Many health-related resolutions begin with a body detox: You fast for several days or follow a strict diet designed to eliminate toxins in your body. A detox is short, and often extreme, but the benefits can be far reaching. The process creates a stronger immune system, increases your mind’s clarity, and jump starts weight loss. A financial detox, in the form of a spending freeze, can deliver the same powerful results.
A freeze in spending increases willpower by flexing your delayed gratification muscles. You focus on your highest financial priorities which clarify the financial vision and lose fat in the budget by recognizing spending patterns that sabotage your efforts.
To gain the benefits of a financial detox, use the following steps to complete your cleanse.
How to Detox Your Finances
Put Financial Goals Front and Center. Having specific goals,or benefits, you want from the process will give you focus and motivate you to success. What is your “why”? Do you want to jumpstart your finances to eliminate debt, pay for retirement or take a dream vacation? It is easy to procrastinate a big goa, because it takes a long time to achieve and which can become overwhelming. The trouble with delaying action only makes the problem worse. A year or five years later, you find there is no movement of the needle. Beginning a detox with a clear focus on one big goal will motivate you to make the short-term sacrifices that will jumpstart your progress and provide a quick win.
Choose a Finite Time to Detox. Begin with a set start and stop time. One of the challenges some people face with a diet is that you go on a strict eating regime with no end date in sight. You cannot remain on target because it was never meant to be a long-term life change. A detox recognizes that the freeze is not sustainable for long periods of time. Planning ahead can increase your rate of success and give you the motivation needed to change habits after the financial cleanse. You can exact a spending freeze for a weekend, or a week, with high levels of success.
Give Yourself Rules of Engagement. Defining what a spending freeze includes before you begin sets expectations. Be realistic, accommodate your paycheck schedule, as well as bill due dates. Some define a spending freeze to mean absolutely no spending. For others, it means no discretionary spending, beyond the essentials. For example, you could put gas in the car to get to work, but not to head out of town. You could buy perishable vegetables and milk, but not staples like pasta or rice. Exactly what the rules are is less important than being clear about the parameters.. The goal is to eliminate unnecessary and impulse buys.
Plan Ahead of The Start Date. Make a grocery store run, stock up on required toiletries, fill up the vehicles, and pay any bills due before you start the freeze. Preparation will increase your success rate and maximize savings because you will not find excuses to spend in the upcoming week.
Know Thy Pantry. Food is a place where you often overspend: It might be eating out in restaurants because you do not have time to cook, or buying items that sit in the pantry because you haven’t gotten around to using it. A spending freeze is a perfect time to get creative and prepare all your meals from food in the pantry or freezer. You could inventory the pantry and plan meals for the week before you begin the detox to ensure you gather any additional items needed.
Seek Out Free Activities. You may find it is easier to eliminate spending during the week because there are fewer temptations. You can eat breakfast before leaving for work, pack a lunch, and skip the daily latte or afternoon snack from the vending machine. However, spending every night at home or the weekend watching television can lead to boredom and a loss of willpower. Explore your city, sponsor a game night, or read a book together as a family. When the weather is good enough to venture out, head to a local park, pack a picnic or ride bikes as a family. Find free concerts, movies in the park, or spend an afternoon at the local library. Take advantage of the time by refocusing on the people that matter, instead of the things that matter.
Keep Your Eye on Changing Long-Term Habits Rather Than Deprivation. The ultimate goal of a detox is to focus on what matters and adjust long-term habits in realistic ways. For example, with a detox, you might eliminate all sugar and carbs from your diet. Over the course of the week, cravings diminish which make it easier to reduce sugar and carb intake in your regular diet. The financial detox should lead to a recognition of where you waste money in the budget. You can then redirect some of that waste towards long term goals on a monthly basis.
What You Gain from a Spending Freeze
It Gives You Clarity on Current Spending Habits. Through the detox process, you can identify wasteful spending, giving you time to identify less expensive alternatives for long-term sustainability. For example, if you gave up gourmet coffee during your financial detox, you can purchase a latte maker to reduce the ongoing cost. Many times, you have spending habits you barely notice because they are ingrained in your routine. You often eat out more than you think and spend more than you estimate. When you cut out all spending, there is an increased awareness of what you buy. Intentional spending gives you a greater level of control over your finances.
Jumpstart Towards Your Big Goal. A spending freeze will give you cash-bin-hand directly from the spending you eliminated. You might be able to save $100 for a weekend or $300 for the week depending on your current spending habits. Take this savings and put it directly towards your big goal.
Increase Willpower. Using willpower is like exercising your muscles. The more you use your willpower, the stronger it becomes. You also learn to avoid spending triggers like staying out of stores. With the popularity of online shopping, you may also need to avoid retail websites, get off email lists that entice you to make purchases and delete your credit or debit card information from online accounts.
Make Up For Budget Shortages. If you overspent in January a financial detox in February can get the budget back on track. Whether you overspent on impulse buys or car repairs, overspending has the same effect, more debt, and less money in savings. If you know you will endure a spending freeze when you go over budget; you will stay motivated to keep spending in check.
You can live within your income level, without sacrificing a quality life. However, it may take more creativity to get you there. A Spending freeze can jumpstart your goals, and help you refocus on where you want to be financially.