Fiscal Fasting, Trimming Your Budget, and Other Creative Financial Tactics

Trying to manage your finances can be hard. Just figuring out a budget is difficult and then comes the hard part – sticking to it. Here are some actionable effective and creative tips to get your finances organized and start thinking about how your career path fits in with these goals.

To be creative, we usually have to step outside of our work-a-day world and look at our lives and those around us with a fresh perspective. When I set out to tackle my financial problems, like not being able to save money AT ALL or stick to a budget WHATSOEVER (therefore living pay-check to pay-check) despite my raise in income, I knew I would have to get innovate. Looking at the numbers of how much I was spending compared to my income inspired me for about sixty seconds or maybe until I went to make a small purchase that I told myself wouldn’t really affect the balance of things in the end.

Will money really make us happy?

They say that on average, money does make people happy, but to a certain extent. Like most things in life, there is a goldilocks zone that can be aimed at. A person who makes less than around 50,000 dollars a year may be unhappy as a direct result from not being able to buy the things they need and want. A person who makes more than 50,000 dollars a year is not happier than someone who makes that amount and may be in fact less happy because of their wealth.

This surprising low salary of 50,000 is the mark of being able to pay their bills and have a little bit left over for entertainment and savings, which is the ideal situation for happiness, all other things being equal. The stress of using money irresponsibly though can also come into play if you have a difficult time saving or sticking to a budget.

Go on a fiscal-fast

The brilliance of the fiscal-fast is what prompted the beginning of my big financial change. Spending money is an addiction for some people, and like most addictions I couldn’t wean myself off without help. The fiscal fast was something I saw on the hilarious show, “Extreme Cheapskates”, which I first thought was ridiculous, but was interested in a way to help me quit spending – even if it had to be cold turkey. When I noticed I had a huge problem with impulse buying with a mindless consumer perspective, I knew I needed a drastically different perspective. Don the extreme cheapskate hat, and see how much money you can save by not spending money at all for a week.

Jeff Yeager, the cheapskate who coined the term, states the three benefits of the fiscal fast, “One, by not spending any money during the week, you’ll end up saving money. Two, the exercise of living money-free really reveals how much money you spend—and probably waste—in a typical week. Three, most importantly, it reminds us that there are so many great things in life that don’t cost a dime.”

You’ll need to pick a time limit for your fiscal fast. One to two weeks is a good starting point, but even a few days can help a spending addict. Seriously pledge to not spending any money except for the necessary bills during this fast, and you slowly begin to feel your mindset shift. It becomes a fun little game to see how good you can be at it making use of what you already have. Use up all of your existing foods that have been setting in your cupboard for a while. Ride a bike or walk instead of refilling your car with gas. Another fun aspect of the fast: any money you find in the couch or on the street can be used for treats!

Get creative with visuals

When you set out to solve a problem, you often need to make hard decisions, but now that you are in the right mindset it will be easier. Making a visual representation of income earned and expenses made can help you get more serious and see yourself getting closer to your goals.

Get a white poster board and some colorful markers. Make a chart with your income earned and contributions to savings made using the bright colors and expenses in brown and blacks. Keep the chart where you will see it daily and fill it at the end of every day. Seeing the benchmarks your reach can really inspire you to keep going until you reach your goal.

Generating alternatives and making spending cuts

After you know what your spending patterns are and you see the progress you are making by the occasional fiscal fast and minimizing superfluous spending, you may need to reassess the necessary bills. You may be spending too much on rent and need to plan on moving into a smaller place or a place with a less expensive location. Look at other costs such as car insurance and make sure you’re getting any discounts you are eligible for by shopping around with free quotes.

I’ve found that numbers just don’t get us going the way that a commitment to a fast and visual progress charts can. These tactics along with researching my cheapest options for things like insurance and rent have effectively got me out of my finance funk and mindless consumer-driven attitude. Reflect on your relationship with money and make some creative changes to reach your goals.

David Baldwin is a reformed shopaholic and current car insurance consultant working with Car Quotes Instant. He’s always on the lookout for ways to save consumers money on auto insurance and improve financial habits.

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