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

New Money Challenges: Testing My Financial Willpower

I’ve always liked setting challenges for myself.  Perhaps it’s a strange obsession that I have with self-improvement, but I find it interesting to see how I do when I’m truly testing myself.  Many of the challenges I’ve come up with in the past have been a bit informal.  I’ve told myself I needed to lose weight and have succeeded in doing so many times.  I forced myself to quit spending so much time reading Yahoo news stories and the Facebook news feed.  I even convinced myself to go without eating meat for a week, which turned into 6 years (and counting).

I’ve gotten a little bored with finances lately, so I’ve decided to spice things up with some new ideas.  Here are a few challenges I created for myself for the next month (until March 4):

I will only drive a maximum of once per week.  Excessive driving is one of the things that I truly dislike about car ownership.  Once I had a car around again, but biking and walking trips plummet.  It’s so easy to jump in the car when it’s cold outside or my destination is just a little too far for easy biking or walking.  But, in reality, a lot of people get by in New Haven without a car. It’s tough at times, but if I really want to get somewhere, I’ll find a way, car or not.  Allowing myself to drive once a week will ensure that I plan out my one trip really well and grocery shop or whatever on just that one trip.  In case you were wondering, if I ride in someone else’s car, that counts as my one trip.

I will not check email from 6 to 10 pm. Okay so this isn’t a direct financial goal, but email is a time waster that impedes financial goals.  I’ve been trying really hard to find a better system for reducing email since reading The 4-Hour Workweek.  This period is my prime time for working on my personal and professional development, along with writing.  If I wasted less time dealing with email, I’d have more time to work on these things instead.

I will plan out my time and what I need to get done each day. This goes along with my post on my job and scheduling around my 9-5 workday.  I’m still amazed at how much I get done when I come home from work contrasted to how little I seem to get done on days off.  Having a structure in place is what drives me to work the most.  In order to accomplish this goal, I’m going to use an idea from David Risley.  I’ll plan out each day the night before so that I make sure to manage my free time well and get everything I need done.

I will not purchase any “things”. I’m trembling and pondering this one nervously as I write it.  Will there be something I desperately need?  What if something breaks? I’m going on a trip to Spain in March.  What if I need to buy something for that? Despite my reservations, I feel slightly reassured because I actually completed this challenge accidentally back in October. I just didn’t realize it until I looked back at my spending for that month.  But I want to see if I can do it again, consciously this time.  So, no buying anything non-consumable: no books, CDs, DVDs, computer equipment, or other toys.  I’ll have to rely on borrowing or just get along without it until March 4.

I’m normally not big on attempting multiple challenges at the same time.  I feel that lowers the chances of success, as some goals distract from one another.  But I feel like these challenges are separate enough that I can attempt them without interference from one another. So on we go.  I’ll provide updates throughout the month, and I’ll (hopefully) be reporting successes instead of failures.

Here are some other challenges I’m thinking of for future months:

– Purchase everything with cash only

– Read news for less than 5 minutes a day

– Don’t make excuses for anything I know I should do but don’t due to laziness

Do you have any challenges you think I should attempt? How about some goals for yourself?

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Photo by: Global Jet