The Debit Diet

Yang Mommy

The other morning I was flipping through the paper when I came across a very interesting article in the Business section, a section that usually hits the recycle bin immediately without even a cursory glance. But the front page headline caught my eye. It was highlighting a new book and a few families that have chosen to go on a “financial fast.” Essentially, purchasing only the…well, essentials, such as food items, medicine, toilet paper, diapers, etc. Some of the rules to this 3-week fast include:

  • Using only cash–no credit or debit cards
  • No fast food or jaunts to Starbucks
  • No mani/pedis or hair cuts/color
  • No shopping online

Inspired by the article, my husband and I are going to do the financial fast this month. We’re already on a monthly budget, but we know we can cut down on some “want” expenditures vs “needs.” We’re going to eat everything we already have in the pantry and freezer, only buying fresh produce when needed (no more pizza deliveries either, even when we’re too tired to cook–yikes!). We’re going to eek-out the remnants of what wine and beer is left over after the holiday parties, which isn’t much, but our waistlines will appreciate it. And we’re each going to use a pre-determined amount of cash for the next 3 weeks, because as we all know, using debit and credit cards we tend to spend more than doling out the hard-earned bills.

We know we’ll save money by the end of the experiment. In fact, I’m hoping to make this more of a lifestyle change than just an experimental period. It is after all, a lifestyle that I essentially grew up with–paying with cash for everything, doing the weekly shopping with a set amount of cash in my pocket, etc.

Yet as I enter what will no doubt be a somewhat trying period at times, as is any period where one changes habits, I think how luxurious it is for us to make such a change. Far too many American families today are already on a financial fast due to necessity. They have no other choice but to cut out certain luxuries and for too many, omit necessities. And just imagine for one moment, if those who have no financial woes were to to take this experiment up as well, and to give what they save to the poor…it could very well change the world.

It will be good for us to cut back on our frivolous spending and I look forward to seeing how much we’ll have saved after 21-days. I’ll sock the money away into our daughter’s college fund and one day, tell her how Mommy & Daddy had the opportunity to fast on luxuries.

PS Thank goodness I received a box of chocolates from Yin Mama for Christmas that I’ve yet to open!

Hmmm. Yang Mommy not buying extra wine or beer for 3 weeks. Maybe I should have sent her a bottle of Cab Sav for Xmas instead to tide her over : )

All kidding aside, being on a financial diet is no fun. My family’s been on one for the past 2 years. Both by choice and by fate. When I transfered jobs so we could be closer to family I took a minimal paycut but my husband had to change jobs. With his job change he took a massive paycut when he took a basic job to help with the bills. We were okay with that because we assumed that it wouldn’t last because surely he’d find something better paying in a few months. And then the economy tanked. And his new job was partially tips. A bad economy = very little tips. Did I add that we live in a state that relies on tourism, which there wasn’t hardly any of.

Oh and we had a baby : )

It’s been rough. I got my yearly Social Security statement recently and found that last year I lost almost $20k from the year before due to non paid maternity leave, no raise, and my pay cut. My husband last year lost almost 50% of his salary. I really don’t know how we’ve survived. Part of it was on credit cards while on leave (which wasn’t ideal but I wanted to stay home 12 weeks with my daughter), some savings, luck and literally the grace of God.

If you read the post I wrote a few months ago you’ll know that I enjoy finding ways to save money. So I had an idea of what to do. But even with my usual thriftiness I’ve learned some things. One of those things is to be thankful for what we have. We owned a condo 2 years ago we sold in 6 weeks – which we were and still are so thankful for, especially in these times. And I recently read an article in the New York Times about the number of people on food stamps who don’t have any income coming in. It was truly depressing and sad. So I’m thankful we’re working. I’ve also begun praying more and attending church again. It helps me get focused and feel a little calmer.

Do all of these things mean that I don’t desire new things? Of course not. I really, really want a Wii : ) But I have never been one to have to have the latest and greatest of everything and over the years my husband has gotten out of the habit of having to have the newest things, thank goodness.

I know things will get better. My husband recently got his certificate in Waste Water Management, which he needs to work in our local municipalities. So hopefully he’ll find a new job soon. And I can’t give up. To do that would be horrible. So we, along with all the other Americans we know are in the same boat as we are, will be okay.


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