So... the financial fast happened. From January 13-February 1, I purchased nothing that was not essential.
Well... yeah. You were waiting for the caveat, right?
Here's the thing, people. Nutella IS essential. I stand by that decision, made in the aisle at Target on impulse on a weeknight in January before Zuzu could decide she was "all done!" with being strapped in the cart. Get the Nutella and run. No regrets.
As for other not-absolutely-essential spending, I caved on three things:
(1) We went out to dinner for my friend's birthday. I was not going to ask a group of eight people to reschedule around my voluntary financial fast, and after having to miss dinner with the group in December due to not being able to find a babysitter, I didn't want to cancel again. So, we went. We ate. We paid for it. It was fine. (I did, however, purchase her gift before my financial fast started.)
(2) I mailed a gift (also pre-purchased) to a friend who had a baby. Because babies outgrow those newborn clothes fast!
(3) I made a donation to Zuzu's daycare. We couldn't make it to the fundraising event they were having, and I really value the fundraising that they do and the way the daycare strives to keep tuition affordable and the center nice, clean, bright, and updated, while paying their staff a decent wage (and providing benefits). So it was important to me that we demonstrate our support even though we couldn't make it to the trivia night.
Overall, though, we still saved money. It was not a CRAP-TON of money, mostly because David quit participating. He dropped out of the financial fast and started purchasing non-essential stuff to work on our laundry room remodel (which is REALLY NICE and will soon get a post of its own, but was still not ESSENTIAL). Anyway, his lack of participation after agreeing it was a great idea and we should do it caused some... shall we say tension? around our house for a little while. Part of me wanted to drop out too--"FINE! If you're not doing it then I'm not doing it either!" but the stubborn part of me that insists on seeing things through, if only so I can feel morally superior to those who drop out (ahem, David), ended up winning and I resolutely held to my plan.
All in all, we spent less money in January than we would have otherwise--my best guesstimate is about $500. It's hard for us to compare spending accurately from month to month since this was the first month without a second mortgage, and we've just recently paid off a couple no-interest appliances we bought for the new house, and there are always lots of variations from December to January, gas money being a big part of that. But there's no doubt that we saved, and as far as I'm concerned, $500 is a pretty significant amount of money!
Important purchases that were delayed will still be purchased, but I can now say with confidence they are things we really want and will use (for example, I'm on a hunt for a writing desk to put in the living room).
I think the biggest change has been the way I think about purchases I make, especially online. After a three week fast, I got a supreme rush of pleasure out of ordering a "non-essential" Valentine gift for Zuzu and a new print for the laundry room. But I also continue to categorize purchases as "essential" or "non-essential" which is very useful at places like Target.
(It is true that I did have a slight binge at Target right after the fast when I bought Valentine M&Ms and a new shirt for myself, but sometimes a new shirt just brings a much-needed boost in morale).
I am actually considering doing the fast again around Lent, although I would make exceptions for a couple of non-essential weekend trips that I have planned in March/April. It's really less about fasting and more about being thoughtful when purchasing. I'm not usually much of an impulse buyer--I tend to hem and haw over things at a certain price point. But I'm also quick to make exceptions for small purchases, and those things obviously add up. So that's something I will continue to pay attention to going forward. As much as I think I spend wisely, there's something about having a hard and fast rule that makes it much easier to abstain from purchasing cute things I don't really need.
If it doesn't happen again this year, I think I'll definitely start January of next year with another fast. I like the idea of having a fresh start and a little cushion in the bank account when the new year gets rolling, especially after the gluttony and fast spending that can happen around the holidays.
So that's my (belated) recap. Anybody else out there try the fast? Anyone succeed entirely with no non-essential spending? Anyone break the fast for very good reasons? Would you do it again?