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How to Use a Spending Fast to Develop the Savings Habit

Saving money is something that’s important to most people but it’s often easier said than done. According to the Federal Reserve, only 53% of Americans have enough resources to cover a $400 financial emergency. While student loan debt, credit card debt or a low income are often the biggest barriers to saving, sometimes an empty bank account is the result of poor spending decisions.

So how do you go from being a saver to spender? It takes a combination of changing your mindset and your spending patterns to get on track. Putting yourself on a spending diet may seem a little extreme but it may be just the nudge you need to start stashing away your dollars and cents.

What Is a Spending Fast and Who Needs One?

The basic premise behind a spending fast is that you commit to not spending money on anything frivolous for a set period of time. How long you plan to curb your spending is up to you but research suggests that it takes on average 66 days for a new behavior to become routine. If you’re not ready to tackle a 60-day spending fast, we recommend trying it for at least a month.

Embarking on a spending fast is a smart move for anyone who wants to save but can’t seem to find the money. It’s also a good idea if you’ve gotten in over your head with debt and you’re trying to pinpoint where your biggest money leaks are.

Starting a Spending Fast

In terms of what you cut out of your spending, it all comes down to understanding the difference between wants and needs. Things like rent, groceries, utilities, gas and medical care would all fall into the “need” category.

The point of a spending diet is to avoid wasting money on non-essential things like:

  • Entertainment
  • Dining out
  • New clothes
  • Makeup
  • Electronic gadgets
  • Expensive hobbies
  • A daily Starbucks fix

By now you might be thinking that a spending fast is some sort of medieval torture experiment but it’s really not. The point is to show you that you do have the money to save in your budget, if you’re willing to look for it.

How to Make a Spending Fast Work For You

Committing to a spending fast can be tough in the beginning and it helps to have a way to keep tabs on how you’re doing. Here are some tips to make staying the course easier:

  • Track your spending automatically.. When you’re actively working to trim spending you need to know where your money’s going at all times. If you’re not organized enough to write all your purchases down, linking your bank account to a budgeting app like Mint.com can break down your spending at a glance.
  • Tell your friends Peer pressure is a sneaky money thief and it can easily sabotage your no-spend ways. To eliminate problems, clue your friends in as to what you’re doing and why. Consider making the spending fast a group effort if they’re tired of always being broke.
  • Get an accountability partner Having someone to offer advice or encouragement can make the days and weeks of a spending diet go by that much faster. Enlist your spouse, a friend or a family member to be the person who talks you down when you’re feeling tempted to go on a spending binge.
  • Have a plan for what you’re saving Making a plan for how to use the money you’re saving ensures that all your hard work isn’t wasted. For instance, if you’ve racked up some credit card debt as a result of overspending, you could use the cash to knock down the balance. If you don’t have an emergency fund, parking some of your spare change in a savings account gives you an umbrella against rainy days.

Setting goals for the money you’re saving can be an excellent motivator to keep your spending fast going long after the first 30 days have passed. The longer you stick with goal-setting and saving, the sooner it’ll become second nature.

About the author

Rebecca Lake

Rebecca Lake is a personal finance writer and blogger specializing in topics related to mortgages, retirement and business credit. Her work has appeared in a variety of outlets around the web, including Smart Asset and Money Crashers. You can find her on Twitter at @seemomwrite or her website, RebeccaLake.net.

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