Twenty-one days to change

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We are now into March and most of our 2011 New Year’s resolutions have fallen by the wayside. Either our waistline is still too big or our savings account is too small or we are still smoking or some other bad habit still persists in our lives. Why is this? Well, it seems that New Year’s resolutions are just that, resolutions, without a serious plan to change.
Early in January, our pastor announced that he was going to embark on the Daniel Fast, beginning the last week of January and he would like to have as many church members as possible participate with him. I will confess, upfront, that I was very skeptical about going on a “fast” for 21 days. I have never been on a “fast” and my vision of only bread and water for three weeks was not very appetizing.

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Church members were given a handout that explained the key elements of the Daniel Fast and were referred to a website for more information. According to the literature, “The Daniel Fast is a biblically based partial fast. It is a method of fasting that men, women and young people all over the world are using as they enter into the spiritual discipline of prayer and fasting.” It has been reported that NBA All-star forward, Carmello Anthony completed a Daniel Fast during January.

The fast allows one to eat all of the fresh fruits and vegetables desired, however meats, dairy, sweeteners, processed foods, alcohol and leaven bread are not allowed.

How to change a habit

Before starting, my wife purchased books on the subject, a blender and juicer. We identified restaurants that served food that was acceptable for the fast and that was also tasty. We learned a lot about fasting, nutrition and how to read about the ingredients on food labels. We have changed our approach to food preparation and the types of food we eat.

Why did the Daniel Fast work and change our eating habits? First, there was a disciplined approach to the program. We had books, websites and even a weekly “prayer call” to discuss how it was progressing and share food ideas. Second, there was a finite time period—21 consecutive days on the program, which allowed time to change eating patterns and adjust to the new program. Finally, there was a focus on the fasting process, which developed new and positive eating habits.

21 day saving plan

In working with clients, particularly young families, many find it extremely difficult to save money. It seems that their expenses seem to magically match their incomes, even after receiving raises, working overtime, etc. In case you are having problems saving money I would like to propose a 21 day saving plan. I have already started doing it myself, to test it out.

The basic idea is to save, for example $10 per day, for 21 days to get started. You might change the $ amount to $5 or even $1 to fit your budget.

The most important thing is to get started.

First, get a ziplock bag, write on it “$10 per day” and place it where you keep your purse or wallet at night.

Each morning, take $10 from your wallet and place it in the ziplock bag. Don’t skip a day or put in twice for a missed day. Do it every morning.

Think about ways you can save $10 from your daily expenses to fund your plan. (Examples; take your lunch to work, get your latte at Speedway versus Starbucks, skip buying a newspaper and read your news online, etc.}

As tempting as it may be, don’t use the money during the 21 day saving period.

Write your plan down on a single sheet of paper and keep it with your ziplock bag.

I can hear the naysayers right now, saying that this seems too simplistic to work. However, the simplicity is the beauty of this plan. First, it commits you to save in a repetitive and consistent pattern. Second, you can see the fruit of your labors as your savings accumulates in the ziplock bag. Next, you will be forced to eliminate some minor, but discretionary spending from your everyday budget. Finally, it will develop a pattern of saving that you can build on for the future.

Your habits, either good or bad, will determine your success or failure in life. There is no magic bullet that will create a habit of saving and eventual financial success. Start right now and over the next 21 days take the first steps towards your family’s financial success.

(Michael G. Shinn, CFP, Registered Representative of and securities and investment advisory services offered through Financial Network Investment Corporation, member SIPC. Visit http://www.shinnfinancial.com for more information or to send your comments or questions to shinnm@­financial­network.com. © Michael G. Shinn 2011.)

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