Three years ago, while I was living in Alaska I was browsing through Pinterest one day looking at budget and money management inspiration when I stumbled upon a little blog called AndThenWeSaved. Honestly, it was the kick @ss graphics that drew me in but I quickly found a source of inspiration that would (or should I say will) become life changing for me. The blog’s author, Anna, had experienced a sick and tired moment when it came to her debt. She then devised a plan to complete a year long no spend challenge, aka a Spending Fast, to get rid of her burden of debt once and for all, and she did it you guys! She paid off over $20,000 of debt that year and chronicled it all in her blog. Even more, just before I discovered her she published a book where she further outlined how she got out of debt and gave tips, tricks, and advice to inspire others to be successful at paying off their debts too. So, of course, I immediately went onto Amazon and bought it (you can find it here), and I tell you what, I was on fire and ready to slay my debts…for about 3 weeks and then the reality of being a broke Paramedic student with barely any income sank in. Yes, I could follow some of the tips and live frugally so that I hopefully didn’t incur any more debt, but the real attack was going to have to wait until after graduation.
Well, as you can imagine graduation came and my first paramedic job came around 5 months later. It was amazing, after making only $12,000 in taxible dollars the previous year as a student I was finally bringing in a sizeable income. Suddenly I wanted all the shiny, pretty things I had been depriving myself of. To be fair I didn’t go out and buy an expensive car or a fancy laptop, but I could finally get all those fun little things on my list that were going to make me the coolest girl in town right? Pricey brand name makeup from Ulta, a pair of Rifle Paper Co. designed Keds, a Clairsonic Mia. Suddenly all of my WANTS were more important than the mountains of money I owed.
And it stayed that way for a while.
Every now and again I would get a wild amount of inspiration to start paying off my debt. I’d even go back and read through Anna’s book again, but the motivation would quickly go away and I was right back where I started.
Then this last January something changed. I can’t say that I had a specific moment where it clicked for me, but I was just really tired of being scared of my bank account. I hated logging into the app for my credit union because I knew I was going to have a scary low amount of money in there. Y’all that’s NO WAY TO LIVE! Jeez. So I committed to getting rid of my debt once in for all. It was slow going at first but over time I’ve gained more and more momentum. I’ve cash flowed car repairs, dental procedures, and medical bills. Oh ya, and I also paid off my car and my line of credit!
Now, why a spending fast aka no spend challenge?
So in general I follow the Dave Ramsey baby steps and use the debt snowball method. Step number 2 is to pay off all your debts but the house (which I don’t have) smallest to largest. That’s it. There’s no how to’s or inspiration laying in that step. Just pay off your debt however you can.
And that’s where the spending fast comes in for me. Over the last year I’ve done a pretty good job at budgeting and cutting expenses but honestly, I could do better. I don’t need a new shirt from Walmart just because it’s cute. I don’t need to eat dinner with the firefighters every day I’m on shift. Instead, that money, one dollar at a time, could easily go to pay off my debt just a little faster.
I’m kind of looking at this as a cool challenge. I’m a fairly competitive person so this is pretty much a competition for myself. How long can I really go without spending money on my NEEDS (more on wants vs needs later)?
To sum it up I still have a lot of debt. Close to $80,000 and if I don’t do something radical, at the rate I’m going it’s going to take me years to pay it all off. If I can really commit to this fast I predict that I can pay off at least $30,000 next year, but possibly more. It really depends on the amount of overtime and the number of shifts at my part-time job I can get. We’ll see!
So what are my ground rules/general guidelines I’m setting for the fast?
First of all, the time frame.
I thought a long time about how much I wanted to commit and 6 months just feels right. So as of now I’m committing to a Spending Fast from January to June. Then once June comes around I’m going to reevaluate. I’m keeping the possibility of doing a fast for an entire year high on my list, I’m just not ready to commit quite yet. By June though, if not before, I should have a good idea if the tactic is working for me.
Now what else? Let’s see….
- Only buy needs. To some of you that concept may seem super vague. Others of you may think it sounds super strict. I promise it will become clearer soon. My plan is to make a general wants vs needs list, as well as a more detailed list, within the next week or two and share it here for accountability. This is to keep me on track and remind me what my needs really are compared to simple wants.
- Have grace when it comes to unexpected needs. I recognize that I could plan everything down to the detail and surprises will still arise. My plan is to weigh each situation as it comes up and determine how significant of a need each item or experience truly is.
- Sinking Funds/Envelopes: Once the new year starts I will stop contributing to a majority of my sinking funds and envelopes. Sinking funds for health expenses, Toiletries (because hair dye is a need for me, but only the cheap stuff), social, and Misc. will continue to receive contributions. All others will stop.
- Paying for needs. Some needs such as rent, electricity, gas etc. are going to remain line items in my budget. Other needs such as toilet paper or socks, should all of mine suddenly disappear (an extreme example but we all know that sock goblins love stealing socks), I’m going to use my current sinking funds to pay for. For example, the cost of toilet paper would come out of my cleaning and organizing fund. Because I will no longer be contributing to these funds, once the money is depleted the needs will be paid for using my Misc. envelope. If that were to run out at some point I will have to go without or use another fund, such as groceries, to cover the need.
- Follow through on current plans. I have a trip scheduled at the end of January/Early February to go to Seattle to spend time with my family and go skiing with my dad. Two other tentative trips for the first half of the year are a short trip to Alaska to visit friends (using Airmiles) and a possible weekend trip to Dallas to visit my cousin. I have decided to not cancel any of these trips but instead approach them very frugally. Each will/would have their own set of rules that I will establish as they get closer.
- Make do and mend. Try to fix it first, buy used if I can and new if absolutely necessary.
- It’s OK to say no. No to hanging out. No to spending money. No to OT shifts. I’m doing this to tackle as much debt as I possibly can.
And there you have it! My last paycheck for 2019 is December 26 which means things are going to start getting tight after that! And the funny thing is, I can’t wait!
**Note: The Term Spending Fast is trademarked by Anna and therefore I will refer to my Spending Fast as a No Spend Challenge going forward. (P.S. Anna, if I slip and end up calling it a Spending Fast and don’t realize it I apologize in advance!)