One of the most difficult parts of setting boundaries for yourself during a spending fast is deciding what your wants vs. needs are. Some people will say, “Well that’s so obvious, your needs are what you absolutely need to get by: rent, utilities, necessary bills and groceries.” But some gray areas people have questioned are, “What about the gym? What about my passions and hobbies? Mile stone celebrations in my friend’s and family’s lives?” The answer will be different for everyone. But the key is to find the most cost efficient alternative if you decide that a want is actually a need.
For me, my passions include staying physically active through dance and lifting. This means that the gym is a need vs. a want, whereas the next person could consider this a want. I go to the gym 4-5 times a week and my membership costs $32 a month – that breaks down to about $2 each time I visit the gym. I use the studio mirrors for dance and the weight room to do all the squats, dead lifts and hip thrusts to my hearts content. Sure I could take on other forms of activity like dancing on my patio or going for runs and doing home workouts – but I like the option of using the weight room. I’m happiest when I’m lifting heavy and dancing hard. I’m also fortunate that my employer offers an annual Stay Fit credit of $800 a year, so my monthly gym fees are covered.
In addition to dancing, I’m also a content creator. Last year I treated myself to the GoPro 7 and wireless earbuds which has made creating shuffle videos so much more crisp and seamless. I edit all my videos on my phone using Video Leap for iPhone. Last year I paid a $5.99 monthly fee to use this app, when I could have been cutting my costs in half and paying $35.99 a year. Needless to say, I paid the annual fee this year instead of monthly, and I’m saving myself $36. On the topic of monthly app subscriptions – I also managed to snag the student price for Apple Music – bumping the monthly fee down from $9.99 to $4.99. This includes Apple TV for FREE which means I’m saving another $5 a month, for a total of $120 saved a year. So far I’ve saved almost $160 a year in app subscriptions. I’ve also committed to no longer renting movies through Apple TV during the spending fast, probably saving myself another $200+ year.
I’ve decided to keep my Netflix as well. My best friend and I share streaming platforms. I pay for Netflix and she pays for Hulu & Disney+. I also have Amazon Prime which is paid for by my employer and includes tons of great Prime videos and shows I didn’t even know existed, currently hooked on Mr. Robot (not a paid advertisement ;)). I pay only $17.59 a month for access to Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and Prime videos. In addition to Stay Fit credit and an Amazon Prime membership, my employer also pays my monthly cell phone bill. All in all, I receive a lot of great perks from my job that gives me a little more wiggle room with my wants vs. needs.
Another difficult encounter people may have during a spending fast is social events with friends and family. Once you announce to your friends and family that you’re doing a spending fast and to hold you accountable, you can weasel your way out of some activities. However, there are mile stone events that happen in people’s lives that you probably want to be part of and celebrate: weddings, baby showers, promotions etc. I had a situation like this happen a few weekends ago, one of my friends was having a birthday celebration. She did a book crawl in the afternoon, dinner in Seattle and Monkey Loft (Seattle night club) at the end of the night. My boyfriend Jordan and I joined for the book crawl which was a ton of fun – I’m a pretty big book nerd. We visited 3 different book stores in Redmond and Seattle, each one getting bigger and better. My sweet boyfriend even bought me a book as belated Christmas present “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” by Yuval Noah Harari – excellent author. I highly recommend his other books “Homo Sapiens” and “Homo Deus”. We are dinner at home instead of joining at the restaurant, and got ready for Monkey Loft. I happen to be a dancer for the production company Soft Option that was hosting the party that night – so I have guest list with a plus one. The night cost us a total of $6 on parking and $2.79 on energy drinks.
I got pretty lucky that weekend, but other options to celebrate your loved one’s special occasions DO exist! You could cook them a dinner one on one, provide them with a service of something you’re good at and passionate about – crafting, cooking, using your skill or even teaching them your skill. If you absolutely want to join in on the activities or dinner with a group, think of cost efficient ways to cut the your bill. You could eat a small meal before hand, look at the menu and bring cash for your entree, tax and tip so you’re not tempted to over spend or order one, two, three drinks too many. The options are limitless and often times more meaningful than buying them something to clutter their home or eating and drinking at fancy expensive restaurant.
Another huge eye opener for me after adopting this spend free lifestyle was how easily influenced I was by advertisement and social media. Like I’ve mentioned before, people use social media to share their highlight reel. They show off where they’ve been, what they have, and how much money they’re making. I was a sucker, I wanted what everyone else kept flaunting. I wanted more money and nice things – and I ended up spending more money for the appearance of having my shit together. Turns out having your shit together is showing yourself some tough love, knowing when to tell yourself and others “no”, and denying yourself certain pleasures when they aren’t aiding your growth and helping you achieve your goals.
One IG story that stuck out to me last week was someone sharing how much they spent at Nordstrom thanks to their second job. It made me realize how many people equate success with money and materialism. More will never be enough. I’ve been learning that real success (for me at least) is living below your means, spending time on your crafts, building lasting meaningful relationships with people and showing kindness when you have the opportunity. Life is more about the experiences and connections you make with others, and less about the things you have hoarded away.