What I’ve Learned In 2 Years of Being on A Spending Fast & Spending Diet… Re-cap From Then to Now…

It's hard to believe that 2 years ago I started this blog as a way to keep myself accountable as I dug out of the depths of debt, out of the cycle of over-spending, and out of the continued guilt and remorse that came with the out-of-control nature of my finances.

Looking through the archives of the site it's wild to see how things have evolved. How I didn't REALLY know if this “Spending Fast” thing would work and how I was desperate enough to give it a go despite not knowing ALL of the answers.

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Needing to get my finances in order took priority in my life because changes HAD to be made.

The cycle had to end.

On December 27th, 2009 I wrote my 1st post committing myself to the Spending Fast process for a year. The next day, up went my Wants and Needs list (which served as – and continues to serve- as the backbone of the Spending Fast and Spending Diets). Following that was PANIC. Pure panic. Which for me meant shopping. Last minute “Needs” were purchased in a frenzy to ease my fear and nerves about what I had just proclaimed I would do. Things I HAD TO HAVE were: dry shampoo, a linen calendar, and a stamp set. You know, necessities.

Then, Day 1 of the Spending Fast commenced, and I found myself in, of all places, the mall (not recommended). Despite the irony I immediately felt a sense of freedom when I was able to leave the mall without a single purchase. I began to think,

“Maybe things COULD be different. Maybe, my life COULD change? What if this REALLY DOES work?!”

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Knowing I didn't HAVE to shop that day was HUGE, and realizing that I could notice the textures and colors and smells around me rather than rushing to buy the next thing was really an eye-opener, and part of me just chalked it up to excitment and motivation about starting the Spending Fast. I wondered if there was anyway that could I keep this up for any extended amount of time.

And then… the days of not spending started to stack up, and I started to be able to make large chunks of payments towards my debt. I was amazed that there was suddenly money where there had been none before. I believed that there was literally NO MONEY for debt-repayment since all previous months I had routinely over-drafted my accounts by $200-$300 a month.

Paying off my debt, thinking of new ways to make additional income, and day-dreaming about autonomy slowly became my life.

At the end of the 2010 Spending Fast (and after paying back close to 18k in debt throughout the year) I took a deep breath. I also took the weekend between 2010 and 2011 “off” which meant I went shopping. I had been dreaming about some boots during the Spending Fast (along with MANY other things that I wrote about in the Daily Hankering section) so I bought them and then quickly had to return them because they were strangely noisy.

Since I still had debt at the end of the Spending Fast I started the Spending Diet for 2011 which is the same thing as the Spending Fast just with a $100 per month “non-need” allowance. The Spending Diet seemed like a cake-walk. I mean, I just didn't spend any money for A WHOLE YEAR!

I remember thinking, “A Spending Diet? E-A-S-Y!”

Erm. The Spending Diet is hard. Actually, for me it was A LOT harder than the Spending Fast. Throughout this year of the Spending Diet my monthly savings were a lot more inconsistent and I found my “old ways” sneaking in again. The contrast of not spending any money on anything extra while on being on the Spending Fast to spending even a little on “non-needed” extras felt like a lot and I found myself feeling guilty about spending at all. Being able to spend discretionarily was sometimes a slippery slope but moderation and balance were things I was trying to learn. Slowly and steadily moderation has become easier.

It took 15 months but I ended up paying off all of my debt whichis waayy sooner than I EVER THOUGHT possible.

I thought I would die with my debt. Not kidding.

Paying off my debt started to become fun. Weird, right? I started to get competitive with myself and I wanted to top the previous months numbers. I wanted to see how far much more I could cut back, how much more money I could make, how much more I could send to the creditors.

Saving started to become more fun than spending. Which is completely nuts.

While blogging about the debt-elimination process I've just tried to say what has worked, what it's been like, and what it's like to now to be on the debt-free side of things. That's all I can do.

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Before I started the Spending Fast I didn't think there was anyway out of the hole I had dug. Since I found a way out I feel an obligation to share what I've learned with others. It's SO beyond amazingly amazing when I hear how the Spending Fast and Spending Diets have worked in others lives. Even the people that do the “dip a toe in and test it out” approach of the “pick and choose” approach report feeling motivated and pro-active about their situations, and while the results are slower there are still results.

2011 also brought a chance to share some of my getting-out-of-debt insights with viewers of The Nate Berkus Show, The Clark Howard Show, and Dr. Drew's (HLN night-time) show (links to each on the right side bar). Being on these shows were surreal experiences. Experiences that I never guessed I would get to have. I remember listening to Dr. Drew's radio show LoveLine as a kid (my mom didn't know) and blushing at all the “adult” things that they discussed. Then to actually TALK TO DR. DREW!? Weird! I always feel so thankful when I get invited to be on shows because I get a chance to tell others that the debt cycle can end. That there really IS a way out!

Which leads me too…

If you've ever thought to yourself that maybe you too would like to do a Spending Fast I would like to encourage you to make 2012 the year you do it. You can take 2012 Get Out of Debt Spending Fast Pledge here)

Be done with debt for good. You can create a new history for yourself.

Please know that you are not alone in this process. Support is around every corner… the Community section is stocked FULL of like-minded people dealing with many different situations, sign-up for my periodic Newsletter, and I post on Twitter and Facebook so that you never miss a thing.

I want you to experience the same freedom that I have experienced. Not having any debt is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!! Which means that I can't help but be passionate about spreading the Spending Fast word!

What's next? Most importantly, I'm going to continue to support others as they get out of debt. I will be continuing to keep myself out of debt, finding new and creative ways to create additional income, building a secure financial future and I will continue to tackle life as it comes while keeping my short and long-term goals in mind.

I've also got tons and tons of posts in store for the blog for 2012 … so many ideas (!!) and I can't wait to share them all with you!

2012 is going to be a great year!

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What have you learned in the past year? What are your goals for 2012?