How to Go On a Spending “Diet”


Bronze Wordsmith
May 17, 2018
In this day and age, it seems like you can’t go about your daily life without having to spend. Simply existing costs quite a bit of money. But a lot of our spending is actually unnecessary. And sometimes, our spending habits become downright toxic and harmful to our long term goals. To help you “detox” financially, I recommend going on a spending diet, which is also known as a fiscal fast.

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Why You Should Do a Fiscal Fast

Not spending any money for a set amount of time – people usually peg this span at around 30 days, give or take – may seem extreme. And it definitely is extreme. But the benefits are also pretty extreme. If this didn’t have any clear and definite benefits, I don’t think going on spending diets would have caught on the way it has. This article on Lifehacker talks about the mental benefits of going on a fiscal fast:

"A friend recently remarked that for every new thing you buy, it makes everything you already own a little less valuable. This really stuck with me and helps when I’m tempted to buy something I don’t need. I want, as we all do, to be less attached to things. I’d rather have fewer things that I value than a load of crap that I only kind of like. This is not a new bit of wisdom, but one that’s worth meditating on a little while you’re not spending. You don’t have to get rid of your actual clutter in your home, but once you start using the things you have, you’ll naturally discover which things you value and which you can let go. More importantly, when you’re not in constant pursuit of the next acquisition, you rid yourself of the exhausting “mental clutter” that attends consumerism."

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For me, a fiscal fast does two things:

It Saves Me Money

The money I save during fiscal fasts aren’t always big. Since I need to set aside money in advance to pay for unavoidable expenses such as my rent, I don’t always save big money. But saving big isn’t really the point (see next item). But that said, it’s still cool to have some extra money at the end of the month that I can put into my savings account.

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It Resets My Spending Habits

Food fasts have a way of resetting one’s metabolism. And the same can be said with fiscal fasts. When I stop myself from spending money for an extended period of time, it gives me the opportunity to sort of reflect on my spending habits. It’s like a financial cleanse. I get to detoxify all my bad spending habits.

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How to do a Fiscal Fast

Not spending, or going on a spending fast, seems antithetical to modern life. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s practically impossible not to spend. Okay, correction: it only seems impossible. People have been doing on fiscal fasts for a long time. They come in different names: no shopping challenge, shopping fast, no buy challenge, no buy month – the list goes on.

But generally, all these methods cover how to stop spending money for 30 days. If you’d like to give this a try – and I highly recommend that you do! – here are a few tips to get you started on your own “spending diet.”

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Prepare Well in Advance

I mentioned earlier that there are unavoidable expenses, such as paying the rent, utilities, and food. It would be foolish to neglect to pay those bills, just because you’re going on a fiscal fast. I don’t think a fiscal fast would fly when explaining to your bank why you didn’t pay your credit card this month!

Before going on a fiscal fast, I suggest saving money for the month you plan to go on the fast. That means saving money ahead for those expenses. I need to point out that these expenses should be for necessities only. By all means, set aside money for rent or groceries. But probably not for that Venti Caramel Macchiato.

It might seem like cheating since you’re still technically spending money, even if you set aside the money ahead of time. That might seem true, but one of the key elements of a fiscal fast is that you’re not thinking about money. Since you already have money set aside (it would help if you could pay for stuff ahead of time, as well), you can still reset your spending attitudes during your fiscal fast.

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Have Clear Goals and Motivations

There are many reasons for going on a fiscal fast, all of which will be unique to the person doing it. Maybe you want to take a break from the consumerist trap. Or maybe you want to become more mindful of your spending habits. Whatever it is, it’s good to have a clear idea of why you are doing your fiscal fast. That way, you avoid getting burned out during the entire process.

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Find an Emotional Outlet

Most of the time, we spend not because we need the thing we’re buying, but because we want to feel good. Spending, simply put, gives us an emotional reward. It’s called “shopping therapy” for a reason. And because of that feeling of happiness and satisfaction we get, it becomes all too easy to get hooked on shopping. The result is unhealthy spending habits and even crippling debt.

To avoid this, especially during your fiscal fast, I recommend having an emotional outlet. This outlet has to give you the same “high” that spending does. What that is will differ from person to person. In my case, it’s running. Heading out and doing a quick job gives me a good endorphin boost, and that helps me forget to spend.

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Control Your Spending After the Fast

Nobody can avoid spending forever. It’s like going on a food fast. Eventually, you’ll have to eat. But after your fiscal fast, make sure you spend reasonably and mindfully. With any luck, your fiscal fast will make it easier for you to be mindful of what you spend your money on.

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