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How Observing Lent Can Help You Fatten Your Wallet

lent can be good for your walletLent is the 40-day-period before Easter that Catholics (and other Christian denominations) observe to get their spirits ready for Easter. It’s meant to be a time for prayer and sacrifice.

Many people give up something during Lent as a way to ground themselves in their faith. Even though I’m not a Catholic, I am definitely interested in month-long challenges, and since Lent is just over six weeks, it’s a great time to give up something for a short time. Also, Lent can be good for your wallet, too! Let’s talk about why and how.

We Give Up Vices During Lent

Chocolate, soda, caffeine, and alcohol are common responses to the “What are you giving up for Lent?” question. Catholics choose not to consume those during this period, which means they’re not spending money in one particular category for six weeks. Vices are expensive. Even a casual drinker could save $100 going six weeks without a beer or a glass of wine.

How much are your vices costing you? And how much could you save if you gave them up — even for 40 days? Think about it, put a number on it, and earmark that money. Give it to charity, or double up on your debt payment.

Needs vs. Wants

Lent can be good for your wallet simply by allowing you to reframe your ideas of needs and wants. The idea is to give up something you love but don’t need, and even without the religious perspective, it’s a fantastic idea to take a step back and evaluate your habits. Do you really need a cup of coffee at the beginning of the day? And is it true that meals can’t end without a bit of something sweet? The answer, of course, is no. We truly have very few needs, and we’re spoiled by our life’s conveniences.

It’s only 40 days

The time frame of Lent puts a deadline on it. To me, that means I can go a little crazy, give up a little more, strive a little harder because once Easter comes, it’s over, and I can go back to my normal life. It’s funny because that’s the mentality that got me started on my way out of debt. Going all out for a short period of time will allow you to reflect over your Easter dinner about what it felt like, and if you’re a challenge addict like me, you’ll wonder what you can do next.

4 Habits to Start for Lent That Will Fatten Your Wallet:

1. Give up credit cards. Take out as much cash as you think you’ll need, and make it last until Easter. If you underestimate, you can sell things at garage sales, on eBay, or Craigslist. If you take out cash before Lent, you can decide that you won’t use your credit card for any normal expenditures. Give yourself $500, and get creative! It was fun for me to sell clothes to consignment shops and get money back at the bookstore for books I was done reading, but doing those things can be kind of a hassle, which I’ll usually avoid. But if I hid my credit cards, I’d have much more motivation to go stand in line.

2. Give up going to the movies. Movie tickets these days cost almost $10 (or  more)! That adds up quickly if you’re taking the family to see a flick. Find cheap ways to entertain your family that don’t cost as much as the movies, such as crafting, taking a family bike ride, or volunteering at the homeless shelter. Get outside more, or if it’s still yucky in your neck of the woods, rent a Redbox and have a movie night at home.

3. Get started with minimalism. The less you have, the less you want. The less you want, the less you buy. Here’s a great primer on how to start a minimalist wardrobe, but if you’re anything like me, your closet is just the beginning. Take the time to go through your kitchen drawers, or organize the pantry (and donate the nonperishables you won’t eat). Tackle the garage. Have a garage sale with all the things you no longer need. Have the sale close to the end of Lent, when the flowers start blooming and spring fever sets in.

4. Learn about investing. Think of all the things you could know by Easter! If you’re intimidated about investing, now’s the time to start learning. The best way to stop being intimidated is to learn as much as you can. Knowledge is power. I am new to investing, and I’m a little scared, so I’ll be taking my own advice. The first thing I did was sign up for Jemstep, which is a really cool program that takes a look at your retirement accounts and tells you where you should be investing instead. They give you instructions, so even though it’s a complicated mess, you can take money out of funds that are underperforming and put them into funds that are more likely to give you a higher return. You feel like you’re doing something, but there’s a road map that essentially holds your hand through the process. Here’s my review.

What do you think? Will you give something up for Lent?

Image via jclk8888

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