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February 27, 2012 / Tracy Fernandez Rysavy

Financial Fast Monday: On Self-Improvement and Gratitude

One thing I’ve noticed as we’ve rolled out the idea of the 21-Day Financial Fast to our readers is that we have a lot of our more seasoned sustainability champions responding (often offline) with something like, “Well, I live my life like that every day.”

On the surface, it’s a lovely pick-me-up to think about all of those committed Green Americans out there, taking action together for a robust green economy and world.

When it comes to the Financial Fast, though, is that the healthiest response? Or do all of us have an area of our lives where we could do better? And shouldn’t we be acknowledging and encouraging those readers who aren’t as far along on their journeys to sustainability, by letting them know they’re not alone?

That’s why I confessed my Bad Book Habit last week. I have a lot of good habits—you don’t work at a place like Green America without constantly picking up new green steps nearly every week to bring into your life. But the Fast is a time to figure out where you might not be so perfectly green. Maybe the little we do buy has too much packaging. Maybe we’re not saving enough for the future, if we have income coming in. Maybe we aren’t generous enough with our money. Maybe our savings is still sitting in a mega-bank, where it’s being used to fund endeavors that don’t support our values.  Maybe our investments aren’t socially responsible.

If you’ve got your spending under control, make this the week to make a change to your finances for the better. Break up with your mega-bank. Increase your savings. Shift your investments to socially responsible vehicles. Find a socially responsible financial advisor. If you are struggling with spending habits or with having too little money coming in due to the economic downturn, make this the week to make a budget. I’ll post some suggestions for creating one tomorrow.

No matter where you are on the journey to financial freedom, make this the week to focus on what you already have. As Michelle Singletary noted when we interviewed her about the fast, this exercise is about cultivating an attitude of gratitude. So that’s what I tried to do this week. Every time I thought about buying something I didn’t need, I focused on how blessed I am to have what I have:  an incredible family, a home, a job I love, and, yes, plenty to read.

And you know what? It’s making those few occasions where I’d like to buy something very easy to ignore. This week, I was tempted by an on-the-go bottle of organic tea and a set of movie tickets to take my two little girls to a children’s film. The tea I got over quickly. The movie tickets required a little more creativity, but my daughters and I played board games, attended a free family event in our community, and made puppets out of some old coloring sheets. When the weekend was over, they had completely forgotten about the movie they’d wanted so badly to see.

What are you grateful for in your life? Do you think focusing on gratitude can help strengthen your resolve during the Financial Fast?

Tomorrow, in addition to the budgeting info, I’ll post some new journal questions for the week.

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