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.

And the moderator at my church now wants our entire church council to do the fast and give the proceeds to the church.

Now that’s spreading the good word and good habits in a good way.

ROCHELLE RILEY is a writer and blogger whose posts here are about her personal adventures. You can read her columns at www.freep.com/rochelleriley and follow her on Twitter @rochelleriley.

DAY 11: Fasting to help others is still fasting for you

So I mentioned that I skipped Day 10 on the 21-Day Financial Fast because I was still working on a budget from Chapter 7 and because Chapter 7.

I also skipped it because it was the chapter in Michelle Singletary’s book “The 21-Day Financial Fast” about Marrying Your Money. That meant it was for married couples or people who are about to get married.

That’s not me, and while I would marry for money, among other necessary things, I couldn’t take anything from this chapter and give it to anyone – because I also don’t interfere in the business of married couples.

But Chapter 11?

That was different.

Chapter 11 (How odd that it shares a name with a type of  bankruptcy, but I digress . . . ) is a chapter about leaving a legacy of good money sense.

And I was feeling guilt.

My daughter is 24, and while I’m sure I taught money lessons – and even wrote about teaching her money lessons, I also let her watch me spend sometimes indiscriminately, just because we wanted things.

She is proving now that she learned both lessons, but I think the wants sometimes outweigh the needs. So I’ve decided to share this chapter with her and other young women to help them learn what to teach their children.

“As parents, we know it’s imperative to teach our kids to say no to drugs and alcohol,” Michelle writes on Page 134. “But can you honestly say you’re doing your best to help them fend off consumerism and credit card pushers?”

How-to-Teach-Your-Kids-About-Money-Management_full_article_verticalI know I had some success when my daughter entered college and got as many credit card applications as there were professors on campus – and ignored them.

How do I know she ignored them? Because she asked me for things that, had she had a credit card, she would have just gotten them. I won’t detail any of those requests here. But let’s just say that one had to do with some really dumb cosmetic surgery.

I remember when she was little, and the best I way I could teach her lessons about money was through sacrifice. I didn’t believe in time-outs because, as a busy reporter, editor, then news executive, I didn’t want any of the precious time I had with her spent with her sitting in a corner.

So we’d play another game.

It began with a sandwich.

I had made her a perfectly good mini-Dagwood, with ham, turkey, lettuce, tomato and cheese. It was pretty.

She took a bite and threw the rest away.

“I don’t want it,” she said.

freepressbookstore_2268_15094257I told her she owed me $1.79 or some such figure. (You’d have to grab my book “Raising A Parent: Lessons I Learned While My Daughter and I Grew Up Together” to read the actual amount.)

And, I told her she had to work that debt off before she could get something else.

Later, in the checkout line at the supermarket, she asked for a candy bar. I asked how much it cost. She knew how to look for the price, because in those days, they were right on the product. I then had her subtract the price from what she owed me.

This lesson lasted for two days. And she never threw food away again.

It was a great lesson for her and a proud moment for me. At 6, she understood debt.

That still didn’t help her understand why I was talking about saving for college when she was in the third grade.

“That’s years away,” she said.

“Yes, and it’ll take years to save for it,” I told her.

So if there’s any lesson I can offer other mothers, other dads, other Godmothers (because yes, we Godmothers have to help our Godchildren attend college, too), it’s to remember that these lessons, like Michelle Singletary is teaching us, are lifelong.

So I didn’t skip Chapter 11. Sure, my daughter is is a grown-up. But I’m sharing it because of the need for all of us to continue to teach our children and their children and our friends’ children about money and saving.

It is a necessary legacy.

ROCHELLE RILEY is a writer and blogger whose posts here are about her personal adventures. You can read her columns at www.freep.com/rochelleriley, and she hopes you will support her Kickstarter campaign to record an acoustic gospel album here!