February Money Challenge Recap: Matching Goals With Engagement

Gmail email webpageI’m wrapping up my money challenges from the last month.  It was an interesting experiment, especially considering that I didn’t really do much thinking and basically decided to do it on a whim.  My quality of life stayed about the same, but I learned some things from all of my efforts.

Here’s a recap of each challenge:

Challenge #1: I will only drive a maximum of once per week. This turned out to be harder than I thought, and it really wasn’t a well-designed goal.  First off, I went on several weekend trips in the last month and most of them required driving.  While the good news is that I carpooled on almost all of these, the bad news is it led to multiple driving trips a week.  However, I rode my bike just about every day to work.  Within New Haven, I didn’t drive on any trips where I could have walked or biked instead.  I didn’t execute this goal perfectly, but I would still call it a mild success.

My Grade: B

Challenge #2: I will not check email from 6 to 10 pm. I employed some outside help from LeechBlock on this one.  Still, I did admittedly cheat a few times.  I sent emails when I felt they were important and that I would forget them later.  I also realized that a lot of the reading and other work I do requires that I have access to my email archives.  I found it tough to be perfect on this one, but I would definitely say that I saved time.

My Grade: B-

Challenge #3: I will plan out my time and what I need to get done each day. I feel like a had a lot of success with scheduling my time, and I was probably more productive the whole month by implementing this goal.  I religiously planned my evenings on Mondays to Thursdays.  But I didn’t always do this on the weekends, mostly because a) I don’t do as much work then, and b) what I’m doing is much less predicatble.  My planning wasn’t perfect, but I think this is one challenge I’ll convert to a regular practice because I know it helps.

My Grade: B+

Challenge #4: I will not purchase any “things.” I definitely thought this was going to be the toughest of the four, but it actually ended up being the easiest.  I only (sorta) broke this rule once: I spent $3 on an mp3 album on Amazon.com.  This was more of a memory lapse rather than defying my own rules.  Other than that, I thought about buying several things, but didn’t actually go through with it.  Obviously I can’t do this forever, but I think it’s important to realize that I can live just fine without buying things most of the time..

My Grade: A

Challenge Observations

The one thing that sticks out in my mind about the whole challenge: to succeed, I need to be fully engaged and seriously want to accomplish my goals.  Perhaps this is a bit cliche for life in general, but I don’t think my heart was really in all of these goals.  Yes, I do think they’re all worthtrying harder at and would improve my life if I did, but they aren’t the most important things to me.  I want to cut back on driving a car, but I don’t care enough about it to let it derail my other plans.  I think checking email less is generally a good idea, but I think there were times when I made exceptions to my own rule and it really didn’t make a difference.

I’d really like to stick to only one goal at a time.  This goal could certainly be more challenging and significant that the ones I tested here.

I definitely plan to continue on with my challenges, starting again in mid-March when I return from Spain.  Right now, I’m almost 100% certain I’m going to stop using credit cards for a month.

Other ideas? Let me know in the comments.

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photo by: Artur Oliveira Gomes