(Original post from Career Contessa ):

We’re concluding our week of detoxes by focusing on one of the biggest problem areas: personal finances.

Did you put some holiday gifts or travel airfare on your credit card knowing deep down that you wouldn’t be able to pay the full balance this month? Have you been ignoring the $27.32 balance in your alleged emergency savings account?

Look, we’re right there with you. So much so that we didn’t feel qualified to make recommendations without a little help. That’s why we called on Ashley Feinstein, founder of The Fiscal Femme and creator of the 30-day Money Cleanse (sounds detox-y, doesn’t it?), to give us some of her best tips for a 7-day detox to kickstart healthier finances in 2018.

Day 1: Re-Engage with How You’re Spending

“One of the most toxic things that’s happening with our money is that we have no idea where it’s going,” says Feinstein, “Sometimes it’s because we don’t want to know, sometimes it’s because technology has completely removed our pain of paying (like hopping in and out of Ubers without having to pay). We’re too disconnected from our spending.” To start a true money detox, Feinstein recommends keeping a money journal for at least the next week. You’ll write down everything you spend and earn, which will give you a much clearer picture of problem areas.

Action Item

Start that money journal!

Day 2: Set Some Attainable Goals

We often talk in terms of how we want to “save more” or “pay down debt,” but thinking of goals in such vague, broad ways means that we never really commit. Spend today writing down some money goals for 2018. If you’ve always wanted an emergency savings fund, you’re going to write down—in pen—your goal number as well as a target funding date. How do you know if you’re being realistic? Use the SMART goal system for each line item. One simple way of doing this is to break down bigger goals (e.g. “save $20,000 for a downpayment on a house) into smaller short- or mid-term goals (e.g. “save $1500 by March 1. I will plan a No Spend Month in February to help fund it.)

Action Item

Download our goal setting worksheet and write down some goals for the next 3-6 months.

Day 3: Don’t Spend Any Money for 24 Hours

Or even 48 hours if you’re feeling gung-ho about this detox. We love a “No Spend” day because you can see results so much more quickly than, say, cutting back on your daily latte fix (although that helps, too—and we’ll be talking about that in Day 4). Today, you’re going to skip paying for anything at all. Pack your lunch, pass on the happy hour, and make dinner from whatever you have in your cupboard. Then see how you feel. If you find this method works well for you, consider making it a regular part of your routine—No Spend Mondays, for example.

Action Item

Leave your wallet at home!

Day 4: Create a Plan to Evade Your Environmental Triggers

“Environmental toxins are the people, places and things that get the best of our spending. Once you know about them, you’ll notice them everywhere!” says Feinstein, “It might be that friend who always invites you to sample sales, the bar where you can’t turn down that second expensive cocktail, or Target, where you can’t ever leave having just bought the one thing you came in for.” According to Feinstein, the first step is to notice them.

So today, spend some time jotting down your own personal triggers. Write them down as a list, then next to each line item, make a note of a strategy you’ll use to offset your desire to spend. “In some cases, we can avoid the place altogether or share our money goals with the person so they know not to encourage us to spend on things that we don’t need,” says Feinstein, “We can also create plans and set up rewards for when we follow through.”

Action Item

Make your list of toxins and strategies to avoid them, then try to follow those strategies for the rest of the month.

Day 5: Stop the Negative Talk

Much like when we’re frustrated with our health and weight, there’s a tendency to focus on the negative. And just like no woman should ever talk about her body negatively, she shouldn’t talk her financial life or spending patterns that way either. Feinstein is always quick to point out that if you voice thoughts like, “I’m terrible with money,” you’re creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. You’ll continue to make spending decisions that aren’t in line with your goals, then feel frustrated and ashamed. It’s a vicious cycle. Today, focus on looking at your finances without the negative self-talk. Instead of “I’m so broke,” think, “I’m taking charge of my finances in 2018 because I’m ready to achieve financial independence.”

Action Item

Love yourself—finances and all—today. Try thinking of some of the negative things you say about your money, and write down positive ways of expressing them instead. It may sound woo-woo but it’s a fascinating exercise—and will help you see the places where you’re focused too much on past spending, and not enough on finding a better way forward.

Day 6: Cleanse Your Checking Account

You’d like to think that if you spend the next few months being frugal, then you’ll have this extra cash in your checking to put toward your goals. You’d probably be wrong. It’s human nature to spend what we can see, but you can make that work to your advantage. Feinstein’s first piece of advice in her 48 Hour Finance Overhaul is this: pay yourself first. If you set automatic withdrawals from your checking account as soon as your paycheck lands, you’ll never miss that money. And in a few months, you’ll find you’ve got more of it than you thought.

Action Item

Set up automatic savings withdrawals from your checking account (even $5 a week helps!) or sign up for an app like Digit to start skimming money from your accounts before you can spend it.

Day 7: Figure Out How You’d Actually Like to Treat Yourself

Yep, we’re ending this detox on a high note. The last day of your financial detox is about getting straight on what you want to spend your money on. Because the truth is, most of us aren’t spending our money in the way we want.

“It’s ironic because we often treat ourselves at the expense of what we want most,” says Feinstein, “For example, let’s say you really want to take a vacation this summer to X amazing place. That means you’ll need to put aside a certain amount of money in order to do that. Let’s also say that you keep “treating yourself” to smoothies or clothes on sale and that ends up getting in the way of your saving for your big vacation. Is that really a treat at all?” Use today to get clear on what you truly want to prioritize, then the next time you consider that smoothie ask yourself if it’s worth the money. You might be surprised at how much more easily you turn down those purchases.

Action Item

Write down your top priority (or priorities) for your money. Next week, any time you consider buying a kombucha or PSL, ask yourself: Is this worth it?

What’s Next?

This 7-day kickstart should give you a good idea of how to make some serious changes. Moving forward, consider making some of these steps routine. Take it from us—keeping a money journal for a full month is an incredible experience. “We detox our money when we get clear on what’s truly treating us and prioritize our spending there,” says Feinstein, “It can sometimes be difficult to get through the noise, but when we do the clarity can be life-changing.”

What do you think of our 7-day detox? Is there anything else you would add to make a detox of your own?

Read original post at Career Contessa.