I don't actually do lent because well, I am not religious. But I find the concept of lent and the pre-determined time period beneficial for things I want to do so I use it to my advantage.
For the past 4 years, on Ash Wednesday I have emptied my bank account. I don't mean going on a bender at Pier 1; I mean that I transfer the complete balance to my saving account. Then throughout the period of lent, I don't spend anymore than I have too. Four years of this and I have it pretty much down.
- I still buy people birthday presents
- I uphold prior social commitments
- I don't turn down new ones but I rain in the spending on them (one drink at happy hour, no popcorn at the movies, etc) - I would turn down above average dates like a concert or something with expensive tickets
- I pay all my bills
- I buy all the same groceries that I would before even treats like ice cream
- I still participate in dance workshops - though no buying from vendors once I get there
- I still let my regular automatic deductions into savings and retirement take place
Lent is also a good time to do this because most people won't give you any grief when you say, "sorry I am not spending any money during lent."
When Easter rolls around I look at what cushion has built up in my checking account and I donate it to charity. More specifically, I donate it to Donors Choose which helps teachers get supplies they needs for their classrooms. I have really enjoyed working with Donors Choose and in the past my donations have purchased books, molecule model kits, recycling containers and tennis rackets. A few weeks after the project is funded the class sends thank you letters which always makes me cry.
Now, my point in sharing this is not for you to think I am just awesome. I assume that you thought that already. I just really like doing this and think it is a good idea and want to pass is around.
Don't think you can save enough to make a difference? Most charitable organizations will tell you they are happy to get any donation no matter how small. At Donors Choose, you can sort projects by how much money they still need to complete their funding. As I write this, there is a library project that only needs $27 to be funded.