A Consumption Experiment


As a family we are embarking on something really scary tomorrow. It is my own fault as I suggested the possibility and am pretty much the one shaping what it will look like. I am already second guessing myself as I get emails or invites to go places and do things and find myself having to say “no” or think of modifications. As Lent approaches and as 2013 unfolds, we are taking on a Spending Fast. I have read and heard about similar ideas in the past. A few years ago, we gave up Target for the month of January. In the past, I have gone on sorting and purging binges, attempting to drastically reduce our consumption and “stuff hoarding”.

Most recently I read about this idea for a spending fast from Rachel at Smile and Wave. Her post entitled, “On Staying Home and Liking It” was an eye opener and pushed my head out of the space it’s been inhabiting lately—-one of complacency, purposeful “foggy understandings” of our finances and lack of discipline and transparency with spending.

Now that I am not contributing to our finances with a paying job, I feel like now, more than ever, I need to have a real life, experiential time of practice. A chance to feel the painful process of letting go of money’s “comforts”. I was recently re-reading sections of Jen Hatmaker’s cut-to-the-gut book Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. In this hard hitting book, Jen and her family take seven months to work on seven areas, from Media to Clothes to Food to Money, focusing on letting go of greed, materialism and indulgence. I know, before this spending fast even begins, that Hatmaker’s insights are going to be hard truths to face. That I will miss the convenience and camaraderie of consumption. The fact that buying is directly connected to connecting & community. The truth that we often connect hospitality with the expediency consumerism allows.

To connect with others, my planning will need to revolve around free options. It is often easier (or more exciting!) to imagine meeting a friend for coffee than invite them over for tea at your house. When looking at an “open day” with my 2 year old, dropping by Target for one quick thing ends up with a $100 shopping spree for “necessities” I didn’t know I needed. When monotony of weekdays unfold, it seems best to connect with others at spots that charge entrance fees. Instead of depending on connection and community in those places, I will need to get creative. Online I have seen some great lists to get me going on the brainstorming—-

  • playing at the park
  • the Library (one that is already a big habit for us, although with cold and flu season in full swing that toddler play area, while AWESOME, feels like a hot bed of snot and potential illness…can I get an “amen!”?)
  • play dates at our house or friends’ houses
  • inviting friends over for coffee & tea while the kids run wild in the backyard


  • picnics, walks


  • picking and using free fruit from friends’ trees!  (thanks, Marlene!!)


  • candlelight dinners (candles make mac and cheese and hot dogs much more enticing, right?!)
  • camping in the backyard (in February??)
  • hiking
  • board game night (with modifications for a two year old in the mix!)


  • taking turns planning a free adventure, surprise day
  • making pizza or popcorn at home for Friday night movie night
  • doing a puzzle together (again, an interesting prospect with Mr. 27 Month Old…)
  • watching butternut squash roast (or maybe that’s just fun for Drew?!?)


In her post, Rachel shared another site, one which inspired she and her husband to try the spending fast in the first place. This post, linked here, describes the plan in detail and gives tons of practical explanations and details. One of things made clear in these posts is the difference between needs and wants. Wants will be the “off limits”, cry myself to sleep (ha ha!) types of things I have to say “no” to—–

  • gifts
  • coffee dates
  • clothes
  • shoes
  • trinkets
  • toys (aka: the infamous Target $1 section)
  • new make up
  • eating out (I predict this will be PAINFUL…I should be more positive, but just guessing this will be a toughy)
  • movies out and Netflix, new music or books (and yes, that means no itunes or Kindle purchases)
  • no decorative house stuff.

Needs? The things I’d rather ignore and not pay, but must?  I know there will be others, but these come to mind off the top of my head:

  • Rent
  • Utlilties
  • Cell Phone
  • Food (thinking we could even consider a pantry week or two, which we have tried previously….this article is a great one sharing about one family’s experience for SEVEN weeks, eating solely from their pantry….eep!)
  • Doctor’s Co-Pays and Medicine
  • Car Payments and Gas. 

I assume that I will have many thoughts (not all of them pretty) to share in the weeks to come and no, it’s not lost on me that I chose the shortest month of the year to spring this on the family. 28 days vs. 31? Yes, please! In all seriousness, I am sharing about this fast here on the blog in hopes that it provides some accountabillity for me and a place to share about the process. I anticipate many challenges, but also hope to share the benefits we find too, the money saved (hopefully!) and what changes we might decide to keep into the future.

Have you ever done a spending fast? If so, what tips do you have to share? Insights to give? Free outings and entertainment to suggest? Starbucks and Peets gift cards to give??? (um, no….)

And here we go….game ON!


Hoping this process will help me see the beauty in what already surrounds me…because seriously?!?  Dominoes?  My love of color and order goes a little on overload here. 

7 thoughts on “A Consumption Experiment

  1. You GO girl! Some additional resources to tickle your fancy (because this is sort of my job and I LOVE and SUPPORT every bit about it):

    1. LearnVest – financial advice and fun articles geared toward women. If you’re not on their mailing list, get on it!
    2. Book: Smart Women Finish Rich – I just started it and am intrigued so far.
    3. For you and the kids: http://moneyasyougrow.org/ Great resource to building good habits early!

    Love Love Love

  2. Kudos to you girl! I can’t wait to see how it goes and what you learn. In the years of our marriage when we were so poor I remember discovering that I actually wanted less then I thought I did. That very discovery was so enlightening to me—to realize that I didn’t want much after all. So freeing!

    1. I am hoping so, Tracey. Also counting on some extra time to work on sorting and purging. TOO MANY KIDS TOYS. As soon as I clear out toys and clothes, it seems to immediately fill up again!!! 🙂

  3. Go Christine! You can do this. I can hardly wait to hear your reflections halfway through the month. I’m sure there are countless unpredictable things to be learned. It’s amazing how much we don’t need, isn’t it?

  4. I did a personal spending fast for lent a few years ago. Re-negotiating get-togethers with friends was one of the hardest parts. Plus, I really like to write in coffee shops while I sip $4 chai teas. Blessings to you on this endeavor. And grace. –Joanna

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