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Thirty Day Challenge for Frugality

By Cary Anderson

The motivation for this article came from a very brief and very inspirational TED Talk by Google engineer Matt Cutts. Have a watch, itís only three and a half minutes:

The beauty in Cuttsí motivation here is in its simplicity. Heís not asking the viewer to do much. Just try something youíve always meant to do or wanted to do for 30 days. Easy enough, right? If any of us dig deep, I think weíd see that we can do just about anything for thirty piddly days.

So how might we apply Cuttsí 30 day challenge towards something in our personal finance department? Well, the ways are unlimited really. But here are a few ideas to get the brainstorming started:

Cut out one daily neurotic purchase. Is there something you buy every day? Maybe itís a cup of coffee from Starbucks or a lottery ticket. Or maybe itís the latest newspaper or magazine to hit the shelves. Whatever it is, could you quit buying it for 30 days? Even just a cup of coffee from Starbucks every day is a $90 per month habit! You can buy a quality coffee maker and enough beans to last a year for that money.

Vow not to use a credit card. Try going 30 days without making a single purchase on a credit card. For some of us, that might seem like a really tough thing to do, but Iíll bet if you thought creatively enough you could figure out a way to do it. Give it a shot. Only cash and debit card purchases for 30 days.

Eat every meal at home. Could you make it 30 days without visiting a restaurant even once? Many people do this routinely, but for some it probably sounds nearly possible. But once again, for a mere 30 days donít you think you could do it if you really tried? Think about the savings that would add up by eating every meal at home.

Bike, walk, or carpool to work. Woah... you mean no getting in your personal dinosaur fossil guzzler to get to work? Madness. But could you do it? Even if your workplace is a couple of miles away, could you make it happen? A healthy person can walk 4 miles in one hour at a brisk pace. So if your workplace is 2 miles away, thatís only a 30 minute one-way commute. Chances are itís taking you a good 5-10 minutes to drive there anyway, so the additional time isnít that big of a deal. Plus, youíll be exercising therefore killing two birds with one stone.

Suspend one subscription service. Could you go without cable TV for 30 days? What about air conditioning? What about 30 days with the refrigerator, the biggest energy drain in your home, unplugged? It sounds terrifying, but Iíd be if we really thought about it, weíd see we can live without many things weíve grown accustomed to. After all, our ancestors used to do without all of these things! You can always go right back to it when the 30 days are up, but it might be a fun change of pace and put a little money back in your pocket, no?

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