The #FinancialFast: Join us for 21 days of budget advice and resolutions

How many times have you made New Year’s resolutions to get your financial life straight only to quit before January is even over?

The key to a lifelong change is to change how you think. If you don’t try to understand why you can’t save or why you get out of debt only to get right back into it, then you won’t be able to turn your financial life around.

I want to help you stick to your New Year’s resolution to save more, invest, get out of debt or become an even better money manager.

Starting Jan. 13, I’m asking you to join me in a 21-day financial fast.

What are you fasting from, you ask? Spending.

For 21 days, you will cut out all unnecessary spending. And you can’t use credit.

If you’ve finally resolved that 2014 is the year you’ll actually achieve your financial New Year’s Resolutions, then join us in this group fast. E-mail me at colorofmoney@washpost.com. Get someone to do the fast with you. During the fast, I’ll be conducting Twitter chats, answering your questions and holding your hand online. I also want to hear how you’re doing. I encourage you to post your progress on Facebook, Instagram, through a YouTube video or on Twitter. If you are tweeting, use the hashtag #FinancialFast.

Now, the best way to do the fast is to get my book,“The 21-Day Financial Fast: Your Path to Financial Peace and Freedom.” The power in the fast is the daily chapters – 21 of them – to help guide you to financial freedom. Every day, I have you tackle a different topic – saving, tithing, getting out of debt and learning to rid yourself of any sense of entitlement that has prevented you from achieving financial peace.

You can preorder “The 21-Day Financial Fast” at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Get it before it’s in stores Jan. 7, and you can save some money on the price.

For those who purchase the book before January, I have a special offer. I’m giving a private budget consultation to one lucky winner. If you live in the Washington area, we can do it in person. Otherwise, we’ll communicate by telephone or e-mail. I’ll give you a template to develop a budget, and then we’ll talk about areas where you can change or improve to make your budget balance.

To be eligible to win, you must provide proof of purchase and write a brief essay (500 words or less) about your desire to have financial peace and freedom. Tell me why you need help.

If you’re interested in joining the 21-day financial fast, send your information to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Put “21-Day Financial Fast “ in the subject line, and please include your full name, contact number and e-mail address. Your information will remain private unless you want to post about your progress.

Make 2014, the year you finally can check off that you completed your New Year’s financial resolutions.

Chat Today

Join me today at noon ET for the last chat of the year. We can talk about the financial fast. Or, as usual, I’ll be available to take your personal finance questions.

Should You Even Make a Financial New Year’s Resolution?

Benjamin Feldman, a contributor to the Huffington Post, asked an interesting question about the promises so many people make at the beginning of the year.

“What is at the root of all New Year’s resolutions?” he asked.

The root is that you want to change a behavior.

“When we make a New Year’s resolution, we are saying explicitly that we’d like to change something about how we conduct our lives,” Feldman wrote in the blog. “It could be a financial, health, or interpersonal behavior, but at the core it’s always about shifting from one behavior to another.”

Feldman goes on to say: “With finances, as we all know, this can be extremely hard. That’s partly because financial decisions often involve accepting short-term pain in the name of long-term gains. Long-term thinking, however, is not something we humans are naturally inclined to do. We’re more programmed to indulge our immediate desires and worry about the consequences later.”

So, where do you start when setting your 2014 goals?

Be specific in the behavior you want to change, says Feldman. I agree.

He says instead of saying, “I want to pay off debt,” you might say, “I will pay off $350 of my debt every month.”

“Whatever your resolution is, if you phrase it in terms of a monthly goal, then you’ll give yourself monthly accountability as you go through the entire year,” Feldman says.

Color of Money Question of the Week

What’s the one financial resolution for the New Year you want to accomplish? Send your response to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Put “A Financial Behavior Change” in the subject line, and include your full name, city and state.

Year-End Financial Check-Up

You don’t have much time, but if you can reach your financial adviser, Nicole Seghetti with the Motley Fool has put together six questions you should ask before 2014.

One question: Should I make any changes to my portfolio?

Seghetti says because asset allocation is so critical, ask your adviser if you should:

1. Rebalance your target mix of stocks and bonds based on your long-term financial goals and risk tolerance;

2. Improve the diversification of your investments; and/or

3. Upgrade the quality of your investments.

Take the time to read her other suggestions. They are good questions that may help you form some specific New Year’s resolutions.

The Branding of Nelson Mandela

For last week’s Color of Money Question, I asked: “Should Mandela’s heirs profit off his legacy?”

“From political posters to bottles of wine and kitchen aprons, the face and name of Nelson Mandela are a potent commercial and political brand in South Africa,” Reuters wrote in an article about the branding of late South African leader.

Among some of those products is “House of Mandela,” a line of wines started by one of Mandela’s daughters and a granddaughter.

“This is what we are, in a sense, entitled to, that my father worked for, and he did it with his own hands to create something for the welfare and upkeep of himself and his children,” Mandela’s daughter Makaziwe Mandela told the Financial Times.

“I have to agree with his daughter,” wrote Ysais A Martinez of Upper Macungie, Pa. “I would not blame her if she uses her father’s name and legacy to profit. It has happened here in America. Look at the children of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. They have benefited from Dr. King’s legacy, but that did not hurt anybody. It should not bother anybody unless they were collecting money for charity and using it for personal expenses…”

“I see no reason why they shouldn’t profit from it. If they don’t, someone else most definitely will,” wrote Peggy Miller of Smyrna, Ga. “So the family may as well do what is necessary to keep his legacy alive and truthful.”

Irene Vartan of Hedgesville, W.Va., wrote, “I’d say the moral problem is selling products Mandela did not approve of, such as alcohol and tobacco. But it’s up to the courts, and not U.S. courts.”

“No way should #Mandela’s heirs profit by using his name and legacy to hawk their wares!” tweeted Twitter follower Beth VanDenBerg @eawv.

Tia Lewis contributed to this report.

Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or michelle.singletary@washpost.com. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to postbusiness.com.

Michelle Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column, “The Color of Money.”
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