End of financial fast is beginning
of different economic living

So what happened to the end of the 21-day financial fast, you wonder?

I completed it. But more important, I paid attention to the things I learned on it.

I paid off my car (and am about to pay off one of the only two credit cards I have).

I do not buy anything major now without giving myself a week to think about it.

And I’m cleaning up my house and life, getting rid of all the crap and not replacing it with things I don’t need.

Screen Shot 2014-01-18 at 12.09.35 PMWhen I began Washington Post columnist Michelle Singletary’s 21-Day Financial Fast, I figured I’d save a few bucks, learn a few things and go back to business as usual.

I saved a lot. I learned more about myself than my money. And things will never be the same.

Example? I went to have my annual teeth cleaning. I’m a big baby at the dentist’s office. The hygienist said “You want nitrous (the wonderful gas, nitrous oxide that makes you not care that she’s in your mouth)? Rather than immediately say “Yes!”, I asked “How much?”

It was $40. I said no.

What?!

I needed a new wallet. I went shopping in my closet. I found one with the tag still on, and I have had great compliments on the style and color. I don’t even remember buying it.

My next task is to clean the garage, so I can take the stuff I have in storage and put it in the garage. That stuff has been there since April 2012 because I didn’t have time to deal with it. When I realized that the money I’d spent holding onto it would have paid for a trip to Paris, I got motivated.

checkbookSo I want to thank Michelle and the fast. And she’ll be happy to know that, unlike some people who might not have wanted people to know what they were doing, I talked to everybody. The best encouragement I got was a gift from a dear friend, who knew that I would be experiencing several special occasions occurring during the fast, including my birthday. She gave me a checkbook whose checks were actually dollar bills.

“Snack on these and stick to your fast,” she told me. Continue Reading

Financial Fast coincides with plans to clean, count blessings

OK. So now, Michelle Singletary is psychic.

Well, that’s not true. But it felt that way last night when I began reading Chapter 6 of the 21-Day Financial Fast, which coincides with DAY 6 of the fast the Washington Post columnist is leading people on across the country.

Screen Shot 2014-01-18 at 12.09.35 PMI had had a great DAY 5, and was up late. So I began reading Chapter 6 early.

I need to read Chapter 6 every day – even when this fast ends. Its title: You Can’t Buy Contentment. Its purpose: Reminding us to be content with and thankful for what we have.

I was already on that road. As I searched my closets for something to wear to a gala, I stopped for a minute and saw all the stuff I had. And I felt overwhelming guilt that I had not been thankful enough for what’s already in my house.

The gala went great, and as I sat having a cup of coffee, I was happy. But it didn’t last long because I began whining in my head about what I couldn’t do Saturday.

Saturdays are my favorite day.  Saturdays are the day that, no matter what, I get to choose what I’m doing. There is no activity already on the calendar, no work, no meetings, no plans.

I usually have a great lunch somewhere outside my house, alone or with friends – and I go to the movies. My daughter and I used to go to the movies on Friday nights. We’d see movies as soon as they premiered. When she grew up, I continued to do that like it would kill me to hear conversations Saturday about a  movie I hadn’t seen. And I began preferring to go alone most times  (I’m one of those people who cannot stand conversations in theaters. I think there should be fines).

hr_Jack_Ryan-_Shadow_Recruit_14I had already begun to whine in my head about not being able to see the new Jack Ryan movie. And that lemon artichoke tilapia that I love at a nearby restaurant? It was calling me!

But, I told myself, the movie will be playing for at least a month and will show up on the DVR. And the restaurant will still be open in February. (Thank you, God, for giving me a moment of clarity about why I’m doing this fast in the first place). Continue Reading

2012 is the Year of Me!

I’ve heard it said that whatever you’re doing when the ball drops, when the year changes, when the moment comes is what you’ll be doing for the rest of the entire year.

In 2012, I will not be partying. I will not be drunk. I will not be focused on the crowds around me.

2012 is the Year of Me.

And as Beyonce sang, in a beautiful moment that Dick Clark broadcast from an old concert, I plan to focus on making sure the world knows that I was here.

I’m working on my footprint.

We spend years finding ourselves, which leads us to believe that we were lost. We spend years listening to others’ suggestions for our life path, meaning that we let others determine our direction.

This year, I’m determining everything.

At 11:59, I was letting a re-broadcast of “The Italian Job” watch me as I slept. By a stroke after midnight, the calls and texts began coming in.

In 2012, I will be joyed by surprises. I wish for the unexpected, the acts of love that come unplanned.

At 12:05, I turned the phone off and went to bed because in 2012, I plan to have a more regular schedule filled with exercise and predicted sleep.

And even though I threw the delivered newspaper into the house when Desi and I went out for our morning walk, I did not read it first when I came in.

No, I picked up a copy of the giant-print, King James Bible that I gave my mother on April 2, 1983 – the one that we traded for a new model a few years ago – and I read the first chapter. And I plan to read a chapter each day until I’ve read the entire book, again.  There are 66 books and 1,189 chapters, so some days, I will read more. But it dawned on me during the last week of 2011, that, for a Christian who was raised in church and attends church, I don’t really reflect on that book enough.

So either I believe, or I don’t. I will take to heart what the book says or I won’t. I decided that I do, and I will.

And beginning tomorrow, since I no longer will work on the Sabbath, I am cleaning house. No, not just cleaning the house. But cleaning my life of bad vibes, bad people and bad projects. I plan to make a list of what’s viable and important, rank them in priority order and get ’em done in 2012. Continue Reading