Thursday, January 25, 2018

Can You Do This?

I am not sure I could do it unless I was locked in my house.  The temptation to shop would be even greater when you live near a shopping centre.   To spend no money for a period of thirty days is a bold challenge to undertake.    

Watching the CTV News, I was intrigued by Donna Lee Criss and her 30-Day Apocalypse Challenge Her challenge is to spend absolutely no money other than pay the monthly bills and purchase gas for her vehicle.  She plans to make do with the ingredients she has in her home and, if necessary, barter and accept goodwill from others. The challenge is an opportunity to reflect on her spending habits. 

The challenge would provide the opportunity for us to focus on what we all have rather than what we don’t have.  Most would agree our cupboards, fridges, and freezers do not portray Mother Hubbard’s in the favorite nurse rhyme. Recall Mother Hubbard’s cupboards were bare.    Ours certainly are not. Yet how often has have our spouses or children said, “There’s nothing to eat in the house”?   An Apocalypse 30-Day Challenge might change everyone’s perspective and create an epiphany for us.

Donna Lee Criss’ Apocalypse Challenge resembles a similar yet different challenge related to food. I tried to curb my uncontrollable eating habits with the Sacred Heart Diet-Soup Base 7 Day Plan. You could eat all the soup you wanted for the week. On specific days, you were allowed to eat fruit and raw vegetables along with the occasional teasers, a baked potato and steak.  You were never hungry on the Sacred Heart Diet but you eventually became tired of eating the soup.  If I was given the option, I would rename this diet, “The Gratitude Diet”.  After a week with limited food options,  I was grateful for even a morsel of chocolate cake rather than none.  The elimination of having anything and everything I wanted gave me a new perspective on“having some is better than none”.   
The theory is we all have a tendency to feel deprived when we are told, You can’t do something, can’t buy something, or can’t eat something.”  An impulsive urge or craving automatically triggers us to want to do the exact opposite.  We naturally want to do that, to buy that, to eat thatthe very thing they said, “you couldn’t, you shouldn’t, you mustn’t!” 

Here’s the revelation:  Deprivation leads to gratification.

Anytime we are deprived of something even for a test period, we develop a deeper sense of gratitude for it.  If you have watched a child receive a toy after it has been taken away for a stretch of time, they have a new sense of gratitude for the old toy.  As adults, we are no different than children.   The realization that you can resume your normal activity, like shopping or eating, means doing so in moderation and with a keen awareness. We want to foster sound control measures.  The challenge was a “discovery process” to uncover our soft spots.   This process also allows us to set or reset our motives. Gauging our spending habits is critical before they get out of control and cause serious harm.  Imagine barely recovering from our Christmas purchases then jumping all over “January Blowout Sales” .

I would tread cautiously about a test period lasting for thirty days. This is a long time to be banned from spending money on anything.  My concern is that the experiment might trigger a reverse effect, an overspending frenzy to make up for “lost time”.  You might  sway yourself to believe you deserve to be pampered for your month of good behavior.      

The true reward comes when you focus on what’s really important in terms of your wants and needs.   The reality is one day you may not have the choice to cut back on your spending. You may find that your retirement income simply cannot sustain a costly lifestyle and changes will be inevitable.  The reality is we need to be good custodians of our money. There is nothing quite like a challenge, even for seven days,  to align your spending priorities with your current income.     


  1. Interesting Challenge. I agree with the sentiment that deprivation leads to gratification for sure.

    1. "Interesting" is a good way to phrase this challenge. Are you willing to do this in February?