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Moving away from corporate life to entrepreneurship

Today I am celebrating seven years as an entrepreneur. It was seven years ago today that I drove to Hartford to register my new business entity as a limited liability company in the state of Connecticut. I remember that day as if it were yesterday. It was one of the best career moves that I ever made. After twenty years in Corporate America, I successfully re-invented myself as an entrepreneur.

Perhaps this is something that you’ve been contemplating?

Watch this video of a TV interview with me and Jim Pellegrino and read the article below to see if you’ve got what it takes to make it as a solopreneur (company of one) or entrepreneurial (builder of new businesses):

Benefits that I’ve enjoyed living the entrepreneurial lifestyle

It’s always a trade off: one set of benefits for another. But I have to say that the benefits I’ve experienced in building and running my own business have been truly enriching and meaningful to me and my family. Here’s a short list of what I appreciate about being an entrepreneur:

  1. Flexibility. You make your own hours and have the luxury of working from home if you like. No long commutes or wasted time in the car. If you need to be home at 2:00pm to let the electrician in the house, you can do that without asking anyone’s permission. If you want to exercise in the morning and start your work day at 9:30am, you can do that without infuriating your boss or jeopardizing your job. I have found more work/life balance since becoming an entrepreneur.
  2. Choice. You decide who you want to work with and whom you’d rather avoid. You hire and fire your clients,vendors and strategic partners. Nothing and no one is forced upon you. You choose who you want to associate with.
  3. Fewer boring meetings. My day is not booked solid with obligatory meetings. I now look forward to meeting with clients, prospects and networking contacts where we exchange valuable information and no one is wasting anyone’s time. So much corporate profitability and life force is lost in meeting hell. As an entrepreneur, YOU control your own calendar.
  4. Valuation. You decide what you are going to charge for your products and services. While you need to be market competitive, you set your own rate card. You determine your own salary and professional fees. If you want to be a premium player, go for it. Just make sure that your customer experience and brand delivers on that promise of premium.
  5. Play to Your Strengths. In every “job” there are tasks and responsibilities that you do well and those that you dread. Working for someone else, you just hope that you get more of what you like and do well. As an entrepreneur, you have the choice to outsource the crap – that is, the jobs and tasks that you have no talent or tolerance for, like bookkeeping, administration, graphic design, etc.(no disrespect to bookkeepers, virtual assistants or graphic designers – I NEED YOU!) Of course, there is a strong urge as an entrepreneur to do everything yourself. I believe this is driven from a mind set of “I don’t have a lot of money to hire someone, so I better do it all myself.” This is a mistake. Outsource as much as you can, but keep control and oversight of all marketing and financial aspects of your business.

What you need to be successful as an entrepreneur?

Before you quit your corporate job, take a review of the next section of the internal and external stuff you need to have in place prior to crossing over to the entrepreneurial side.

Internal Stuff:

  • Spirit of innovation. You must be able to see and think of new ideas that haven’t been done before. Innovation doesn’t have been something magical or dramatic; it can be the small enhancements that make people’s lives better. Get creative and innovate something.
  • Stomach for uncertainty. You must be willing to live without the luxury of regular paychecks and unlimited office supplies. You have to put in the time and effort to “prime the pump” and be patient and persistent in your new business development efforts. They will pay off, it’s only a matter of time.
  • Appetite and willingness to risk failure. Your success is anything but guaranteed. You will inevitably fail at something during your entrepreneurial journey. You will learn the most from your failures. You must be willing and able to get up after you fall.
  • Unshakable belief in yourself. People will poo-poo all over you as you embark on what appears to be a risky venture. These nay sayers may even be people in your immediate family. You must have confidence in yourself and a willingness to invest in your dream. At the end of your life, you’ll only regret the things you didn’t have the courage to do.
  • Your “why.” You must have a powerful, motivating reason why you want to do this. Connecting with your ‘why’ will help to sustain you during the difficult phases of running your own business.

External Stuff:

  • Written business plan explaining to someone else (like a banker) how you plan to make money. . It’s not good enough to have it all in your head. Get it down on paper. Be disciplined and do the strategic work upfront.
  • Marketing plan(a subset of your business plan). Who you will serve (your customers). How you will commercialize your idea. How you will go to market with your goods and services. Establishment of your brand. How you will leverage social media to build awareness and create ‘fans.’
  • Exit strategy outlining how you plan to get in, do well and then get out (and move on to your next adventure). Can you sell your business in the future? To whom and for how much? What assets do you plan to create to enhance your business’s future valuation?
  • Money. How you will fund the launch of your business? How much money will you need to sustain yourself (pay your living expenses) while also investing in the business? How long can you live without a paycheck? Will you need access to capital (loans, external investors?) If so, where/who/how?
  • People and connections. Who will help you get your business off the ground. Advisors to help guide you and get critical feedback on your strategize and plans. You might want to consider forming an advisory board for your entrepreneurial business.
  • Knowledge. I encourage you to “go to school” on entrepreneurship before you hang out your shingle. Read as many books on the subject as you can. I highly recommend the E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. Consider enrolling in an entrepreneur certificate program at a local university or community college. I have been a guest lecturer at the University of Hartford’s Entrepreneurial Center. You may have a great idea that the world needs, but you’ll need to know a lot more than that to be successful as an enterpreneur.

The lessons of the past still apply

Below are the top 10 lessons that I shared out with my clients when I celebrated my 3rd anniversary in business in 2008 (just before the recession took hold). I thought a little review would do me good. After looking at this list, I can see that the advice I gave myself 4 years ago still applies today. These tips may give you a little head start as you consider diverting your corporate career path towards entrepreneurship and business ownership.

  1. Turn your business inward.
  2. Focus and specialize.
  3. It’s good to let go.
  4. Everyone has something to teach you.
  5. Spend time with motivated people.
  6. There are easier ways to make money.
  7. Ask and you shall receive.
  8. If it creates value, charge for it.
  9. You can’t get there alone.
  10. Invest in yourself

The road ahead

Sometimes I think about returning to Corporate America. I fantasize about the health insurance benefits and the biweekly paycheck that seems to come automatically. I long for the international travel and being paid to learn on the job. I miss the office parties and the free coffee. Someday I may go back to a “regular job.” I don’t allow myself to use the word ‘never.” I always want to remain open to all the possibilities that the future might hold for me. For now, I am committed to continue building and operating my business – Kmc Brand Innovation, LLC. And since I just received a shipment of 2,500 new business cards, I guess I am committed to this venture for the foreseeable future.


About the writer: Kathy McAfee is known as America’s Marketing Motivator and is author of the book Networking Ahead for Business. She is the sole owner of Kmc Brand Innovation, LLC, a training, coaching and speaking business. In her role as executive presentation coach and professional speaker, Kathy helps her clients to become the recognized leaders in their fields by mastering the art of high engagement presentations, more effective networking and personal marketing. To learn more about Kathy, visit one of her web sites, and



Celebrating Women’s History Month

I am sharing the following reflection from my friend and fellow YWCA Hartford Region board member, Stacy Smith Walsh. Let us not forget what the women before us did to give women the right to vote and all the opportunities, rights and privileges that women enjoy today.

  • If you would like to be part of celebrating and empowering women and their many contributions to our society – past, present and future – I invite you to make a $25 donation to the YWCA Hartford Region. It’s easy to do – here’s the link:

Honoring a Legacy

How Women’s History Speaks to Us Today
by Stacy Smith Walsh

Sometimes I find myself stunned by the thought that less than 100 years ago, women in the United States did not have the right to vote. This fundamental and precious right of citizenship, which so many people take for granted and fail to exercise, was one for which scores of women fought-and some nearly died-during seven decades of oppositional grandstanding, ferocious browbeating, passionate arguing, and tireless advocacy.

The story of the battle for women’s suffrage (91 years old this year) is one of high intrigue and suspense even though we know the outcome – and is certainly worthy of examination as Women’s History Month is now upon us. Women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Paul, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Welles, and so many others, have left a legacy for us. But Women’s History Month in general and the fight for women’s suffrage in particular, cause me, as a YWCA member, to reflect not on the victories and heroines of the past, but on the challenges in the future.

How does the legacy of these women help us now?

I will confess that Elizabeth Cady Stanton is my personal heroine, so I’ll share a little of her history and how it impacts and, in some ways, drives me. Elizabeth was the primary architect of the early women’s rights movement. In the mid 19th century, she was the first person to argue that women should have the right to vote – and was harshly criticized for taking that extreme position. Some of her bold and imaginative pleas for women’s rights were radical even by today’s standards.

So, it is her voice I hear in my head as I contemplate today’s political realities (or should I say circuses?), and it is through the prism of her philosophies that I view the spectrum of my views on the issues of the day. Of course, it’s hard to measure up. What can I – a 21st century, generation-X, working mother – do to honor the legacy of women like Elizabeth, who understood the profound importance of participation and representation in the political process?

I think Elizabeth would tell me – and all of us – that we honor the legacy of women’s history by doing three simple things:

  1. Vote. Own your place in government and in politics. Exercise the right to have your voice heard in the political forum. Failure to do so is fundamentally disrespectful to the women who fought to make sure we had that right. Elizabeth would scold you if she knew you were shirking your responsibility to participate in the elective franchise! This is the easy one.
  2. Inform yourself. Decide on what is important to you. Read the newspaper. Attend a community forum. Find out what your elected representatives think (they will tell you!) and how they are voting on issues that matter to you. Investigate YWCA’s own advocacy agenda and support our efforts to raise awareness of and obtain legislative support for issues affecting women and children in our community: access to quality education, workforce development and job training, prevention of sex trafficking of minors and reproductive choice and access to services.
  3. Take a stand. Participate in government. Contact your elected officials. Write a letter to the editor. Be an active participant in your world. Especially in a presidential election year, when rhetoric abounds about governmental priorities and responsibilities, take the opportunity to make your voice heard.

As a YWCA Hartford Region board member, I evaluate, analyze and help create policy around the work of YWCA Hartford Region and its programs: its advocacy agenda, its early childhood curriculum, its programming for young women and its fight against racism and social injustice. I am proud to be part of an organization that in words and deeds is honoring the legacy of the pioneers of women’s history, advocating on behalf of women, insisting on equality.

Elizabeth would be proud of us – but she would push us to do more, to look towards the future, and to remember the hard-won victories in the past that brought us where we are today.


About the writer: Stacy Smith Walsh is the firm wide Director of Human Resources at Day Pitney LLP, a full-service law firm with more than 300 attorneys in offices in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Boston and Washington, DC.  Stacy is a “recovering lawyer” – prior to working in human resources, she was a labor and employment litigator.

Stacy has been on the Board of Directors of the YWCA Hartford Region since 2008, and has served in various leadership roles on the Board over the years.  Stacy was honored by the Connecticut Bar Association in 2009 with an Outstanding Leadership Award for her contributions and service to women in the legal profession.  Stacy received her B.A., magna cum laude, in Speech Communication from the University of Alabama, her M.A. in Rhetoric from the University of Maryland, and received her J.D., cum laude, from Cornell Law School.

Distill complex information when you present

What makes an outstanding technical presentation versus a mediocre one? Chris Van Buiten, VP of Innovation at Sikrosky Aircraft Corporation, has a definite opinion on that subject. Chris was the guest speaker at a two-day presentation skills training workshop for technical professionals that I facilitated for Sikorsky engineers. My goal with this training was to help wean them off of their technical crutches and reduce their PowerPoint clutter so that they could become high engagement presenters able to inform and motivate their audiences to action.

Chris is considered by many in his industry to a best-in-class example of an outstanding technical presenter. See if you agree by watching his video from his 2010 Heli-Expo presentation in Houston, Texas.

Communication is an enormous differentiator in your career

I invited Chris to join us during lunch on the first day of the workshop and to share his insights on the do’s and don’ts of presenting. While he spoke, I took copious notes and marveled at his authentic presentation mastery.

Chris’ opening remarks were to congratulate the engineers on taking the time to take this training workshop. He said emphatically that “your ability to communicate is an enormous differentiator in your career.” It’s not enough just to be a technical subject matter expert; you must be able to effectively communication your ideas to many different kinds of people and audiences.

“To distill the complex data into nuggets of relevance, that’s your job; that’s why you get paid.” With that comment, Chris had our full attention.

“Showing a structured thought process and empathy for your audience is what a presenter must do. You must care about what they care about and give them what they need.”

How dare you show me that slide

Chris shared a memory of a presentation that a colleague made to one of the top brass at Sikorsky some four years ago. The presenter had shown a PowerPoint slide that was so cluttered with data and hard to understand, the decision maker said “How dare you show me that slide.” Chris explained that the slide demonstrated that the presenter had not taken the time to think through the meaning of the information and left that work for his audience to do. Not acceptable.

To extract the essence of the data

Chris repeatedly used the word “distill” throughout his talk with us. That led me to look up the definition of this commonly used verb. Here is what Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary has to say about the word distill:

Definition of dis-till

[transitive verb - a verb that requires both a direct subject and one or
more objects]

to extract the essence of

When I think of distilling, I remember a tour of a maple sugar house in Vermont some years ago. The distillation process is what takes tree sap and turns into the delicious “liquid gold” that goes on pancakes. I certainly would not want to do all the work required to convert that raw material into the finished product. That is the job of the sugarmaker, the title of the person who makes the maple syrup. The same applies to the presenter. It is our job to distill all the raw data and convert it into something the audience can use and enjoy if possible.

Don’t make your audience word so hard

Chris advised his engineering colleagues to make their briefings (their term for presentation) more about you, the presenter, than about your slides. “Don’t make the audience work so hard. Shift the focus to you and your message.”

Here are 10 tips from Chris to help you learn how to do become a more effective presenter:

  1. Tell the story. Most presenters get so tangled up in their content and the design of their charts, graphs and slides that they miss what is really important. Get to the story – the meaning of your data.
  2. Give the answer upfront. Don’t make them wait until the end of your presentation to hear your key message. Say it in the first few minutes.
  3. Prioritize your slides. Your first 4 slides should deliver 80% of your punch. Know which slide is the most important of all. Be able to get to it quickly.
  4. Simplify your charts. Don’t confuse them with quad charts (4 in 1 charts) or other overwhelming visual aids. Use pictures/images and a few words to support the points that you will make verbally as the speaker.
  5. Create an effective handout. Remember your PowerPoint presentation should never used as your handout. Never distribute them before your presentation. Why not save paper, time and effort and create greater value for your audience by creating a leave-behind that includes more detail than you were able to cover in your presentation. Think report, not slideument.
  6. Preparation is a big deal. Rehearsal will give you confidence. Prepare your opening and closing remarks. Practice saying them out loud, standing up (not just in quietly in your head or flipping through your slides/notes).
  7. Deliver the heat. Know when to turn on the passion and put more energy into your presentation delivery. That’s how you will capture and hold their attention.
  8. Focus on 2-3 take-away points. That’s as much as your audience can handle.
  9. Choose your delivery approach. You need to factor in the density of your message with your presentation approach. If you are presentation to your board of directors, every word matters. You might consider scripting your message and reading from your script. Of course, your delivery must be passionate and not robotic. Your audience sees you reading from your notes, but they must feel your message.
    • Editor’s comment: a great example of this can be seen in a video of Eve Ensler “Suddenly My Body.” She speaks from the podium, and has pages of scripted narrative, but her delivery is extraordinary. Do you think she practiced and rehearsed? You bet she did. Her performance shows!
  10. When they say YES, stop talking. Don’t continue to explain or present more detail. They already bought your idea. Don’t un-sell it with more blah-blah-blah.

 Persuasion is inserting your ideas into their brains willingly

“The ultimate in communication is having your customer tell your story. If they can repeat it, adopt it and own it, then it becomes their idea. That’s when you win as a presenter!”

“Presentation is synthesis: actionable nuggets, things that our clients and customers can understand and act upon.”

Chris Van Buiten concluded his motivating talk with us with the following wake-up call:

“What’s the value of a good idea if you cannot communicate it?” 



Results from My 21-day Financial Fast

This is the second year in a row that I have completed a 21-day financial fast as part of my personal and professional growth plan. I was inspired to undertake this challenge after listening to the keynote speaker Michelle Singletary at the YWCA Money Conference for Women in Connecticut.

This year the money conference fell on November 11th which meant that I had to endure the discipline of financial fasting during Thanksgiving and leading up to Christmas holiday. My 50th birthday also fell during the fast period, which was another interesting challenge. (how to celebrate without going into debt?)

What’s involved in a Financial Fast?

Here are the “rules” of a 21-day financial fast as I understand them from Michelle Singletary, author of the book The Power to Prosper: 21 Days to Financial Freedom.

  1. You can spend money only on NEEDS not wants. Asking yourself the question before every purchase “is this a want or a need?” will help guide your spending behavior through the 21-days.
  2. You must use CASH to buy things. You cannot pull out your credit card or debit card for any purchase (note: an MIT study showed that payment using any form of plastic (credit cards or debit cards) results in 50% or more spending than planned)
  3. No dining out or purchasing coffee from restaurants or cafes during the 21-days. Note: You can brew your favorite Dunkin’ Brands or Starbucks coffee beans at home and get the same taste. You can save a great deal of money and eat better when you pack your lunch and cook at home.
  4. Tithing and giving to charitable organizations is permitted during your financial fast. Michelle Singletary suggests this is the first item on your spending plan.
  5. Journal and record every penny you spend during your 21-days. Every penny has a purpose.You’ll want to know where you money went.

These “rules” are really guidelines and you may find, as I did, that you break them now and again. The key is to be AWARE of your financial decision making in the moment. Conscious money management is vital to your prosperity.

Listen to this Radio Interview with me and Mary Jones

On Tuesday, January 31, 2012 I was interviewed on the radio by Mary Jones of the Mary Jones Show. She accidentally referred to my fast as a 21-day financial feast. Interview is 23 minutes.


What did I learn from this year’s Financial Fast?

Below is a summary of the major lessons and benefits that I gained during this 21-day financial fast.

  1. Financial discipline is a family affair. It’s hard to be a frugalist in a house full of shoppers (ask my husband). Why not motivate your spouse and children to join you on this “little experiment” for 21-days of financial fasting. See how much you can save together. Talk it up. Make a game out of it.
  2. You rarely save money when you spend it. Look at every coupon and special offer with a skeptic’s eye.They are working really hard to get you to buy something you most likely don’t need. If you don’t buy it, you save the most money.
  3. No deal is good enough to get into debt (or pepper spraying your fellow Wal-Mart shoppers). Black Friday (the shopping day after Thanksgiving) fell during my financial fast. The reports of aggressive shoppers were truly shocking. No bargain is worth hurting someone else to get it.
  4. The best way to save money is to stay out of the stores. It takes extreme discipline to go to a grocery story and only buy the 1/2 gallon of milk that you were needing. Impulse shopping has become part of the American way of life. Sometimes it’s best to resist all temptation and just not go there. Take a walk, go to the library, meditate instead – all these things will cost you nothing, and benefit you greatly.

My Facebook Daily Log

Below is a recap of the day by day journaling that I did on Facebook.

21-Day Financial Fast
Kathy McAfee – 2011 Daily Log

DAY #1 FINANCIAL FAST. Okay, here we go. The first day of my 21-day financial fast. I am really excited about this experience and will be sharing with you what I did with my money each day for 21 days. Michelle Singletary is my inspiration. Today she encouraged us to log our daily spending and to differentiate WANTS from NEEDS. Today, I paid CASH for Koi fish food – $15.94 (NEED) and 2 bottles of white wine total of $10.61 (WANT). Knowing that I was going on this fast, yesterday I ordered things from on-line catalogs totaling $262. Shameful! No more of that for 21 days!

  • COMMENTS Zakhar Glukhovsky, Anne Witkavitch and Cyndi Papia like this. Gurye Johns Smith You have a sort of “Mardi Gras,” before your fast! lol  Lisa Lane Sundean Question: If you prepare for the financial fast by ferociously spending before the start of the fast, are you really fasting???

Day #2 FINANCIAL FAST. It’s Sunday and my goal is not to spend a single penny. My strategy is to stay out of all stores and to just enjoy what I have at the house (the pantry is plenty stocked). My boys are collecting wood for next year (so many fallen tress after the bad snowstorm in CT). I may go to the YMCA and enjoy a swim and maybe take a yoga class. (that is, use the fitness membership that we have already paid for!). I did go through my wallet this morning and removed all non-critical credit cards and frequent shopper cards. No need for extra plastic in my life.

  • COMMENTS Arlan S Lieblick, Leslie Hammond, Zakhar Glukhovsky and 9 others like this. Kathleen Oyanadel i went to Christmas Tree Shops today and helped the economy….too bad it was China’s. Nancy Anton It will work until you need gas!

Day #3 FINANCIAL FAST. Another day of zero spending. Hurray. I had two speaking engagements today and was on the road from 9am-7pm. The first client invited me to stay for lunch, which I did and got to network more with the professional women of UTC. My second client treated me to a cup of tea before my evening engagement. I did not stop for dinner, but went straight home to get dinner. The money in my wallet stayed there the entire day. No plastic used. Success!!!

  • COMMENTS Susan Petroskey Boop, Kellie Fenton, Lewis Green and 7 others like this. Dennis Murphy Keep on keepin’ on America Marketing Motavator! Cool (and timely) project, have you tried to pull any PR from this, enquiring minds want to know!!!Cindy Whitney Clark So inspirational, Kathy! Thanks for posting your progress. Loving following this – it’s motivating me to do the same! Dorien Roelofs-Boon van Ostade Yup, I knew it, you are Dutch!

Day #4 FINANCIAL FAST – drove to the bank today and withdrew $200 cash to pay for necessities of the day. Specifically paid $133 cash for my dental check up (NEED) – saving 10% b/c I paid that day!; also paid $30 cash to fill up my car (NEED) – saved 10 cents per gallon by using my stop ‘n shop card and driving to the participating Shell station. I still have some cash in my wallet, but I am determined to have it stay there. No more spending today. I’m done.

  • COMMENTS Susan Petroskey Boop, Chris John Amorosino, Princess Bola Adelani and 8 others like this. Jerry McGeehan I am enjoying following your progress. Keep up the great work. Kellie Fenton Sometimes we may feel like we can’t save money because we have to pay for certain things. May I suggest that we take a moment to appreciate when we can use the money we earned to pay for these NEEDS. Yay – teeth cleaning!!

Day #5 FINANCIAL FAST. I did not personally spend any money today. My husband went shopping and called to ask me if I wanted anything. I bit my lip and said “No – I’m fine.” Pam Lacko of Smart Clicks LLC recommended that I purchase computer back up service called I was prepared to make a business investment of $59, but signed up for their 15-day free trial. Try before you buy.

  • COMMENTS Lori French Linn, Nancy Lees Guthrie and Gurye Johns Smith like this. Debbie Roth Fay As long as you’re enjoying it, I’m cheering you on.Linda Pulford I’ve finished my holiday shopping, but have to stay out of the stores to keep from over shopping. library, walks, museums and friends are free.

Day #6 FINANCIAL FAST. Does it count when your husband does the shopping but not you? Not sure how the Financial Fast police would judge this one. In preparation for a little birthday gathering that Byron is hosting for me on Saturday, he spent $263 at COSTCO in food. Food is a basic necessity, but parties are not. However, when you turn 50 years old, you gotta bend the rules and have a little fun. Would you agree?

  • COMMENTS Marcia Maroni Kielb, Kristin Waitkus McDaniel, Cynthia Campos and 11 others like this. Dorothy MartinNeville Some things absolutely need to celebrated and the success of achieving it sane is a bigger gift!Rose Marie Garcia Fontana Of course you al had to celebrate! And frankly, the amount Byron spend was quite frugal, in my opinion! Hope your special day was beyond wonderful…love you! Rosi and Chu

Day #7 FINANCIAL FASTthis day marked my 50th birthday. I had to balance my inclination for celebration and for self-discipline. Byron and I took the day off (off-line too) and took a long drive in the car, after enjoying a morning swim at the YMCA. We made our way north, stopping to eat at some of our favorite little places in MA. I am pleased to say that we paid for almost everything in CASH (except for gasoline), including $3.50 for a cream puff, $5.00 for hot cider and french fries, $85 for dinner out at my one my favorite restaurants- Arugula in West Hartford, CT. Our neighbors watched our kids while we were out (saving money on babysitting!) One final thing, after dinner we stopped off at Best Buy to see how much money we could save if we downgraded our cell phones to the basic service (do we really need mobile internet connection 24/7?). We checked out their pay-as-you-go plans. We resisted buying on the spot, knowing that we need to do more research on options before making our move.

Day #8 FINANCIAL FASTwe attended a funeral of a dear neighbor this morning which reminded me that the richness in our lives is really friends and family, not wealth and possessions. In the afternoon, we readied our house for a birthday party that Byron had organized for me. Nothing like planning a party to get your house cleaned and in order! Byron sent me out to the store to pick up a few last things. Nearly out of gas, I had to put $40 worth of petrol in the car, paying cash. Stopped to get the food first – $18.03 in groceries. I struggled with the price of the all-natural mayonnaise vs. the chemically enhanced cheaper brands. (went with the healthy choice). Then I made my way to the Wine Store, worrying that I didn’t have enough cash to buy both the red and the white wine that we would need for the party. I was delighted when I got to the register that I almost had enough cash – just 10 cents short. I thought the store clerk would let me go with this meager short-fall. Apparently, he knows that every penny has a purpose too. So he held me order while I dashed to the car to get 10 pennies. I felt so empowered to get what I needed without having to take out my debit or credit card. VICTORY!

Day 9-10-11 FINANCIAL FAST. I was doing so well, having spent no incremental money on Sunday and Monday. Today, I caved. I got an offer from Lands End that I just couldn’t resist – save 30% and free shipping. I just spent (using credit card) $72 on 4 turtleneck sweaters. I bought one for my birthday earlier and absolutely love it. Then I got a call from Lands End to see how I like my order. Love that customer service touch. My justification is that on my earlier order I will returning a dress and boots that don’t fit/aren’t my style. I call that rationale – McAfee logic. It allows me to justify spending. Boy, have I fallen off the financial fast bandwagon. Credit cards (the modern version of lay-away) make your wants feel like real immediate needs.

Day 12 FINANCIAL FAST. Back on track today. Spent $25 cash for a gift certificate to a nail salon for my wonderful neighbor and friend Luana whose birthday is tomorrow. Thought a pampering service would be better than more STUFF. Over to the pharmacy where I spent $21 and change (paid cash) for prescription and support materials I need for a doctor’s appt next week. My husband on the other hand pulled out the credit card a few times today. He is frugal by nature, so his expenditures were modest (Turkey at the grocery store, shoes/jacket at a consignment shop). All told he charged $33 on credit cards today. He is getting used to me asking “Did you pay cash?” Everyone in the family is aware that I am on this financial fast. Awareness is the first step towards changing habits.

Day 13 FINANCIAL FAST. It’s Thanksgiving Day, a day where we give thanks for what we have (as opposed to wanting more and more stuff). The only thing I spent today was time with friends and family. It was a great investment and yielding immediate and joyful returns. It is ironic that Black Friday sales have creeped into Thanksgiving Day. We saw people camping outside of BestBuy, just waiting for the doors to open at 12:01am – so they could buy things that they probably don’t really need with money that they don’t yet have.

Day 14 FINANCIAL FAST. I awoke this morning to find my husband missing. I thought that maybe he was downstairs reading or working, but then I discovered his car was gone. He left a note that said “I was up so I went out.” I feared the worst…. No, not that he had left me for another woman, but that he had been lured to the stores for the Black Friday specials. (like we really need another big screen TV??). He came home at 8am (after being out since 3am). Fortunately, he only purchased 2 ladders that he needed for his construction business. Here’s a financial tip for the holidays: stay out of the stores. No deal is that good to put you in debt. 

Day 15 FINANCIAL FAST. It was an unseasonably warm fall day today – perfect for working/playing outside (and staying out of the stores). I enjoyed a morning class in Tae Kwon Do (working off the turkey feast the day before). Gave my sons $4 cash for hot chocolate during their Boy Scout Xmas tree sales event. Paid $2.53 to mail my book via media mail (vs. $5.50 for priority mail). Needed gasoline, so I paid $38.95 in cash to fill up my car, leaving me $8 for groceries. I know that I should have balanced that a little better. Got to the food store and was reminded how expensive food is. Bought the milk and bananas that were on my list. Picked up a few vegetables for the turkey soup we wanted to make. Got to the register and was bummed that I was $2 short. Embarrassed, I pulled out my debit card and charged the remaining $2 to my bank account. I resisted the urge to get cash back. I walked out of the store with what I needed for the moment ….and, yes, an empty wallet.

Day 16 FINANCIAL FAST. They say that Sunday is the day of rest. Well, I rested my financial self at home, spending no additional money. I found plenty of food to eat in the pantry and refrigerator, lots of clean water from our tap (filtered by a Britta pitcher) and plenty of things to do around the house and garden to entertain myself. Speaking of entertainment, last night we attended Simsbury Celebrates, an annual outdoor holiday kickoff with free shows, performances, and festivities. While there were things to buy, like food and drink, we stuck to our financial fast and just enjoyed what was offered for free. When we got home, we watched a great movie -Ghost Writer – that we checked out from our library….for free!

Day 17  FINANCIAL FAST. I made a few business expenditures today. $11 at the post office, $59 for a back-up files service. I utilized my YMCA membership to get a great workout and swim this morning. You know how many people buy gym memberships and then don’t use them? Lastly, I drove to the bank to withdraw $100 in $5 bills, so that I’d have change to make for book sales after my motivational talk tomorrow with The Breakfast Club in Manchester, CT. It reminded me that you have to have money to make money. And if you save money, you’ll have more money to invest it in things that really matter to you.

Day 18 FINANCIAL FAST. I stopped at Sears today after my morning speaking engagement to return part of a Lands End order (a splurge before I began this 21-day spending fast). I was determined to return merchandise only and not buy anything while I was there. I was curious as to what was on the 75% clearance rack, but walked away without peaking. On the drive home, I heard a radio commercial for a FREE parenting program to help with defiant children (that’s a whole other story). I called the 800 number, skeptical about its promise of free. Boy are they good at building rapport on the telephone. Kyle talked me into getting the FREE program for only $138 charge to my credit card. Of course this will be refunded as will the 2 following payments of $119 if I return the completed survey within 90 days. That’s how you get it for free. Ha! I suppose that I am a sucker…and my teenage sons are a real challenge right now. I do need some intervention and help. I guess that makes that purchase a NEED (if not a deterrent). When I arrived home my husband brought in the mail to find SURPRISE another Lands End package. I really do like their turtlenecks. I now have 4 more in different colors. Oh dear, perhaps I haven’t really learned anything on this financial fast after all.

Day 19 and 20 FINANCIAL FAST. Can you believe it? Only one more day to go to complete my 21-day financial fast. In the past 2 days I have spent a total of $40 on gasoline in CASH. It’s amazing to pay for fuel and groceries in cash – you really realize how expensive these necessities are. Yesterday I had a colonoscopy (now that I’m 50, it’s time). I elected to have the screening procedure this calendar year as my insurance deductible was fully paid up thanks to my unexpected cancer treatments. Timing it just right might have saved me $1,700-$3,000. Best yet, the results came out clear and healthy. Investing in preventative health care with proper screenings, good nutrition, exercise and wellness is the BEST investment you can make. I encourage you to prioritize this kind of spending in your budget.

Day 21 FINANCIAL FAST. It’s taken me a few days to write my final log entry. I can’t believe that 21-days has come and gone so quickly. In an odd way, I am going to miss my financial fast experiment. On my last day which was a Friday, I spent no money out of pocket. We cooked at home, got our entertainment at home, used the YMCA for exercise, making good use of our monthly membership. All was as it should be. However, I did have a nightmare that I was caught at a day spa driving up my credit card on manicure/pedicure and facials. In the two days that followed the completion of this financial fast, I have made an effort to continue my cash-only spending and focus on needs not wants. I will once again plan on conducting a 21-day financial fast in my 2012 personal goals. I encourage you to do the same. It’s good for you and it’s good for your future.

I invite YOU to take the challenge of a 21-day Financial Fast

I want to encourage you to take the 21-day financial fast challenge. Why not plan it in as part of your 2012 new years resolutions or goal setting? I am going to do it every year. It’s fun, it’s insightful, and it is prosperous.

I also encourage you to use FACEBOOK to record your daily experiences on your 21-day financial fast. It’s a great way to engage your network and get the support you’ll need to get through it with grace and ease.


About the writer:Kathy McAfee is known as America’s Marketing Motivator and is author of the book Networking Ahead for Business (Kiwi Publishing 2010). In her role as Executive Presentation Coach and Professional Speaker, Kathy helps her clients to become the recognized leaders in their fields by mastering the art of high engagement presentations and more effective networking and connecting. To learn more about Kathy, visit her web site To receive free weekly networking tips, sign up at



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