches out, and happy hour invites but it wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be. For all of these things a little advance planning goes a LONG way. Cooking batches of food on Sunday and packing as lunches and dinners simplified things enormously.
- I still had a social life.
I was worried that without having lunch out or happy hour I would see my friends less. While it is true that I have certain friends who I routinely have happy hour with it is fairly simple to invite those friends over for a fireside or backyard drink. Also, everyone loves a potluck.
- I had more free time.
I should have seen this coming but by pre-planning my meals and not squeezing in that happy hour I suddenly had time to read in the evenings, get a few household chores done, and even watch some netflix!
- I accomplished more.
This goes part and parcel with the above but I found that I accomplished more because I both had unfinished projects staring me in the face while I was home and the time to finish them. Like many homeowners I love going to home improvement stores and buying things for my next project. During the fast I actually used the things I had previously purchased and completed the projects I have queued up.
- I regained control over my finances.
While I personally think it is important to remember that no amount of financial wealth gives you control over your life it is important to exercise control over your money. I had been using money as a crutch for my lack of planning or forethought which didn't make my life any calmer! By trying to foresee what I would need for the day and week I not only spent less money frivolously but was able to keep my schedule orderly.
- I learned my trouble spots.
I am not one of those people who "doesn't know where my money goes." I know all right but I have been very successful in the past at rationalizing the purchases. During the fast I took a hard look at my weaknesses and planned ahead. I love picking up extra items on shopping trips- nail polish, cleaning supplies, little gifts for other people. I trained myself to only get things that were on the list I had or I knew I truly needed and skip the sections I just like to "browse." In fact, I'm considering skipping my biggest weakness (Target, especially the kitchen and home sections...) altogether for a month or more in favor of buying only the items I need from a less browse-worth place like Amazon.
- I have more than enough.
One of the things the book said that resonated with me was to think about all of the things I had- in my closets, in every drawer, cabinet, and cubby space and consider what it was that I needed. This was a good exercise for me that led not only to me cleaning out some closets but as a reminder when I felt the pull of things that most of them were wholly unnecessary and would simply be another trip to the donation center.
- The crutch of credit.
I have a great credit score and for that I am grateful. My dad opened credit card accounts for my sister and I when we were just 15 so that we would have good credit. I am grateful that I have never abused credit because I know (and you do too) SO many people who have become overwhelmed by credit card debt. The goal during the fast was to use cash- I never really made that switch but it made me want to reexamine the role credit plays in my life and at least switch to debit. No amount of credit card "points" or "rewards" make it worth it to be able to contemplate buying things you can't truly afford.
- I can't go rogue.
I am recently married and as we have entered the daunting task of combining finances it is important to remember that money is now OUR money and that requires joint decision making and budgeting. This is not always easy for me- it's always easier to justify a purchase to yourself than to your spouse! For most couples, including us, money is inextricable from future hopes and goals and in that sense it is great to have financial conversations to make sure you and your spouse are on the same page.
- I am already living the "rich life."
Social scientists, grandmothers, and forever-young types all agree that money doesn't make you happy. This was a good reminder of that for me. I have a great family, wonderful spouse, a job I am passionate about, and good friends. Money neither gives or takes away these things.