A Spending Hiatus

The economic headlines these days are far from uplifting:

There’s no mincing words.  This is a scary, uncertain time.  That said, it is also an amazing opportunity for each of us to rethink our priorities.  One classic piece of advice for protecting yourself during economic turmoil is to cut back on your expenses  – the thought being if you get laid-off or furloughed, you will already be used to living on a reduced income.  Doing everything you can to pay off high-interest consumer debt (e.g. credit cards and other forms of revolving debt) is another solid step in a world where alternatives (like investing in real estate or the stock market) are far from certain.

But what if we took it a step further?  What if we each devoted one day a week to a “spending hiatus”?  On this day your challenge would be to make due with whatever you currently have.  Whether it’s creative, free summer entertainment for your kids or whipping up a meal from whatever you can find in your pantry… no spending.  I gave this a try the other day.   I found entertainment in one of the many books on my shelf I had yet to read, made musical play-lists from the pile of dusty CDs my husband & I have collected over the years, and created a highly edible meal out of ingredients I never knew could go together.  It was  great day.

But it was just a day.  Journalist Judith Levine did this for an entire year – and describes it in witty, thought-provoking detail in her book NOT BUYING IT: my year without shopping. Should you decide to take a spending hiatus day, I highly recommend going to your local library to procure a copy of this delightful account of one consumer who said “enough!”  This book was ahead of its time.  It came out in 2006, which as you may recall was back when the term “home ownership” still brought smiles to people’s faces.  Reading it with the knowledge of what has ensued in our economy since makes it all the more poignant.  So if you are looking for a new challenge, go for it – try a a spending hiatus.  You never know what gems you might find already present in your life.

3 Replies to “A Spending Hiatus”

  1. Reading this came at the perfect time. I just pulled out a legal pad and was writing down what I spent yesterday and in what categories-vowing to do this all week/all month. In the creation of my new business, I am investing a lot of money in myself and my education-but really have no solid idea what my monthly expenses and spending patterns are. I remembered an exercise from “On My Own Two Feet” where you laid out how to capture this information=have to go pull out that book from the shelves. And choose a shopping free day this week. thanks.

    1. Good for you for tackling this project – I’ve found with budgeting, the simpler the system the more effective. I literally carry around a slip of paper in my wallet and every time I spend money I just whip it out and write down what I just spent (e.g. groceries $57, cell phone bill $64, etc.). I tally mine up at the end of the month (takes about 15 minutes) and summarize it in a spreadsheet (you can download my favorite budget template in excel by clicking HERE – it’s roughly 3/4 of the way down the page). Other people like to tally their spending weekly. The key, as with pretty much anything in life (like that regular exercise program I keep vowing to get on :)… is to just do it. So you go girl!

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