Try a Financial Detox to Empower Yourself in the New Year

Try a Financial Detox to Empower Yourself in the New Year

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financial detox
© Stokkete/123RF

At least once a year I like to do a cleanse. It often makes me feel lighter and healthier and generally better about myself. I find that afterwards I have more confidence in myself and feel more positive about the future. Not surprisingly, January is a great time to do this cleanse, especially after the excesses of the holiday season, but for me September is also a great time.

And no, I am not actually talking about a health cleanse here. I’m talking about a financial detox.

© dolgachov/123RF
© dolgachov/123RF

Unlike a health cleanse, fast or detox for your body, the idea of a financial detox is more likely to be taken badly by your friends and associates.

I honestly don’t understand why. After all, we are happy to put ourselves through all kinds of pain and suffering in the name of health, sport or beauty (I’m thinking of marathons in particular here). Yet when it comes to money, many people have a problem with the idea of restraint. Try to cut back on your overspending and you’re more likely to be criticised as “radin” or too “tight”.

Yet, in the same way that a health cleanse can make you feel so much better, a financial detox will not only free up your wallet but can help your spirit too.

© Steve Buissinie/StockkSnap.io
© Steve Buissinie/StockkSnap

 

So what does a financial detox involve? I’ll give you an example. A few years ago, following the Great Financial Crisis of 2008, I read a book called How I Lived a Year on Just a Pound a Day” by Kath Kelly. Inspired by this book, I decided to live on 2 euros per day for 1 month.

Now when I say “lived on”, I mean that money had to cover my food, entertaining and transportation costs (not rent or amenities) – the same way Kath Kelly did it.

I have to say, it was hard, but I managed it and at the end I found I had many benefits:

  1. I had a nice pot of money saved that I could spend on something I really valued, rather than frittering it away on little things that weren’t really necessary.
  2. I felt like I had de-cluttered and cleansed my finances so that I was more in control and less worried about approaching bills (especially the dreaded tax bills that usually hit in September).
  3. It made me feel more confident in my ability to be able to handle financial hardship should some disaster occur, like a job loss or a large new expense like a baby/house purchase, etc.
  4. It also forced me to be more accepting of money that came to me freely. This might sound strange, but I for one often feel better about paying for other people than allowing them to pay for me. During my detox I didn’t tell anyone, apart from my investment club friends, that I was doing it. But my rule was that if anyone offered to buy me something like a drink or dinner I was allowed to accept – as long as I was sure they were offering naturally and not because they knew I was only living on 2 euros a day.
© dolgachov?123RF
© dolgachov?123RF

Of all of these benefits, I have to say that the third point – empowerment – is really the most important. Many people worry about money and they particularly worry about what they will do in the future if they suddenly have a reduced income. I can’t count how many times I’ve had this conversation with women, particularly regarding retirement. While I think it’s important to build up as much as you possibly can for your retirement, I also believe that learning you can actually live on less – and still be happy – is of great benefit.

So I challenge you: why not make January your financial detox month?

You can choose whatever figure you think is appropriate for you, but just make sure you stick to it. It could change the way you think about money forever.

Justine Trueman
Justine Trueman began investing as a hobby, starting saving at age 17, buying her first shares at 20 and her first fund the following year before carving a successful career as a financial journalist. She has covered all aspects of personal finance for major publications around the world, including Reuters, The Telegraph, The Financial Times and Time magazine. She currently works for an investment management company in Paris and speaks at investment conferences and women’s associations around the world. She is the author of "Detox Your Finances: the Ultimate Book of Money Matters for Women", and is a regular blogger on women and investment issues. Her mission is to help women learn how to better manage their money and become wealthier in the process.

4 COMMENTS

  1. hi, thanks for clarifying… I live too far from my job to walk or bike, and my employer offers no lunch subsidies, so 2 euros a day or even 5 euros is simply impossible. Nor do I want to live on cereals and pasta! However I do agree that one can save quite a lot of money with some relatively simple steps. For example I make soups and other things on the weekend, freeze individual portions and bring to work for lunch.

    • Thanks for sharing Carol. Recently I suddenly fought off a panic attack when I received a breakdown of what I might receive for my retirement pension one day. While it still is a few years away, it left me gasping. I realzed I had squandered money in so many ways over the years. Suddenly I have become very budget conscious. One hopes it’s never too late to smart to be more financially responsible. I look forward to learning more from Justine Trueman on how to manage and increase my finances living in France. Sometimes that feels like an oxymoron.

  2. Hi Carol,
    Well this was a couple of years ago so I’m not sure I could still do 2 euros/day but the important thing is to pick a figure that challenges you so that you feel empowered afterwards. At the time I was living in central Paris so yes I walked to work every day (Kath Kelly cycled everywhere and even hitch hiked). I don’t think my diet was particularly healthy during that month, I ate a lot of cereal, vegetable soup and pasta. Once I found a sack of 1kg onions for a euro and made a big French onion soup which I shared with friends. I also found a big tray of eggs on sale at Leader Price and hosted a crepe brunch – my friends brought the drinks which they usually did anyway. I also benefited from cheap lunches as they were subsidized by my company which not everyone can do. Finding entertainment solutions was probably the biggest challenge, I found some student websites that were helpful but it was really a question of getting creative and thinking ‘how can I do this’ rather than feeling sorry for myself because I had limited money.

  3. Justine, your report failed to explain how you managed to live on 2 euros a day. I assume you either walked or rode your bike everywhere, because using public transport would not be possible on this budget. And did 2 euros cover everything you ate daily, or did you depend on friends or tickets resto for food? Thanks

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