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After reading Michelle Singletary’s 21-Day Financial Fast via the Washington’s Post article at:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/31/AR2009123103495.html?sid=ST2010010401746,

I decided to exercise my faith and take on the challenge in anticipation of learning more about myself and, more importantly, my relationship with money.

Instead of going it alone, I invited friends, family and the online community to join me.  This placed me in a position to encourage others while I encouraged myself. It also secured a level of accountability I couldn’t easily ignore.  This post includes my personal results and tips as each week is completed.

The 21-Day Financial Fast begins on Sunday, March 9, 2014 and ends Saturday, March 29, 2014

Week 1:  I’m Ready and Able

I started the Financial Fast by reading the rules multiple times and challenging them to find my loop holes.  Where would I most likely feel tempted to cheat the process?  I knew immediately my greatest challenges would be 1) my morning coffee habit and 2) eating out daily for lunch and more often than not 3 or 4 times a week for dinner.  I thought of the restaurant gift cards tucked in my wallet and committed I’d only use them under dire circumstances AND only if it covered the entire bill.  I then sincerely committed to cook regularly and to take my lunch to work everyday.  And so it began.

While I was sure I thought of everything, I hit an unexpected emotional slump during the week. I struggled specifically with the temptation to spend money to make myself feel better and to distract/entertain myself.  This is when I exercised my faith and prayed fervently  I spent time reading and meditating on the following scriptures: Isaiah 41:10, James 4:7 and Philippians 4:6,7

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In Week 1, I learned that my unnecessary spending can be triggered by peer and social pressure, the desire for instant gratification, vanity, and to temporarily fill an emotional void.   I also learned that this fast is not for the weak, so I  budgeted my cash spending for Week 2 to anticipate my needs for the next 7 days.  All things considered, I saved $200 in unnecessary spending, and feel Ready and Able to conquer Week 2!

Week 2: Know Thyself

With Week 1 in the books, I was armed and equipped to float through Week 2. Well, almost. I was challenged Sunday to pull off a social gathering I had pre-planned and promoted well before I started the Financial Fast. Although I suggested all kinds of FREE activities, we still landed in a restaurant. As the host, I selected a restaurant where I had a gift card and was able to cover the bill for everyone – Testimony Sidebar: God will make a way! (Isaiah 43:15-16)

And then the floating began. Preparing meals and snacks in advance became more of a treat than a chore. Demands at work increased , so my free time was significantly reduced to hours in front of a computer screen. Temptation was at an all time low. And then the weekend came.

In my weakness, this is what I learned. After working so hard during the week, I felt entitled to reward myself. After all, I deserved it. Prior to this fast, I would have indulged in drinks with friends or a mini shopping spree to de-stress from my focus, dedication and sacrifice during the week. Though I managed to keep MY wallet on lockdown, my best friend came to my rescue and treated me to dinner – Testimony Sidebar: God will grant you the desires of your heart! LOL. (Psalm 20:4)

Seriously, my lessons are not just for me to learn from, but for you as well. Unnecessary spending is wasteful spending that can lead to thousands of dollars – over a lifetime – down the drain. My goal is to be a better steward and to change poor money habits I may not have been aware of without fasting and praying. With that, this Financial Fast is revealing my weaknesses and giving me the opportunity to redirect emotional spending patterns to more productive activities, like saving for my future, investing, or giving to someone in need.

Week 3 : Victory is Mine!

In my final week, I meditated on Matthew 6:21 which reads “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

My necessary cash spending consisted of:  Groceries, toiletries, gas, one hair cut, pet food and tithing.  That’s it in a nutshell.  I managed to save a total of $450-$500 in 21-Days by eliminating unnecessary spending (eating out, shopping, movies, etc.).

I discovered:

  • I enjoy cooking!  I already knew that, but this fast forced me to do it more often.
  • I have a few poor, but correctable money habits that were raised as a result of fasting and praying.
  • Fasting quickly identifies your priorities and provides insight into your core values (what your believe).
  • I have some awesome and supportive family and friends!

I would highly recommend and encourage anyone seeking a financial breakthrough or looking to change sloppy money habits to take on this 21-Day Financial Fast.  I would also recommend this fast for those  looking to teach their kids the difference between needs and wants and to help them understand the concept of delayed gratification.

I will definitely apply my lessons learned beyond the Financial Fast and pray that sharing my experience will be a blessing to you and your journey!

We want to hear from you. What were your greatest challenges? What did you learn about yourself and your relationship with money?  How much did you save?