Change Your Default Setting

For many years, my default setting was set to “spend.” If I was bored, I spent money. If I was miserable (the American workplace all but ensures this), I spent money. If I hung out with friends, I spent money. This is why I spent close to $2,000 on ordering pizza in a single year. I actually checked my bank account: I spent $2,000 on freaking pizza (not including frozen pizza from the store). 

Basically, I felt like a day, a night, a weekend, or a vacation wasn’t complete or whole unless I spent money. To not spend left a void, some sort of existential emptiness, kind of like when I go to the movies and don’t get popcorn. 

I desperately needed to change my default setting to “not spend.” This was necessary to ensure my long-term financial security in this cluster of an economy. For the love of God, I needed to do it for my waistline ($2,000 buys a lot of shitty pizza).

The process is akin to weaning yourself off sweets. You’ve got to clear the “sugar” out of your system. I found it helpful to go three solid days without spending a penny. It was an experiment of sorts. 

It was tough. I didn’t realize how much my life revolved around spending money.  It was my crutch, my solace. It made up for the insane daily commutes (four hours a day at one point), the soul-sucking hours staring at a computer screen, the never ending emails from my seven different bosses. 

At points, I almost caved. In some respects, I think I felt something akin to a light withdrawal. But I muscled my way through it. And so can you. The three days ended, and I took stock. How had I occupied myself? Well, I read two books, went on walks totaling about 15 miles, created some Spotify playlists, and started a meditation and daily stretching routine that still endures. In other words, I did shit that was actually good for me, all while padding my bank account. 

This was eye-opening for me. Not only could I save, but I could replace spending with things that improved my health, my intellect, my self-esteem. All of a sudden, I didn’t feel so miserable. In fact, I felt great. So great I decided to extend my spending moratorium to a week. The haze began to lift. I went for a month. And then, although I moderated the moratorium over time, I never looked back. My days of spending for the sake of spending were over.

I’m not saying you’ll have a similar revelation if you cold turkey your spending for three days. But isn’t worth a shot? What if a “new self” emerged? 

A final caveat: I’m definitely not saying to never spend money. That’s lunacy and totally impractical. I’m just saying that, all things equal, don’t spend money. But when your favorite band’s in town, still go to the damn concert. Make sense? Spending becomes the exception, not the rule. Of course, sometimes you have to break the freaking rules. (In fact, a small indulgence can help you avoid a big indulgence. We’ll dive into that more later.)

So, how about it? Can you do three days? You bet your ass you can.

6 thoughts on “Change Your Default Setting

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