If you’ve ever had surgery or bloodwork for your cholesterol levels, the test required you to fast for 8 hours or more. Many people also endeavor to fast for its health benefits to promote better digestion, weight loss, lowering cholesterol, and resetting appetite. Others may fast for spiritual reasons, like drawing closer to God for spiritual direction or increasing discipline.
However, eating is not the only item you can limit when fasting. I have “fasted” activities, such as crossword puzzles, computer games, and television, to gain more time to accomplish a goal or project. My time management fasts typically lasted until I achieved my goal or task.
A financial fast might be in order if you need to control your spending better. Whether you are just beginning to set up your budget or years into managing your money and want to reach a new goal, this plan might be the catalyst for your success. A total financial fast eliminates all unnecessary expenditures for a set period, whereas a partial fast eliminates specific spending categories. After you review your budget, decide which option works for you. During the period of the financial fast, you cut your spending. Fasting should increase your bank balance. However, you will likely experience other benefits.
Benefits of a Financial Fast:
One benefit is an increased awareness of how often you spend money on non-essentials. The ease of your purchases can hinder your realization of how much you spend. While shopping, a store offers multiple ways to pay for items. Pulling out a credit card or clicking the online “order button” distances the shopper from feeling their loss of money. Consider if you paid cash for every transaction. As the stack of bills shrinks in your hand, you connect the loss with the purchase. If you habitually charge $5 for breakfast and $10 for lunch every workday, you may not realize that those purchases add up to $330 each month (based on 22 workdays per month). The individual transactions are hardly worth noting when you examine your credit card bill, but the total makes a big dent in your bank balance. You will be surprised when you implement your fast. Those quick habits of taping your phone or swiping your credit card will lessen, and your bank account will grow.
A second benefit will be breaking bad habits and creating good ones. If you have been going through a drive-up for a coffee and breakfast sandwich, and now you skip that, you may begin to make coffee and breakfast at home. After a few weeks of this, making breakfast at home should be a regular habit, and going through the drive-up might become a once-in-while treat.
A third benefit is saving time. It takes time to get from your office to your car, drive to a restaurant, eat, and return to your office. Packing a lunch takes much less time, and you can use that time savings to do something else, such as taking a walk, writing a letter, or engaging in a friendly conversation with a co-worker.
Finally, you are developing a new mindset of finding ways to enjoy life that do not require spending money. If you decide to fast spending money on recreation, you will work harder to seek free entertainment options. You will likely find many available to you and your family.
Action Plan for a Financial Fast:
- Decide on a goal for your financial fast. Possible goals might include:
a. Paying off some debts
b. Saving for a vacation
c. Developing an appreciation of “free” activities and habits
d. Demonstrating to your children that you have the self-control to delay a purchase until you have ended your spending fast.
- Set a time frame. Many financial experts recommend a 21-day fast, which is based on estimates that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. Other experts recommend a period of intermittent financial fasting, such as fasting financially for one week out of every month. Your time period could be shorter or longer, depending on your goal and what spending category you will fast.
- Decide what you will fast. One option is to go on a strict fast, where you only pay bills and purchase groceries and medicine. Another option is a partial fast in which you forego spending for specific categories of items. For example, if buying shoes is a personal weakness, you might fast shoe purchases for an extended period. If you are saving to go on a cruise, you might give up dining out and recreational spending to have more money going toward your cruise budget.
- Plan for success. If you give up eating fast food for breakfast and lunch, ensure you have groceries to prepare those meals at home. Have motivational phrases and Scripture verses in your wallet, car, and computer to help you stay motivated. Celebrate your success without breaking your fast.
- Avoid temptations. If you are fasting clothing expenditures, avoid visiting your favorite apparel sites and stores. Throw away catalogs and delete marketing emails without reading them.
Recently, I participated in a 24-hour dietary fast at the request of a friend with a terminally-ill child. The purpose of the fast was to spend time in prayer for the child. I had no other motivation. Although I have been working to lose weight for a while, I did not fast with the expectation of losing weight. When the fast ended, however, I found that my appetite had been “reset.” I have been able to eat less and feel satisfied, which has led to weight loss. A financial fast can provide the benefit of resetting your spending mindset, which will reap economic benefits for you long after you have ended your financial fast.
My Bible study, Honoring God with Your Money, is a great resource to help you understand how to manage your money better and achieve your financial goals. It is available on Amazon. If you would like to receive my quarterly newsletter with tips on managing your money, please complete this short form: Honoring God with Your Money (list-manage.com)