By: Laura Walton AFC®
Our spending patterns are habits and habits can be powerful. One way to break them is to go cold turkey. Below is an account of a married couple who have been through the 3rd Decade™ program and decided to double down on saving, investing and paying off student debt by instituting their own spending fast and they’re rockin’ it.
“We started our spending fast in January and plan to follow it for a year. It’s definitely more drastic than how we were living before. We completely cut our eating out and entertainment budget. Now when someone asks us to get coffee or a beer we suggest that instead they come over and have a beverage at our house or maybe we go for a walk or hike or some other free alternative that still lets us hang out with people.
“This has kept us accountable in not spending in those extra little ways that don’t seem like a big deal but add up so quickly. And we haven’t missed out on hanging out with people – it just has looked different – maybe even better and more intentional!
“The great thing about this process is that we get to make our own rules! It is all based on wants and needs and trying to only spend on needs. For us, the friends’ weddings that are happening this year are needs – we don’t want to miss that and they are worth spending the money on for us.
“For example, we just went to our friend’s wedding in Texas. My husband was in it so we needed to both pay for his outfit and for our travel and lodging. This is where we got to be creative and still try to stick to our “needs only” spending. We decided that driving would be cheapest and had the luxury of staying with family friends so our lodging was free! We packed snacks for the road and for supplemental food during our days there (snacks, breakfasts, etc.). Thankfully a good chunk of our meals were covered between the wedding events and our family friends being so hospitable. When we broke up the drive home, we camped at campsites or slept in the car at rest stops. It worked out really well and we spent way less than we would have otherwise!
“We are learning a lot from this whole process. We have always been pretty money conscious (we order the cheapest things on the menu and split meals, etc.) but it has been amazing to realize how much we were spending on random coffee at coffee shops, little knickknacks that seemed essential, and our ice cream addiction.
“We are still trying to find our perfect ratio of how much we pay toward debt, how much we contribute to our Roth IRAs and how much we put toward our emergency savings goal. We’ve already paid over $1000 on our loans just from the things we’ve cut out. We project that those savings plus extra income we’re generating (babysitting, dog sitting, selling things we don’t need and picking up side gigs) will reduce our $15k of student loan debt to just $2k by year-end and that’s on top of reaching our saving and investing goals. All this on an income of just over $40k.
“When I recommend it to a friend I emphasize the fact that it is totally what they want it to be! It can be as intense (do it for a year and only buy food when there’s literally nothing left in your cabinet) or lenient (do it for a month and just chose to not eat out or spend in the highest cost areas for them) as they want it to be.”
Kudos to this couple. They’ve chosen a creative, resourceful, can-do response to a common financial challenge – how to pay off debt, save and invest sooner rather than later. As my grandmother used to say “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”