Recession Journal Part I: 'Fast' Money in the '09


The year 2008 is history in every sense of the word.
History in that it’s finally over and has been for several days as stated by “Capitan Obvious” who is standing over me as I bang this post out.
The swashbuckling officer of the conspicuous also wants me to point out that 2008 is history because of the dramatic political changing of the guard, bank failures and job losses of historic proportions the world over, unprecedented industry bailouts, volatile equity, debt and commodities corrections and the worst credit conditions in perhaps the last century.
So what’s next?
You’re decision, that’s what. What’s next is the choices you will make, how you will handle yourself, whether you’ll be resolved to resist predictably deviating from usually empty resolutions made about this time -- specifically involving your moolah.
Rather than the usual about face, 180-degree-turn most will claim to fulfill this year, why not do it gradually?
Let’s face it, you’re thinking losses and gains right now, correct? Weight loss and financial gain, perhaps in a different order but please keep it real, these are the two most common areas, the biggest rooms for improvement and renovation every 365-days.
Well, in that sense, the dietary master cleanse with the cayenne pepper and maple syrup that goes down so violently and emerges so odiously can just as easily be applied to the way you spend your money.
But instead of  deliberating and doting on doing a drastic, detailed, (and apparently alliterative) debt-diet, why not just try fasting as you would with a master cleanse.
But instead of decaying food on the walls of intestines being flushed out, what’s being expunged here is the pain derived from manic-depressive spending, which can also leave you doubled over in agony.  Spending like a maniac when times are good, feeling bad about spending like a maniac when times are bad?
We’ve all been there. The week in between paydays, the three days on three digits until payday, the two integers in the account, including the decimal point; the nail biting between tuition checks, the “wait-a-minute-mr.-post-man” swan song familiar to many an independent contractor looking for checks in the mail to put them out of their misery or into the misery of immediately seeing the whole check disappear.
What if you held, stored and did without for just one week or one two-week interval every month? Fast. That’s the solution. Just like the master cleanse, all you need is a calendar. Pick a ridiculously low financial threshold and an applicable time period. Test it, stay home, take public transport, avoid eating out, go shopping for clothes in your closet or for purging, or for altruistic purposes. Barnes & Noble your own damn book shelf for a change because you know you ain't read all them books. Go to sleep. Who actually losses money by sleeping more except a toll-booth operator with narcolepsy?
With food we are reminded that a diet is what we consume not what we don’t consume. With money it’s both.
Find a realistic comfort zone and try it, stick to it, clam up, tighten up, get fit, challenge yourself. Because while we all know spending habits die harder than Bruce Willis signing on for one too many a sequel, attitude in money management trumps aptitude every time. Don’t worry I’ll let you think about that last stanza. Who spends money thinking?
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Guest's picture

If you want to take the concept further, consider that the money fast, like the food fast, also has the added bonus of making each expenditure matter more. After one has fasted, the first few meals afterward are more meaningful and satisfying, and one often eats less food.

With money, after not spending for a while, you find that you get greater pleasure out of those little fiscal indulgences than you did before. My husband and I are doing a little post-holiday "fiscal fasting", and I have to say that it's been both interesting and rewarding.

Guest's picture

just get downsized and do it for realz.. that's what we've been doing for the last 8 weeks.. finance fasting.. it's a learning experience, to say the least..

Guest's picture

I never thought about the similarities, but they're definitely there. Is it a fast if I do those things most of the time anyway? Sadly, I do know people who have manic-depressive spending habits. It's painful to watch. (BTW, linked to this article on my blog.)

Guest's picture

Good to see a money post from you again Jabulani. :)

I like the concept of fasting for a week. I guess it could be a reality for me with a little planning and grocery shopping on Saturday to last me a week. Well, and filling the gas tank. Definitely something I think I should try!

Guest's picture

Thank you for such a thought provoking post, Jabulani!

I hope that 2009 (for most of us) will be a return to the "less is more" attitude on life.

Guest's picture

Great post! Do-able!