Today starts the Christian season of Lent, and most folks would say, “Big Deal”. I view Lent as a time for growth both spiritually but also in day to day life. I have written many articles about Lent over the years, I even had a Lenten Money challenge. While Money and Lent can go hand in hand, there are other areas you can work on.
In my life, I am a bit of a pack rat, and I don’t throw out a lot of things, which creates clutter. Clutter can lead to hoarding, so this Lent season we will be attempting something new.
The 40 Bag Challenge
A worthwhile Lenten Endeavor 40 Bags Donated
This is a great idea, and if this seems daunting, the Salvation Army has a derivation. The Salvation Army suggests fill a bag and donate it to them, as part of Lent (just 1 bag). Start there, see if you can do that.
Note also the challenge says a bag of any size. You can start with a grocery bag, you don’t need a garbage bag.
Money and Lent Ideas
Organize your money for Lent, remember it is only for 40 days. Some more ideas for Lent:
- Pay with cash for all 40 days. This might slow your spending habits.
- Organize and automate your bill paying, it may not be that hard to do.
- Pay off debt, cut down on entertainment expenses and use that money to start paying down debt.
- Eat a healthy diet for 40 days, cook your meals, after all fresh fruit and veggies are cheaper now. Exercise, just go for a 1 mile walk for 40 days, see how you feel?
Lent is not just a time to “give something up”, it is also a time to reflect and to grow.
For those of you who don’t know I am a Church going kind of guy, and the Christian season of Lent, means different things to a lot of different parts of Christianity (i.e. many different views of how it should be observed). The one I like is that Lent is a time for reflection and improvement of yourself, and with that in mind, given Lent starts today, here is (yet another) chance for you to start trying to make your financial life better.
Remember that Lent is celebrated over 40 days starting today (Ash Wednesday) ending on Good Friday (the Friday before Easter). For those with an arithmetic bend on things, you will notice that is more than 40 days, but that is because you treat Sundays as a “day off”, but let us not get hung up on that one.
You have a chance to start for a short period to change your financial life (for the better, please). What kind of things?
- Decide to pay off a number of debts, or maybe just one, but by the end of the period, it will be paid off, and it will be done. Make easy goals to begin with, you can challenge yourself as you get better at things (i.e. don’t attempt to run a marathon first thing, maybe start with trying to go 1K?)
- Live on ca$h only for those days, no credit cards, and try not to use debit either. See if this is something you can do, or whether it is just too much for you to deal with.
- Rebalance and research all your investment vehicles. Is it time to start becoming a Couch Potato investor? Good time to start.
- Maybe add a fitness aspect to this, so that you are ready for your retirement. Maybe it’s time to review whether you should be using an RRSP for this, or maybe your TFSA?
- Are you being charitable enough? Lent would be a great time to start giving of yourself more, and it does not need to be monetary, you may have talents that community groups need.
Lent is here, let us all give a cheer?!?
Now we have reached the Christian tradition of Lent, and for those who are religious, or just gluttons for punishment, are looking for things to take up (or give up) for this time of the year, fiscal fasting might be an idea for you.
Allow me to suggest “Fiscal Fasting” , which is a delightfully obtuse switcheroo on the Lenten tradition of Fasting. Good Christians (in the day) might take up fasting to emulate Christ’s 40 days in the desert by giving up Meat or the like, I am not suggesting that (although I could do with giving up say Snacks and specifically potato chips for Lent) with this concept.
Fiscal Fasting would be simply denying discretionary spending for a week (to start). Can you live the same $20 you had in your pocket Monday all the way until next Sunday?
Pay the bills that must be paid (e.g. Mortgage Payment, Rent, Electrical Bill, etc.,), I am suggesting cutting out spending on things like eating out, buying clothes, etc., . No this does not mean that you should have an orgy of spending the day before and “coast” for a week either. If you wish to cheat that kind of defeats the purpose of this idea.
Fiscal Fasting Ideas
Maybe the best thing to do is:
- Automate your bill payments so they don’t end up in arrears. Try to be like that woman they found who kept paying her bills 6 years after her death.
- Plan how you aren’t going to spend money, or how you will avoid buying crap you don’t need (or worse can’t afford)
- Take $20 out of the bank
Start on Sunday, if by Saturday you still have that $20 bill you win, and should try again for another week. How long can you keep that bill intact ?
As part of Lent, I am reflecting on my previous writings a little more, and this little chestnut was from 5 years ago, however, I have done some editing as well.
Mardi Gras was on Tuesday, so that means that Lent begins today and this is a perfect opportunity for folks to start something new with their Personal Finances (and their spiritual life, if they wish as well). Easter is a time for new beginnings or restarting something you need to resume, however, most people view Lent as a time to “find something to give up”. That is one way of viewing your Lenten journey, but another way is to look for something to Enrich your life for the 40 days of Lent (leading up to Good Friday and Easter).
Financial Lenten Journey
What areas of your personal finances could use either Enrichment or Better still a sacrifice that might help your financial well being? There are some very simple ones that I think about every year (and have done a few of them):
- The Latte withdrawal penance. Cut out buying coffee for the 40 days of Lent and put that money aside, to either save, give to charity or pay down your debt. Keep track of this and see how much money you might be saving here, it’s worthwhile finding out where this discretionary money is going.
- Read 4 Personal Finance books over the 40 days to enrich your understanding of your personal finances or your investing adventures. Building up your expertise over Lent is a good thing.
- Brown bag it for 40 days, give up buying lunch at work, and bring your lunch instead. Another way to find out where your discretionary spending is going.
- Take the bus to work for Lent. Leave the car at home, buy a bus pass and take the Bus to work. Yes gas is cheaper right now, but not driving might have other benefits for you (less stress, more exercise, etc.,).
- Live on cash for 40 days and get rid of your credit cards. Freeze them in your freezer, lock them in your safety deposit box, or cut them up, but live on CASH only (no debit either) and see if you can do it, does it change your spending habits?
Think about these or suggest others, I am open to suggestions myself.
Hey, those ain’t my rules, that’s what our minister told us. If you actually count the days in Lent from Ash Wednesday to Good Friday, you get more than 40 days, so the story I get is that on Sunday you get a break from your Lenten vows. Now I usually forget this one, and if you are doing financial stuff, maybe it’s not a good day to go “off the wagon” as it were, but if you are giving up chocolate or coffee, enjoy a little today, but get back to your vows ASAP on Monday!
My alcohol free Lent has started, but it is not going to be easy that is for sure. Oh well, if it was easy, what’s the point in doing it.
If you are putting away your credit cards for Lent, drop me a line with your progress, I am very interested in hearing from you.