Reset your spending with a poverty week

Remember when you had no money – I mean long ago, before you ever had muchPennies money? If you were like me, you avoided frills and squeezed maximum value out of every dollar.

When your spending goes off-kilter, revisit that time. Give yourself the gift of a poverty week to slow down and reset your priorities – though not necessarily your financial priorities.

I’ve used poverty weeks to improve my diet; when I was young and just starting out on my own, I chose fruit and vegetables instead of Ben & Jerry’s. A poverty week also served as a retreat for focusing on creativity and redirection. Once I set aside a poverty week just to home in on cleaning out the garage and fixing up the house.

On the financial side, poverty weeks have helped me to break shopping binges; you can’t order online if you pretend your credit cards don’t exist, and by the end of the week, you’ve moved on to other fun—like being creative or cleaning the garage. Naturally, poverty weeks have also saved money by cutting out movies, restaurant meals, unneeded groceries and unnecessary driving.

For poverty week, you can buy milk and bread, but that’s it. You fix meals at home (preferably with leftovers and maybe even left over leftovers), carry your lunch, consolidate your errands and watch DVDs you already have. That’s it: the whole thing. It’s simple – and effective.

I do a poverty week every four to six months, sometimes more often. I love remembering when a Popsicle was a luxury treat. It pushes my priorities back in line, making me remember that we work to live, not the other way around.

I’m about to launch another poverty week. This one will unhook me from sweets and stop some money from flying out of the bank. If it goes well (and it will!), I’ll use the savings to write a check to a charity that will get a matching donation. Nothing will turn into something big.

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