Alert! Omnibus Spending Bill Favors Wall Street and Wealthy Donors

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Congressional Democrats, in an attempt to prevent another government shutdown this year, may agree to let some troubling provisions into this year’s omnibus spending bill. Among the concessions made to the newly GOP-controlled legislature, the bill would strip critical restrictions on Wall Street under the Dodd-Frank Act. It would also permit a 3-fold increase in the amount of money a […]

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Financial Fast: All Good Things Must End … or Must They?

Well, here we are—the last day of the 21-Day Financial Fast. I remember writing in my original post that it probably wasn’t going to be “fun,” but I have to admit, I was wrong. I truly enjoyed the Fast and felt all throughout that the benefits far outweighed the challenges. Of course, you might not feel as perky about the Fast at first, if impulse spending is one of your personal hurdles. But I really believe that, as is the case with working out, you’ll feel great after you get it done! Here’s what I see as the upside of doing the 21-Day Financial Fast, now speaking from experience: It’s an exercise in gratitude. As I mentioned last week, my main tactic for avoiding an impulse purchase—like an on-the-go bottle of Fair Trade tea or a take-out meal—was to focus on how lucky I am to have what I do. You can’t help but fully embrace your family, your health, your home, and your life when each day includes a meditation on what you’re grateful for. And, I found, once I count my own blessings, it’s much easier to turn my focus away from any unneeded purchases I was tempted to make. The daily gratitude meditation is a practice I’ll continue, even when I’m not about to buy something. It really does change habits. One of the reasons that I wanted to get Michelle Singletary’s 21-Day Financial Fast into the […]

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Financial Fast Reflection: Why We Spend

Have you been following or joining in with our 21-Day Financial Fast? I confessed last week that my financial fast has been messy. And although I have not been as disciplined with the fast as I had hoped, my efforts to think more about and cut back on my spending have made me reflect on my spending habits, hopefully in a way that will help me save money while also cultivating a more fulfilling (and cheaper!) life. For me, when I started to look closely at what I was spending, the next natural question was : Why? Remember, we’re not talking about essentials here, like healthy food for you and your family, the medicines that you might need, or the spending necessary to keep your house going. But what about all those little extras? What’s behind some of that extra spending? There’s no doubt that we will all answer that question differently. For me, I’ve discovered that the bulk of my extra spending (which, by the way, is on: coffee, eating out, and little purchases to appease my kids) has one purpose for me: it is a treat.

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Financial Fast: Leave the Credit Cards at Home

Last week, Tracy asked: One of the two rules of the Financial Fast is to pay for every necessity you buy with cash, not credit cards. How has this been going for you? Does counting out dollar bills when you go to the store make you more cognizant of the fact that your purchases are having an impact on your finances? I’ll make a confession right away: my financial fast has been messy, and we’ve broken some rules. I planned to walk side-by-side with Tracy as we both embarked on the 21-day financial fast, vowing to spend money only on essentials and forgo using credit cards. And  though I was excited to take on this challenge and use it as a jump-start to organize my financial life, the rest of my life has kind of gotten in the way. A series of events in my family has necessitated a certain amount of travel, and my financial fast went largely off track in exchange for ease during a rough few weeks. But even though I haven’t been hard and true with the fast, my best efforts have definitely taught me about my spending habits, helped me to develop some great alternatives to spending, and start important conversations in our house about budgets. And it’s also taught me about the importance of cash! I’ve been meaning for a while to tuck away my credit and debit cards and start using cash, and […]

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Financial Fast: Budgets and Journal Questions

“A budget is your roadmap to prosperity,” says Michelle Singletary in her book, The Power to Prosper: 21 Days to Financial Freedom. Why would that be the case? Budgets can keep us from spending more than we need, of course, since they set strict limits on unnecessary purchases. They can also help us save more, since the time we spend creating or revamping a budget is also a great time to deeply consider whether we can increase our savings and investments, and decrease the amount we allocate to unnecessary purchases. Here’s a “quick and dirty” rundown on how to create a budget, without purchasing a new computer program or app. Figure out your net worth (or the difference between your assets and liabilities): List all of your assets, including cash on hand; banking, retirement, and investment accounts; and the market value of your possessions, including your house, automobile, and furniture. List all of your liabilities, or what you owe on your mortgage, student loans, credit card debt, and any other outstanding debt. Subtract your liabilities from your assets, and you have your net worth! Is your net worth low or negative? Don’t despair—taking the Financial Fast is a great first step. It’s time to figure out how to pare down that debt and pick up your savings and investments. Now, let’s look at your cash flow, or the money flowing in and out of your wallet. Track your expenses for […]

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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 […]

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Financial Fast: Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Journals!

Happy Day 2, financial fasters! In our interview with Michelle Singletary about her 21-day financial fast, she suggested journaling to track your progress and to use as a tool to work through your challenges. Below are some suggested topics for this week. Write down all those necessities you buy during the fast, which will help you assess whether they are truly necessities. Make a list of any obstacles that may prevent you from sticking to the fast, and then add ideas on how you can knock them out of your way. Think of one person who could use help financially, suggests Singletary. Could you step in to help somehow? Even if you can’t give cash or goods, could you offer this person additional help, such as free babysitting? Are you giving as much as you can to charity? This week, Singletary advises thinking about whether you could you give more to support causes that are important to you. I’ll stop there to leave room for days when you just want to reflect in your journal about your personal progress or challenges.  Please feel free to reflect on these questions and more in the comments section, in place of or in addition to your journal! I’ll start: As I’ve confessed in the Green American in the past, buying books is my budgetary weakness. Number one, I have a lot of friends who are writers and make their living off of royalties, […]

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The 21-Day Financial Fast Begins!

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Could you go 21 days without buying ANYTHING? (Other than food and other true necessities, of course.) Could you that long go without using your credit cards at all? That’s the question that Washington Post columnist Michelle Singletary posed in her book The Power to Prosper: 21 Days to Financial Freedom. As we noted in our interview with Singletary in […]

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