What Is Financial Fasting? Understand How it Works

Several economic factors can affect the financial standing of individuals. I, for one, can say that between paying numerous bills, purchasing necessities, and balancing work and personal life, managing my finances is challenging. 

Because of this, I tend to look for different ways to make sure that I can live comfortably while still saving some coins for some long-term goals. Budgeting is definitely included in the list of things I do to handle my financial life, but I sometimes turn to the gurus of the internet for some expert advice.


This is how I found Michelle Singletary’s 21-Day Financial Fast, a book detailing a saving technique that can help people become more conscious spenders. This article will talk about all things related to financial fasting in the following topics.

  • Defining Financial Fasting
  • Is a Financial Fast for You?
  • Benefits of this Practice
  • Tips for a Successful Fast
  • Looking for Long-Term Solutions
What Is Financial Fasting? Understand How it Works
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Defining Financial Fasting

Financial fasting was introduced by Singletary through her 2014 book titled ‘The 21-Day Financial Fast: Your Path to Financial Peace and Freedom.’ I find this an interesting concept as it utilizes short-term withdrawals to help people take back or achieve their financial independence.

What Is Financial Fasting? Understand How it Works
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If the term ‘fasting’ means detoxifying the body of toxins by withholding food consumption, the concept of financial fasting is also a form of a cleanse for people’s finances. However, if food fasting can only last a few days, this practice spans over three weeks.

This practice might look easy to do, but I find it challenging, to say the least. To do this fast, Singletary’s book detailed a few rules. When doing this, I can only pay for things I need using cash. I also need to maintain records of my purchases within the 21 days of the fast.

Aside from these essential rules, the book also advocates for the creation of an emergency fund. Those who are in college should also avoid excessive spending, while those who have incurred debt over time should find a way to pay it off.

How it Works

Looks simple, right? After all, I just need to last 21 days with only essential spending using cash and keeping track of my spending. However, this can be tricky, especially as it can be difficult to cut down my spending on needs, combined with the fact that the line between needs and wants can be blurry.

Well, this technique uses different factors to make sure that I become more conscious about my spending. Many people are more productive when visuals are involved. By holding cash, seeing how much money I have, and how much I have spent, I am more aware of my spending.

The use of cash has another function aside from serving as a visual reminder of the fast. It also seeks to minimize my usage of credit cards. This minimizes the possibility of overspending and incurring more debt. 

Is a Financial Fast for You?

On paper, this practice seems like an ideal thing to do, especially for individuals who are becoming more conscious about their spending. Everyone can benefit from this technique, but not everyone’s needs can be addressed by it. However, it is always worth a try.

What Is Financial Fasting? Understand How it Works
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So, how do you know if you should do such a cleanse? The first thing you should do is to take a look at your finances. Consider your income, essential expenses, and budget. Is your income enough to cover your needs? Are you allocating your money efficiently?

This can help you find out where you can improve your current budget scheme, decrease your spending, and look for items that you have been overspending on. If you find your current standing lacking, then you might want to consider financial fasting. 

Assessing your finances is important to make sure that you’ve got your necessities covered while cutting down expenses even before you start the fast. Then, you can simply implement this new budget scheme during the 21-day financial fast.

Becoming a More Conscious Spender

The main purpose of this fast is to help consumers like me to become more conscious spenders. This technique is definitely an eye-opening experience, especially as it forced me to confront myself and my spending habits. It also gave me an idea of how much money I have been spending on unnecessary things.

During the fast, I also realized that having enough money to cover my needs is definitely manageable. One thing standing in the way between me and my financial goals is unnecessary spending. In fact, doing this fast gave me a chance to reevaluate my priorities and update my goals.

Of course, I still find it important to indulge myself once in a while, especially as this is necessary to maintain a healthy balance of financial consciousness and living my life comfortably. 

Benefits of this Practice

Aside from becoming more conscious about my spending, this technique offers a lot of advantages, especially when done successfully. By doing this, consumers can keep track of their finances, minimize credit card usage, and minimize temptations.

What Is Financial Fasting? Understand How it Works
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One important thing to know about managing their finances is that it is easy to lose sight of it. After all, there is a wide variety of ways to digitally pay for goods and services. On top of this, my credit card is always a handy companion when making purchases, making me make transactions thoughtlessly.

The 21-day financial cleanse can also help consumers distance themselves from temptations. Personally, the cleanse helped me pinpoint things that consistently tempt me to make unnecessary purchases and thus, avoid them.

Overall, the success of this cleanse has the potential to have a huge impact on a consumer’s financial life. Remember, science says that it takes 21 days of consistently doing something to make it a habit, and making moderate spending a habit is a good move.

Be Wary of Risks

Now let me remind you that even good things can have negative impacts without the right mindset. Above, I mentioned that treating myself remains to be an important thing. In fact, a reward may be a great motivator to successfully finish the fast without breaking the rules.

However, it is important to remember that this kind of mindset can lead to overspending, which is one thing we are trying to fight through this fast. Individuals with the tendency to overspend can fall into this trap.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the 21-day financial fasting is really just a short-term plan. It may have effects in the long-term as a habit-forming practice, but always remember that it is up to the individual to enforce and reinforce the positive effects of the fast.

Tips for a Successful Fast

This fast is challenging but definitely doable. The secret to successfully finishing the entire 21 days without incident is preparation. I mentioned above that taking a look at my finances was necessary to begin this fast and this exactly what I mean about preparation.

What Is Financial Fasting? Understand How it Works
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Besides refiguring out my financings before starting, I also find it important to make sure that I know how to differentiate between wants and needs. This can be challenging as what can be filed under needs can also be considered wants and vice versa.

Take food for example. Food and nutrition are needs, and given this, many might wonder whether dining out can be filed under this category. 

The simple answer is that this is a need that is actually a want. So, my advice is to evaluate what you consider needs and wants and allocate for them accordingly.

Be Accountable

One important aspect of a financial fast is keeping track of my expenses. This is a way to keep me accountable for what I spend on. It also keeps me grounded as I evaluate whether things I list down every day during the fast are needs or wants.

Now, what can we do if we find ourselves making unnecessary purchases during the fast? There is no one else to keep me in check and give penalties but myself, so I need to be disciplined about my spending. 

In case I break the rules, I can double down on my awareness over the next few days until I finish the fast. 

Looking for Long-Term Solutions

As mentioned, this fast is only a short-term solution, which means that it will not be a life-changer. Instead, it can be the spark that jumpstarts my more responsible financial habits. Because of this, it is still a worthwhile practice.

What Is Financial Fasting? Understand How it Works
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However, it is still important to look for ways to pave the way to long-term financial solutions

Thankfully, there are a lot of options such as investing in a retirement fund, paying off my mortgage, starting my own business, and funding investment vehicles.

Compromise with Midterm Goals

The thing about long-term solutions is they can be intimidating. If it is difficult to look that far into the future, then listing some midterm goals can be a great way to start. These goals include saving for a down payment for a car or a house, buying a car, and paying off my debts.

Of course, having long-term goals remains important and it is necessary to revisit your list of goals from time to time to update your short-, long-, and mid-term goals.

The Takeaway

Financial fasting is a great way to start becoming a more responsible spender. 

With the help of these techniques, I was able to form better financial habits and create a stronger financial future.