If a juice cleanse helps reset your diet, could a quick financial fix do the same for your spending? For some people, the answer is yes. We peeked at the pocketbook strategies of folks who have managed to reboot their budgets:
1. TAKE A FISCAL FAST.
“My husband and I moved recently, and we were basically hemorrhaging money to get the house put together,” says April Dawn of Richmond, Virginia. And shelling out so much on household items and furniture made it harder to stay prudent in other spending categories. So April laid down a challenge: Could they go seven days without spending a single cent? (Financial guru Michelle Singletary has a 21-day plan with followers nationwide.)
“We stocked the fridge, the paper towels, the tank of gas—all the day-to-day stuff we’d need to get through the week, and then we literally spent nothing,” she says. April had to keep the “fiscal fast” top-of-mind for the first few days, to make sure she didn’t spend on auto-pilot, but by the end of the week it felt natural. And when she and her husband got back to their budget, it seemed easier to stick to, she says.
2. PEN EVERY PENNY.
There are plenty of apps and programs that will automatically track your spending, but how closely do you scrutinize those totals? Christina Arnberger from Chicago realized she needed to go analog if she was going to radically revamp her habits. She grabbed paper and pen and literally wrote down everything she’d spent in the past month, tallying expenses into major categories. “When I saw that I spent $900 in one month on groceries, that scared me enough to make me extra conscientious the next few times I went to the grocery store,” she says.
3. PURGE YOUR PLACE.
That $20 sweater seems like no big deal—until you realize your closet is stuffed with similar sweaters you never wear and your budget is weeping. When Chicago resident Rebecca Resman was looking to make over her spending habits, she didn’t scrutinize her bank account or receipts, but instead spent a weekend looking around her apartment. She donated, sold, or swapped all of the clothes that no longer fit, toys her two kids weren’t into, and random dishware she’d accumulated. “Seeing all of the purposeless garbage I got rid of inspired me to buy less stuff in the first place,” she says. And since the massive purge, she has indeed noticed a dip in her spending habits.
4. GO ALL-CASH.
“When we need to dial back our budget, nothing beats cash,” says Angie Kooima of Villa Park, Illinois. And science backs her up: Studies show that people who pay with cash tend to spend less than those who pay with plastic.
When Angie noticed her family’s spending was spiraling beyond their monthly budget, she looked at how much they’d allocated for meals out, coffee runs, entertainment, and shopping trips, and then withdrew that amount from an ATM. “Everything but gas and groceries got purchased with that cash, and I knew that when it was gone, it was gone,” she says. Holding what was left of the budget in cold, hard cash made it easy to put that stray $10 or $20 into perspective—a perspective that’s lasted even when the family isn’t doing an all-cash cleanse, she says.