Are you a shopaholic? You know you're a shopaholic if a thief steals all your credit cards and goes on a shopping spree, but when you get your monthly bill it's the lowest one you've had in years.
As I've written here before, if you're a typical American you can't honestly embrace the green movement without also accepting that you need to consume less in your own life. We Americans are only five percent of the world's population, but we consume almost thirty percent of the world's resources. Conservation starts with the next time you get out your wallet or open your purse.
How to break yourself of a spending addiction? Try a spending detox, or what I call a fiscal fast: Go for a week or more each year without spending any money.
Think of it as forgoing the use of legal tender for the sake of tenderizing your non-monetary soul.
The Golden Rule: NO stockpiling in advance. A fiscal fast is the week to use it up, make it last, or do without.
It's a chance to eat up the groceries in your cupboards and refrigerator, especially food stuff nearing its expiration date. It's the week to try carpooling or walking or bicycling to work rather than driving. And a fiscal fast gives you a chance to finally open up those little bottles of shampoo you've been saving from the Holiday Inn for the past 20 years, and rediscover all the terrific clothes in your closet you forgot you even own.
It's a week for your family to make its own fun, rather than pay for entertainment; dig out those old board games you haven't played in years or borrow some books from the library.
A fiscal fast will put you in touch with your own green cheapskate and do three things to help reshape your relationship with money and stuff. First, you'll save some money during the week, which is always a good thing, particularly in challenging economic times like these. Don't rush out the following week and spend what you saved during the fast; instead use it to pay down some debt or put it in your savings account.
A fiscal fast will also give you a new appreciation for how you spend -- and probably waste -- money in a normal week. It's like being embedded in a virtual spreadsheet of your household budget. Finally, and most importantly, a fiscal fast will remind you of all the wonderful things in life that have nothing to do with money.
People from across the country have been contacting me to share their fiscal fasting stories since reading about the exercise in my book, and I've yet to hear from anyone who regretted the experience, even if they didn't make it through the entire week. In addition to the above benefits, folks have reported shock and awe over everything from how much less household trash they generate to how much less they drive -- and how much more free time they have -- when they swear off spending for a week. Give fiscal fasting a try, and give my regards to your green cheapskate when you meet him or her along the way.
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