Financial Lent: A Frugal Fast to See What You Can Live Without

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A few days ago, I happened on a post at How I Save Money where Lulugal tells how Lent has affected her budget. This got me thinking about how we could all hold a “financial fast” at some time as a test to find out what luxuries we can do without and how much money we can save by doing it.

Objectives of a Financial Fast

  • To learn what we can live without
  • To test and become aware of the cost of certain habits, activities or actions
  • To learn how much money can be saved in your everyday life by cutting back or giving up certain habits
  • To appreciate the commodities and conveniences of modern life

How to Hold a Financial Fast

1. Pick a date range

  • It doesn’t have to be the actual time of Lent, but any time of year
  • If 40 days seems daunting, try starting with a smaller goal – 1 week, 10 days, 2 weeks, etc.

2. Pick your fast

  • Something that you do or use on a regular basis that costs money
  • A habit or luxury that you might have considered giving up

Some suggestions for abstinence or cut-back:

  • Recreational shopping (anything not a necessity) to save money
  • Hot food or cooking to conserve energy (if you’ve considered trying the raw food diet, this would be a good time)
  • Driving to save gas and money
  • Entertainment that costs additional expenditure e.g. going to the movies, renting movies, concerts, etc. If you already pay for cable, then it wouldn’t count as an additional expenditure. That is, unless you’re considering cutting cable altogether, but your cable company might not let you skip for a month without charging you a new rate.
  • Text messaging if you have a plan that charges per text message
  • Heating or cooling to conserve energy. This would be a good time to work on weather-sealing your home.
  • Eating out
  • Purchased beverages such as coffee, soft drinks
  • Minimizing utility useage to test the difference in your utility bills
    • Appliances – e.g. line-drying clothing
    • Limiting or cutting TV time
    • Taking cold showers if your constitution can take it
  • Smoking if you are a smoker and have wondered how much you might save by quitting
  • Drinking (same as smoking)

We don’t recommend:

  • Skipping showers to save water
  • Not flushing the toilet to save water
  • Not brushing your teeth to save toothpaste
  • Skipping medications to save money
  • Not washing your clothes to save water and soap

3. Check Your Accounts or Bills

At the end of your fast period, check your credit card bill, bank statements or utilities bills and compare with a previous period to see if your fast has lowered your spending and bills.

4. Repeat, Extend or Try Another Fast

  • See if you can go another x number of days without your chosen luxury
  • Try a new fast with a different habit or activity
  • Repeat your financial fast as often as you like or until you’re fully aware of all your expenditures

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5 thoughts on “Financial Lent: A Frugal Fast to See What You Can Live Without”

  1. Interesting post. A question for you, are you considering doing this and would you be willing to report on it? It makes what you put on your blog more personnal and I for one would love to see your and other reader’s experiences. Thanks and keep up the good work.

  2. Thanks for linking to my Lent post. It was a bit difficult for me to go without juice for a while but then it gets easier.

    I have had to do a few tricks to get myself to NOT drink the juice at home like hiding the bottles behind something else or putting them in the bottom drawer that sticks.

    At work it was a little bit more difficult since I have to explain why I am not drinking anything but water.

    I have gotten laughed at for cutting out juice (I don’t drink or smoke so juice is really my vice) but I bet a lot of the people who laughed cannot do it. It is really easy to fall back into the trap of drinking juice.

    Let us know how YOUR fast is going.

  3. I love this post. Last year, I gave up Target and was amazed to discover that it had a big impact on my checkbook balance. Even though I knew that I was spending too much time and money there, it wasn’t until I stopped that I truly appreciated it.

    I didn’t notice any mention of not cleaning your house – it saves water, cleaning supplies & electricity (the vacuum.) Maybe I should have given that up for Lent this year.

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