Michelle Singletary
Michelle Singletary
Columnist

The fast(ing) track to financial freedom: 21 days of focus

If you want to prosper, you have to work at it.

I don’t want to be a dream-killer, but the odds are not in your favor of winning the lottery. And a relative isn’t likely to leave you an inheritance that will allow you to tell your boss to take this job and shove it.

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And yet, you can still be rich. How, you may ask?

Change.

If you want financial peace and freedom, you have to understand your financial limitations. You have to be disciplined and discerning. You have to make better decisions. If you want to be rich, you have to alter the way you think about your finances.

And in case you’re wondering, when I use the word rich, I’m talking about more than just material wealth. I’m talking about the peace that comes when you’ve done all you can to wisely use the financial resources you have.

There are many paths to prosperity. And I have a way I think can help get you there. It starts by getting the Color of Money Book Club selection for this month, “The 21-Day Financial Fast: Your Path to Financial Peace and Freedom” (Zondervan, $15.99). I wrote this book, which is an updated and expanded version of an earlier edition based on a financial fast that I started at my church in 2005.

This won’t be a typical fast during which you refrain from eating certain foods. On this fast, you’ll stop shopping and buying unnecessary things. And you can’t use credit. For three weeks, you will shut down your purchases to provide time to focus on your finances and what you really want with the money you have.

The method to this book is to read one chapter a day. In these chapters, I address topics tied to your finances such as the evils of entitlement, why you can’t buy contentment, the benefits of budgeting, the salvation of saving, love and money, the curse of credit, the need to guard against greed and the importance of learning about long-term care insurance.

You’ll have a daily assignment to help you apply what you’re learning. In most cases, you will be able to complete the tasks in one day. But some assignments may take longer. On Day 7, you’re assigned to do a budget. It may take you a few days to pull all the information together to build your budget, but get started nevertheless. On Day 12, you’ll work on a plan if you have debt. You’ll find a worksheet to help you with the debt reduction. There’s information on a budget template and other tools you can download to help you in this challenge.

If you’re tired of being broke and broken down because of your financial struggles, join me on the 21-day financial fast starting Jan. 13. By the way, the fast isn’t just for people with financial challenges. If you’re a good money manager, you may discover areas where you can improve.

If you decide to try the fast, I want to hear from you. I’m looking for people willing to share their progress and even setbacks. 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. I’ll choose some people to profile during the fast.

At noon Eastern on Jan. 13, the first day of the financial fast, I’ll be doing a live Twitter chat (@SingletaryM) to answer your questions. Use the hashtag #FinancialFast. I’ve also created videos to give you some daily inspiration. Every day of the fast, I’ll post a new video at wapo.st/financialfast. I’ll also be sending those who e-mail me a daily note of encouragement and tips. Because of the number of people who have already committed to participating, I won’t be able to respond to everyone individually. However, information and online postings about the fast will be aggregated at wapo.st/financialfast.

And for this book club selection, I have a special offer. I’m selecting a few folks to receive a free budget consultation. You’ll e-mail your budget, and I’ll go over areas where I think you can change or improve in order to balance your budget. To be considered, send me a brief description of your difficulties and your desire for financial peace and freedom. Why do you think the fast can help you? Someone asked me if the financial fast was like a fad diet. I don’t believe diets alone work. The fast alone won’t work. But it can put you on the road to life-changing behavior.

You have to work at your wealth-building. I’m challenging you in 2014 to change the things that haven’t been working for you — so that you can spend well and live rich.

Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or singletarym@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 more, go to postbusiness.com.

 
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