In the spirit of Cait Flander’s shopping ban, where she gave up buying stuff for a year, described on episode 81; we’re bringing you some challenges to get your new year started off right!
While you may not want to try a new way of living for an entire year or give up something you love for twelve calendar months–what would mixing things up for just a month or a quarter do for your FI journey?
Taking on a challenge for a limited time likely will challenge the things you took for granted. Those old patterns can be shaken loose and help you see this new year as the awesome opportunity it is. Plus, it’s just fun to try something new (and frugal too!) to mix up your routine.
Here are twelve different challenges you can take on for a time–whether you try these for a week at a time, a full month, or even deviations of these ideas for the whole year, you’ll have a great year ahead! Some are fun, some are financial, and others are just interesting!
No matter what you try, each challenge will change the way you see things!
Challenge Idea 1: Eating Healthy/Menu Experiments
Have you ever tried going vegan for one day a week or even a month? How about intermittent fasting? Would you be able to live without processed foods or added sugar? Why not try it for a spell?
If you tackle this challenge, you’ll hopefully save money but learn some culinary skills in the process and put all of those weird kitchen gadgets to good use. Mixing up a healthy eating challenge with trying a new culture’s food each month or tackling family recipes can be a great way to talent stack in the kitchen and making mealtime more of an engaging challenge.
Podcast episode: Vegan Path To FI
Challenge Idea 2: Grocery Budget Challenge
Could you get excited about trying new ultra-frugal recipes or going a whole year without restaurants? One challenge idea could be to take your existing grocery budget and cut it in half. If you’re spending too much already, this can be a huge learning (and saving) experience. If you’re already highly frugal at the grocery store–this can be a comical experiment to try for a month or so.
Taking on the challenge of a month without restaurants surely will shake up your happy hour habit and trips to the vending machine–but could you go a full year without these little food habits? What would your life look like if you had to plan for all meals, snacks, and beverages?
Focusing on cutting costs at the grocery store OR going a month/year without restaurants could be your biggest challenge of the year!
Podcast episode: Crushing Your Grocery Budget
Challenge Idea 3: Gratitude/Giving Back
We always say we’re too busy for volunteering, but what would life look like if we made room on our calendars solely to focus on fostering connection and giving back?
Instead of waiting for your post-retirement life to contribute to causes you care about, how can you squeeze volunteering, mentorship, and community building into your schedule? Making a commitment of a total number of hours for the year, or a weekly cadence of activities can be a great way to track and build this challenge.
Another challenge idea is to do a 30-day minimalism game challenge. On day one, you pick one thing to give away to charity or to get rid of, on day two, you pick two things, day three you gather three things–all the way up to 30. It makes for an exciting month and you will surely clear through all of the spare pens in your junk drawer. And your donations to charities go to a good cause.
Podcast episode: Generous Giving On The Path To FI
Challenge Idea 4: Going Car-less
Be honest, have you actually taken the bus where you live? If so, good on you! But also, when was the last time you carpooled with someone who wasn’t in your immediate family? If you can live on one car or no cars, you can embrace your inner Mr. Money Mustache and give it a whirl.
Bonus points if you try biking in lieu of a car or public transportation–you’ll get fit and cut transportation costs to the bone.
Related Article: How To Start Commuting By Bicycle
Challenge Idea 5: Adventure Challenge
Have you hiked all the trails near your house? Do you know of the free museum days in your community and use them? Do you know the best parks and free activities your community maintains?
Make adventure a challenge and commit to doing a new adventure along a theme. Or craft your own unique plan to scratch off adventures for each weekend of the month or year. To ensure you’re successful, build a list, pull up a map, and get to planning what you’ll tackle and where you’ll want to go first. Pack a bag in your car for last minute trips, and buy extra grab-and-go snacks when they’re on sale so you never have a reason not to go!
Podcast episode: Planned Spontaneity
Challenge Idea 6: Reading Challenge
Reading is fun-damental. Now that most of us are done with our school years, reading can sometimes takes a backseat. A reading challenge can be undertaken in any way that suits your schedule. Do you want to tackle a new book a month? Or read an entire series you’ve been meaning to get to (Harry Potter or the works of J.R.R. Tolkien)?
You could also use this new year as an opportunity to explore books around a skill you want to learn, or tackle a theme–like real estate, finance, building a business, or personal development each month. Of course, starting a ChooseFI book club with your local group is an option too!
Related Article: Top Recommended Books To Start Your FIRE Journey
Challenge Idea 7: Local Tourist Challenge
Have you ever had a friend come to visit and realize you’ve never actually been around town? Do you actually visit the things the city is known for or strive to check out new spots? This could be the year you work to know your city or state in a way that you would as a tourist paying big bucks just to come visit.
Make a city or state bucket list of parks, trails, historic sites, free events, art, and cultural sites, and yes–even the tourist traps–to knock one off every week, or month.
Related Article: 10 Things You Can Get For Free From Your Library
Challenge Idea 8: Side Hustle Challenge
What would you do with an extra $300, $500, $2,000 or $5,000 a month in your monthly income? What would your life look like if you acquired new skills and challenged yourself to monetize your hobbies or get out there in the new sharing economy?
Setting a goal to take on a new business or project that can bring in more income can be an exciting endeavor to either start or scale, work that you love on the side. Even if you don’t plan on doing a side hustle forever, could a year-long challenge be something exciting to explore in the new year? Give it a try to see if you hit your goals!
Podcast Episode: Finding Your Side Hustle Idea
Challenge Idea 9: No Shopping Challenge
Cait Flanders, author of The Year of Less shared her Shopping Ban and views on minimalism on episode 81 of the ChooseFI podcast. What if you had to use up everything you already had, borrow instead of buy, or do without? What would a year of no-shopping look like for you? What about even a month?
Taking a ban on shopping to use up, repurpose, and creatively source what you use regularly can help you save more money but also do a pulse check on your needs vs. your wants for a clutter-less existence.
Podcast Episode: The Year Of Less
Challenge Idea 10: No TV or Netflix Challenge
Many of us have already canceled our cable, but Netflix is still a staple for many of us in the FI community. TV is sometimes as innocent as white noise, other times it’s a useful distraction, but many times it can become an unhealthy standby that keeps us from living our lives to their fullest.
Taking a week, a month, or longer, without our favorite shows and the distractions of the television set could free up your day for more learning, exploring, conversing and adventure. A no TV challenge–regardless of length can be an awesome reset!
Podcast Episode: Mindfulness And FI
Challenge Idea 11: Social Media Detox Challenge
Speaking of resets, do you mindlessly scroll through your Facebook feed upon waking and before going to bed? Do you thumb through Instagram when you have a long line at the Post Office or waiting for the bus? How many times do you check emails each day just to be sure you haven’t missed something, and how excited do you feel when something shows up?
Studies have shown that we get a dopamine hit from our devices. The mere anticipation of getting an email, likes on a post, or comments on something we shared provides a rush. If we hear our phones going off and we don’t check our phones after hearing the familiar ping, it can literally cause separation anxiety.
In the new year, it could be a good time to explore what life looks like without the constant pull of our phones–using them for phone calls only. Deciding on a time period of abstinence from your social media channels that feels right for you could be eye-opening.
Podcast Episode: Drift
Challenge Idea 12: Pillar of FI Challenge
You’ve heard of the Pillars of FI, but have you actively pursued them to the best level possible? You can use this new year to walk through them yourself, or if you’re close with someone who has started on the path to financial independence–it could be a great exercise to try together.
1. Low Cost Index Fund Investing
2. Low Cost Housing
3. Buy Used Cars
4. Crush Your Grocery Bill
5. Tax Optimization
6. College Hacking
7. Travel Rewards
8. Cut The Cord
9. Side Hustle
10. Savings Rate & The 4% Rule
Chances are you’ve implemented some of the pillars of FI, but not all of them, and maybe there are some that you could improve. Take it a month at a time, explore how you can rock each pillar for whatever life stage you’re in and keep moving forward!
Podcast Episode: The Pillars Of FI
What other ideas do you have for monthly FI related challenges? What hacks or challenges have you implemented in your own life to spice up your journey towards financial independence? We want to hear from you to see what works, what’s exciting and where the community is headed next!
- 7 Of The Best Personal Finance Tools To Help You Get Control Of Your Finances
- The Aggregation Of Marginal Gains
- The Beginner’s Guide To Reaching Financial Independence