A few weeks ago, I reviewed Leo Babauta’s excellent book The Power of Less, which details a lifestyle philosophy of reducing and simplifying life.
One of the most thought-provoking portions of the book was the idea of the “thirty day challenge.” If you’re attempting to adopt a new habit in your life, simply try it – and focus on it – for thirty days. The book offers a lot of examples for trying this – going vegetarian for thirty days, going to the gym for thirty days, and so on.
Since reading the book, I’ve been really inspired to look for ways to apply thirty day challenges in my own life. I made a giant list of potential thirty day challenges that I could try, whittled it down to a few, and may have selected one to go with (push-up training). Along the way, though, I kept adding more and more great ideas to the original list – ones that meshed well with my life, along with ones that I simply thought were good ideas for almost everyone.
Unsurprisingly, quite a few of these ideas had to do with personal finance. There are a lot of “thirty day challenges” you can take on in your own life to improve your money situation. Here are twelve great ways to use the next thirty days to bring about personal finance change in your life.
Thirty days to avoid all unnecessary spending For the next thirty days, only spend money when it’s absolutely needed. If you’re about to make a purchase or engage in an activity that isn’t strictly necessary, either avoid it (if you’re just buying something frivolous) or find a cheaper solution (like eating at home instead of going out).
Thirty days to track every dime you spend It’s easy – just keep a notebook in your pocket and every time you spend a penny, jot it down in that notebook. Include everything, from paying the bills to buying a cup of coffee. If a cent leaves your pocket or your checking account, jot it down. Once you have this record, at the end of the trial, categorize the spending and add it up – you might be shocked to see how much you’re spending on coffee (for one example).
Thirty days to understand your retirement investment options Many people postpone making major decisions about their retirement plans because of the sheer volume and complexity of options. Sorting through these can make for a great thirty day challenge. Start by making a list of the things you’re unsure about, then devote some time (half an hour might do it) each day to dealing with these questions until you’re confident about your retirement planning.
Thirty days to cook at home Make a pledge to prepare all of your food at home by yourself for thirty days. At the end of the period, not only will you have eaten much cheaper than you would have otherwise, you’ll also acquire many of the basic cooking skills you’ll need to make such home cooking a normal part of your routine, saving you money over the long haul.
Thirty days to develop your presentation skills Spend the next thirty days looking for opportunities to speak in public – and then follow through with them with appropriate prep work, practice, and execution. Doing this will do nothing but improve your ability to share your ideas in the workplace and gain more acclaim for your skills no matter what you’re doing.
Thirty days to seek a new job Do you feel stuck in your current job? You like what you’re doing, but you feel stuck in place by a glass ceiling or by office politics. What you might need is simply a change in perspective that can come with a new job in your area. Spend a month doing some careful searching for positions that might be available to you. Apply to the most promising ones and see what happens.
Thirty days to develop and optimize a debt repayment plan A debt repayment plan is just what it says it is – a plan you develop and execute to manage your debts and eventually get rid of them. Getting such a plan in order and optimized can require a lot of leg work, though, so devote fifteen minutes each day to getting your plan in place.
Thirty days to develop strong personal goals What do you want out of life? Where do you want to be in a year? In five years? In twenty years? If you don’t know, spend some time thinking carefully about those questions. Put some time aside each day to think about what you really want out of life. Once you have those goals in place, it becomes a lot easier to make choices in your life that work towards something truly big instead of just wandering day to day.
Thirty days to improve your work relationships Professional relationships are the lifeblood of many careers, but it’s quite easy to get caught up in the day-to-day bustle of work and let many valuable relationships die on the vine. Spend a half an hour each day sprucing up these relationships. Touch base by email or Facebook. Make a phone call or two. Stop by an office or a cubicle. Ask what they’re up to and offer what you have to share. Every relationship you build with something of value is something that can help you out later when you really need it.
Thirty days to try out budgeting For many people, a budget feels like a major step, one fraught with a lot of stress and a lot of challenges along the way. However, a well-executed budget can really help you to get your spending under control. Pick up a great budgeting guide, develop one for yourself, and pledge to stick to it for thirty days. If nothing else, you’ll learn a lot about yourself and your spending along the way.
Thirty days to investigate a new career Are you feeling burnt out with your current career path? Have you fallen out of love with your work? It might be time to think about a new career. Spend the next month investigating potential alternate careers for your skill set.