Our Spending Fast Experience


My credit has been messed up since I was a brand new baby adult. 18 years of age. I moved in with my father to get out of the country. At this point, I didn't have a job or a car. I had nothing. I don’t know what was going on at that time in the home (my step siblings were living there as well) but I had to buy my food. For some reason, half of the house labeled their items with their names on it. It was weird. Like we were all roommates and not a family. You couldn't really eat what you wanted to. The food didn’t seem open to everyone. As a new baby hatchling adult, I had no idea about money. I’d never had a real job (excluding my time in the military as a reservist). When I needed new work clothes for my new job, no one gave me money. No one had anything. Actually, no one guided me on what to do. I had no freaking experience to this being an adult thing. So I went out and applied for store credit cards. One for a grocery store and one for a department store. Food and clothes. I spent everything on those cards. I had to. I wasn’t getting a paycheck for two weeks and even then, it was a really small one. Once I started to get a steady flow of funds, I forgot about those cards completely. I didn’t realize the importance of paying back money that I borrowed. That brought my credit score down for most of my young adult life.

When I got divorced, I realized I didn't have anything in my name. My credit was so bad during my marriage that when we applied for things, the loaners constantly said it would just be best if my name wasn’t on the documents. Yikes. That bad huh?

For the last few years, I’ve been on a mission to fix it; to become a responsible adult (in regards to credit). And I’m almost there! I’ve paid everything ahead of time, on time, every time.

We don’t make a lot of money. Prior to our new place with our old jobs, we lived in low income housing and received government assistance. We worked long weeks, rough schedules and it was horrible. That’s why I can’t stand when people look down upon those in needing assistance. It’s not easy. Especially when judgey eyes are looking upon you. They don’t know that you’re doing everything possible to cut down on costs. We didn’t have cable; we biked/walked to work/school. Every single day.  Now that I have a new job, that changed just a little. Pulled us out to where we didn’t qualify for those things anymore but we’re still living on the edge. Especially in the town we live in where the median household income is $81,000 and we don’t make even close to that. But that’s a story for another time.

All this brings us back to the Spending Fast we tried out in December. Recently on my Instagram account, I spoke about my family and I participating in a Spending Fast. I first heard of the spending fast when stumbling upon Anna’s blog And Then We Saved. She talks about her experience (and results) when she challenged herself to get out of debt. You can read more about her story here. If you're not ready to jump into a full fast, she has information on doing a Spending Diet as well.  My family isn’t particularly in a lot of debt. I’ve very recently been working on fixing my credit score through Credit Karma. It is absolutely free. I have it downloaded onto my phone. I check my credit score on the app often and try to follow their tips to get my credit score back up.

At the VERY end of October, we realized we did not have a lot of money for Christmas. So Nov 1st, we decided to cut out the extras. No more small trips to the grocery stores, no more thrift shopping. Nada. Everything we purchased had to be necessary. We also wanted to use some of the money to apply to bills while we were at it. After going to Walmart and putting a few things in layaway, we were able to set out a plan for our future dinero.

·         Rent
·         Car Payment/Insurance
·         Credit Cards (only 2)
·         Utilities/Cell
·         Groceries (only $40-50 a week, excluding Thanksgiving where I spent $60)
·         Gas ($25 a week, if that. If we could walk/run somewhere, we did)
·         Layaway
·         Internet (we might be broke but we’d like to keep our sanity and in this day and age, this is a necessity)
·         Netflix

This is all we pay for in the first place, excluding the holidays. We don’t have cable or anything extra.

Extras we use to pay for

·         Thrift store/clothing
·         Gas station items
·         Fast Food (only ate at home)
·         Occasional Starbucks
·         Family movie theater nights
·         Travel

That’s it. We don’t have a lot of money to spend on extra things. But the money we did have needed to be applied elsewhere. I will say, in that month and a half (give or take) we were able to pay off the Christmas presents. This included a PS4 and a pet deposit for our apartment. That’s a lot of freaking money to shell out!

A few thoughts
·         Our gas budget was low but $25, with the gas prices, could get me almost a full tank. Currently, I can get a full tank for less than $20. But then, I couldn't. However, that mattered when it came to visiting family. My dad lives in the same town as me so it didn't really cost me anything to visit him. But the rest of my family lives further away which costs more for gas to see them. So I could only visit once (there and back) before it sucked up my tank. Fortunately, work, groceries and school are within a 1 mile radius from our home. Careful planning helped make that happen. That’s why gas isn't such a huge deal for us.
·         We are a family of three. Two adults and one child. So grocery shopping isn't so horrible. I always stick to grocery stores that give me the best deal. Winco and Kroger is within a mile walking distance for us. Those are my favorite stores to get deals. If I lived near Aldi, that would've been heaven but since Aldi is 15 minutes away, that was out of the question. I shopped on the outer rim of the store most of the time and avoided the middle. I applied the “necessities only” mentally not only to finances but to groceries as well. I also allowed each one of us to get one guilty pleasure item at the store as well. You know, to keep the sanity. Michael and I generally got ice cream and Xavier would get Goldfish.
·         What we did for fun that was practically free: Visiting family was a treat for us. My family loves to have game nights and my Aunt is incredibly generous when it comes to family coming over. She’ll always have something to eat, wine to drink. My grandparents always fed us as well. So we never really had to worry about that. Even my mother, who is a single mother, would always take us out for dinner sometimes. I’ve never had a problem talking about finances with my family. You have to “keep it real” like that when you’re close knit. If someone wants to do something and you don’t have the funds, you just tell them. That’s what I appreciate about my family. Never any judgment. Always trying to work things out for us. Aside from visiting family, we would go to the park as a family, see outdoor movies the city offered (it is still warm in Texas in Nov). In addition if I had a free coupon for something, I used it. Got my son a free donut from Racetrac! And we all had our own personal things to keep our sanity; the boys had their online games and I had the gym/running. 

I’d also like to add, we did sell a few things around the house and applied that money to our extra funds as well.

Would we do it again? Yes. It was not as hard as I thought it would be and it turned out to be so beneficial. We are actually planning to do it in the month of February as well. January was not a good month to save money. We needed every dime. But because of some recent turn of events, we need to save every penny, as fast as we can, when we can.

I will say that sometimes it really did suck. And I might have been having actual withdrawals from not being able to buy stuff. I became really irritable the first week because of the urge to at least buy something, even if it was a dollar! I eventually overcame that and really had a peace set upon me by freeing up the thought that I needed to buy something.

If we managed to do a Spending Fast for the entire year, at our current budget, we'd save close to $6000. I'm not very sure it's worth it, in our case. In Anna's case, she managed to pay $24,000 in debt in about 15 months. WOW. So it all depends on your circumstances to see if a spending diet or fast would be best for your family. We like doing Spending Fasts for 30-60 days. It's beneficial for us when we want to save up for something big that we want pretty soon. However, I think we might start focusing on the Spending Diet guidelines in order to save up for a really awesome family vacation :) 

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