Giving My Credit Card a Rest

I wanted to simplify. But could I really put a stop to all my spending?

"I've stopped spending completely," my sister-in-law, Lori, announced one day. "I'm going on a spending fast."

"You're doing what?" I asked, almost choking on my latte.

"I'm going on a 40-day fast," she explained. "I'll buy groceries but nothing for myself. No shoes, no clothes, not even lipstick. I'm going to break myself of my spending habit."

I hung up the phone challenged. I always counted on Lori to support my spending. She'd tell me, "Indulge a little; you're worth it." Her spending hiatus made me think about my consumption habits.

I've never considered myself a big spender. In fact, when I was a newlywed, I kept my checkbook balanced to the penny and budgeted every purchase. Yet as my income increased, so did my propensity to spend.

These days, I don't really think about what I need, just what I want. I have to admit, I spend impulsively. Perhaps, I thought, I should go on a 40-day spending fast too.

The plan

Surely I could give my credit card a rest for 40 days. If Jesus could resist the Devil that long, I could resist the mall. But it proved harder than I thought.

The first thing I did was mark the 40 days on my calendar. This took some planning, as any given 40-day stretch included birthdays or holidays. What would I do about gifts?

I made a budget, giving myself a cash allotment for groceries, gas, and basic necessities. For the special events during my spending hiatus, I'd find a way to make do. And on all personal expenditures, I decided to go cold turkey—including even what I call my "paper-cup habit," the feeling I got from holding a coffee-shop drink made just for me.

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