The following is an excerpt from Michelle Singletary's personal finance column in The Washington Post:
I thought it was a simple challenge, albeit a hard one.
Could you spend 21 days -- three weeks -- without shopping for things you don't need? Could you put your credit cards away for 21 days and stop swiping your debit card?
It is a challenge -- a financial fast -- that I have laid out day by day in my new book, "The Power to Prosper: 21 Days to Financial Freedom." The fast has helped many people do some financial introspection, although some still have questions about it.
One reader sarcastically asked whether you should still pay your mortgage or rent.
Of course you keep paying for things that are necessary. Last time I checked, having a roof over your head is something you can't live without -- or live comfortably without, anyway. You don't stop paying your utilities, and you don't even have to cancel cable or any other subscriptions you have going. The fast is simply about curtailing your consumerism.
During my recent visit to Philander Smith College in Little Rock, a student asked whether she could give to Haitian relief efforts and still be faithful to the program.
My answer was a resounding yes. Please give, and generously if you're able.
Donating money to help victims in Haiti is definitely within the spirit of the fast. Part of the reason I want people to try the 21-day challenge is to show them that they may in fact have money in their budget to give. When you aren't shopping or eating out or spending a lot to entertain yourself and your family or friends, you get an idea of how much you can give on a regular basis.
If you decide to make a charitable contribution to the relief efforts in Haiti, you may get a tax deduction. Taxpayers will be able to write off charitable deductions to Haitian earthquake relief efforts when they file their 2009 taxes, under a bill that received final congressional approval Thursday. After the president signs the bill into law, you will be able to claim donations made between Jan. 12, the day of the earthquake, and March 1.
Many people who use credit cards and pay off their bills every month object to giving up their plastic. It's convenient, they contend. Carrying cash is dangerous, they argue.
Look, I'm not saying give up your plastic forever -- just for 21 days. Studies show that when you buy with plastic you tend to spend more than when you use cash. One person who considers herself a good money manager took the 21-day challenge.
What did she find?
Read the rest of the article at WashingtonPost.com.
Michelle Singletary is a nationally syndicated columnist and personal finance expert. Her speaking engagements are booked exclusively through Premiere Speakers. For information on how to bring her to your next event, visit PremiereSpeakers.com/Michelle_Singletary.