Color of Money: Want to save more money? Try these three financial fasts

Michelle Singletary on

WASHINGTON -- At the beginning of the year, a lot of folks try to figure out what to do to become better money managers.

But as the good book says, their spirit is willing, but their flesh is weak. Meaning they want to change but can't overcome a lot of the things that torpedo their good intentions.

You want to stop overspending but the call of the mall is too great. You know your grocery bill is out of control but you keep telling yourself food is a necessity.

I'd like to propose three types of financial fasts to help you on your journey to financial freedom -- a food fast, a clothing fast, or the 21-day financial fast.

Let's start with overspending in the grocery store. Up to 40 percent of all food is wasted at an annual cost of $218 billion, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Consumers are responsible for 43 percent of this waste -- more than restaurants, grocery stores or any other single part of the supply chain," the organization says.

How many times have you started home from work -- or anywhere for that matter -- and thought about what you had in the refrigerator to eat and decided you wanted something different? So, you stopped at the supermarket to pick up a few things. An hour later, you had a cart full of groceries. A week later, you're throwing out food.

If overspending at the supermarket is your weakness, try this food fast: Eat yourself out of house and home.

For the next month, I want you to eat all the food you've already purchased. You cannot go to the grocery store except to buy perishables such as eggs, milk, bread, etc.

In a recent online discussion, one reader decided to try this fast, writing, "After making soup, I have decided that we have more than enough food in our home. Instead of mindlessly going to the grocery store and picking up food we want to eat, we are eating what is in our home. I have multiple cans of food, frozen meals, potatoes, onions, flour, sugar, beans, etc. Why am I constantly in the store? OK, we do need milk and eggs, but otherwise we are fine in the food department. So, I am embarking on an eat-what-I-have-at-home campaign. I figure it will save me money and declutter at the same time."

The idea of the clothes fast came from a friend, Skip Little, director of the First Baptist Church of Glenarden's Couples Ministry in Maryland. He and his wife were cleaning during their annual household purge and they had a revelation.


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