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Log in Your Miles for the March Challenge!

April 1st, 2010 at 03:18 pm

Pretty Cheap Jewelry beat me to the punch. Yes, it's time to log in your total mileage for the month of March, minus your regular commuting miles.

Sadly, I put myself out of the challenge a week or so ago when I reset my odometer to clock mileage on a trip, totally forgetting the Put It In Park Challenge.

So where do you stand?

Is your month's worth of mileage more or less than you expected?

Just for hoo-has, I think I'm going to check my mileage (this time, by writing down my starting mileage) and, without doing anything special, see how many miles I drive. The number should be pretty close to my minimum possible anyway since I consolidate errands as much as I can already.

Put It in Park: Log in Your Miles

March 24th, 2010 at 08:29 am

How's everyone doing with the March Challenge: Put It in Park?

We're approaching the end of the month, which might be a good time to see if you've succeeded in reducing your miles driven.

I accidentally disqualified myself yesterday when I reset my odometer to track my mileage.

How many miles have you clocked in March?

Join the March Challenge: Put It in Park

March 1st, 2010 at 08:22 am

Lord, I was born a homebody
Trying to make a living and doing the best I can
And when it's time for saving
I hope you'll understand
Cus I was born a homebody.

Welcome to the March Challenge, the next in a series of monthly challenges designed to get you thinking more about how easily your hard-earned money's spent.

The March Challenge seeks to raise awareness of how much you rely on your car or SUV every day. Sure, you've got to get to work and drop the kids off here or there, but have you ever stopped to think how much those little trips add up in terms of both wear and tear on the car and consumption of gas?

If you'd like to participate in the March Challenge, set your car's odometer to 0 today. Throughout the month, the challenge is to minimize the miles you put on your vehicle, whether by deferring trips until they can be consolidated with other errands or using alternative means of getting where you need to go.

Get creative by considering these options to driving:

* Consolidating driving trips
This is a big one. How many times have you sent your spouse out to the grocery store to pick up a single item? How many times do you run out to go somewhere during a single Saturday?

* Using public transportation
Not everyone has access to trains, subways or buses but for those who do, public transit is one of the most under-utilized, taxpayer-subsidized deals around.

* Carpooling with neighbors or family to run errands
If one of your neighbors is a senior citizen, think what a nice gesture it would be to suggest you hit the supermarket together and take turns driving. If you're willing to help her load groceries in the trunk, you'll earn your Good Samaritan star for sure.

* Walking or bicycling
If you're lucky enough to live near town, keep the car in the garage and get some exercise while you run errands. Although I live in a spread out, suburban town, I often walk to our public library, the movie theater, a Chinese restaurant and a supermarket, when I only need a few items.

If you have more than one vehicle in your household or more than one family member who uses one vehicle, you'll have to sort out how to address that in the challenge. If you use your second vehicle to do all the driving this month, you're not really following the spirit of the challenge.

On March 31, we'll all report our mileage. The winner is the person who has driven the fewest miles between March 1 and March 31.

To get the most from the Challenge, I encourage you to continue tracking your mileage for the month of April (by setting your odometer back to 0 on April 1) so you can see how many fewer miles you can drive when you set your mind to it versus how many miles you drive according to your typical driving patterns.

Deduct Your Commute Miles
I realize that the playing field will not be completely level starting out, because many of us have sometimes lengthy commutes to work that we can't do much about. So I'm going to ask you to subtract from your total miles driven in March the mileage spent driving to and from work. If you don't already know how long a round trip takes, check your mileage when you drive in to work tomorrow.

While nearly all of us have other reasons why we must drive somewhere on a given day or a given week, whether it's visiting family, ferrying kids to softball practice or simply heading out to buy the week's groceries, these are the trips where we can use our creativity and our organizational skills to consolidate and combine driving trips.

Becoming more aware of the miles we put on our vehicles can motivate us to consolidate and shorten our trips and save on energy costs. And who knows? Maybe some of the efforts you made during the Challenge to shave off a few miles here or there will become standard operating procedure in the months to come. While most of us can't expect to give up our cars entirely, small changes do add up. And that can only be a good thing for the budget!

Are you in?

And the Winner of February's Home Cooking Challenge Is...

February 28th, 2010 at 06:03 am

It's time to report your Home Cooking points for the month of February. How many points did you earn by eating at home rather than dining out this month?

After reporting your tallies below, feel free to add your comments. Did February mirror your usual dining in/out habits or did the contest make you think twice about eating out?

I'll start the ball rolling:

Fern: 26 points

It was easy for me to eat at home on every day but two days this month since I am underemployed right now and my budget is very much on my mind.

On those days I did eat out, it was nothing extravagant, simply fast food I grabbed out of convenience (and hunger) while running errands.

It's your turn now!

Join the February Challenge: Home Cooking

February 1st, 2010 at 05:04 pm

First, I'd like to congratulate everyone who participated in the January "Purge 30 in 30 Days" challenge. There were many of you who went well beyond the basic challenge of de-cluttering your homes, whether by selling unwanted possessions, giving them away or recycling them.

While the January challenge was all about simplifying your life, the February challenge is about reducing your monthly food bill by eating at home as much as possible. While grabbing a pizza on the way home from work can be a convenience (and who doesn't enjoy being waited on at a full service restaurant?), dining out today certainly gives me a case of sticker shock.

And, let's face it, restaurant food is designed to taste good. Perhaps becuase of restaurateurs' desire to have you coming back for more, restaurant food is often laden with hidden salts, fats and sugars, all of which enhance the flavor of food, as well as our waistlines.

The February challenge is very simple: let's see how many days this month you can eat all your meals at home. Give yourself 1 point for each day when you don't purchase any foods or beverages outside the home. (Yup, this includes coffee from Starbucks or a candy bar at the grocery check-out line.)

If you eat at a friend's house, that's okay. You're still eating at (a) home. If you make your lunch at home but eat it at work, give yourself a point (as long as the rest of your meals are homemade, too).

The person who earns the highest score, or a score of 28, since this is February, wins.

Are you in?

Purge 30 in 30: 1st Weekly Progress Report

January 8th, 2010 at 06:04 am

I'm thrilled that so many of you have taken up the http://wildblueyonder.savingadvice.com/2010/01/01/join-the-j... with gusto and enthusiasm. It certainly motivated me to get cracking knowing that others were doing the same.

The challenge is simple: "purge" your home of unwanted or unused items as a means of simplifying your life, decluttering your home and perhaps making a bit of extra cash in the process. "30 in 30" describes the goal of finding one item to dispose of daily, or if you prefer, 30 items for the month.

You'll earn the most points (3 points) if you manage to sell your items on eBay, Craig's List, or elsewhere, but you can also donate your items to charity (1.5 points) or barter with others (1.5 points). As a last resort, you'll earn a single point for each item you dispose of by simply throwing it away.

My progress has been slower than many of you, but here are the seven items I've rounded up so far, to mark my progress at the end of the first week:

- 4 books, to be donated to the library: 6 points

- 1 VCR tape, to be donated to cable company for recycling: 1.5 points

- 2 household items to be donated to Good Will: 3 points

1st week total: 10.5 points

Your own results may vary. If you meet the monthly goal of disposing of 30 items during the month of January, and depending on how you dispose of your things, you may earn as little as 30 points (if you simply threw everything away) or as much as 90 points, if you sold everything.

I'll be posting weekly updates and inviting all of you to do the same.

If you haven't done so already, show us what you're made of and record your progress here!

Join the January Challenge: Declutter!

January 1st, 2010 at 02:22 pm

The depths of winter are always a good time to turn our thoughts inward and focus on "cleaning house."

No, I'm not talking about the dusting or vacuuming. I'm referring to the rejuvenating effect of decluttering one's living space. How many of us can think of closets, desk drawers, basements, attics or other stashes full of who-knows-what that's been accumulating, untouched, for years? You may disagree, but I'm of the mind that living with clutter tends to clutter the mind as well. I also believe that simplifying one's daily existence can often lift an enormous weight from one's shoulders.

Over the years, as I've read your blogs, many of you have expressed a desire to shed the burdens and responsibilities that so much excess "stuff" creates, whether it's a loss of time spent in maintaining that stuff, the loss of money spent in buying that stuff or the loss of space in storing that stuff.

And so, borrowing from an idea suggested by wowitsawonderfullife, I urge you to join me in the first month-long challenge of the New Year by committing to "purge" 30 items in your home during the month of January, whether it's unwanted books, old clothing, furniture, other household items or even old paperwork you've held onto for way too long.

The goal of this challenge is twofold: 1. Declutter your home, and 2. Make some money.

Ideally, you'll do both, but depending on the way you dispose of your unwanted items, you may only be able to accomplish one of these goals. No matter! Progress is progress!

Here's how you'll earn points:

3 Points: Sale of item on Craig's List, eBay or elsewhere.
Since we're all trying to save money, it makes sense to award the most points to those who can declutter their lives and recoup some money at the same time.

1.5 Points: Bartering the item.
Bartering for what you need rather than buying something new is easy on the wallet and easy on the Earth. However, while you're replacing an unused or unwanted item with an item you can use, you're not actually reducing your clutter, so for purposes of this Challenge, you'll only earn 1.5 points for a barter.

1.5 Points: Recycling the item.
More and more items can be recycled these days, from old sneakers to electronics.

1.5 Points: Donation.
If you can find a charitable group, family member, friend or coworker who can use your item, you'll earn 1.5 points.

1 Point: Trashing the item.
Your trash can should be a last resort, but I believe you're still making progress by decluttering, as long as you don't plan on replacing what you've thrown out.

A 3-point bonus will be awarded to those who hit the target of 30 items purged by January 31.

Now, 30 items may seem like a lot, but if, for example, you have a stack of books, count them individually and you could be halfway toward meeting the monthly challenge. If you have trouble finding items to purge and it's getting near month's end, pull out a drawer you've been meaning to clean out anyway and start there.

If I'm on my game, I'll post each week asking for progress reports and consolidate them all on January 31. All you need to do is keep a numbered list of how you've lightened your load in 30 ways.

Are you in?