What I Learned on My Transaction Cleanse

by Sherrill St. Germain
May 2016

On April 30, I ended my Transaction Cleanse, a personal spending experiment proposed by Carl Richards on his Behavior Gap podcast.   Mr. Richards challenged listeners to see how long we could go without making a single transaction. The concept: “to reset and increase our awareness” around spending.  Actually reducing expenses is not an explicit goal of doing a cleanse, but (spoiler alert!) it is likely to be a welcome side effect.

Here are the lessons learned, relearned, and reinforced during my month-long Transaction Cleanse, along with links to related posts on my blog:

So my Transaction Cleanse was, as advertised by Carl Richards, a great reset button. It was a challenge right from Day 1, and it took the better part of the month to string together more than 3 transaction-free days in a row.  Faced with this underwhelming performance, I redoubled my efforts and finished strong with an 8-day streak that hammered home the lessons of the Cleanse.

By inserting the need to pause and ask “Can I go without this?” before buying, the Transaction Cleanse created a barrier to mindless spending. It generated renewed motivation for better aligning personal finance habits, values, and goals. It triggered ideas for doing more with less that will pay even more dividends over time. Bonus: it lowered April’s credit card bill.  Not only that, it was fun!

And that fun factor accounts for a good chunk of its power.  A Transaction Cleanse is not intended to be a substitute for traditional budgeting, but a complement.  By making a game of it, this short experiment might just do more for your personal finances than a traditional budget ever would.