Jana Says

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Tag Archive: challenges

February library diet results and March challenge

As you guys know, I’m on a mission to change habits this year, one month at time. To do that, I’m giving myself monthly challenges and tracking my progress. In January, I did a spending freeze and those mindful habits did in fact carry over to February (except that one day I went a little nuts but you know. It happens) and in February, I put myself on a library diet. I was not allowed to put any new books on hold but was permitted to pick up ones that had been on hold prior to February 1. I also wasn’t supposed to get any new books from NetGalley, KindleFirst, or anywhere else. 

Let’s visit how I did. 

First, the failures. I got a few books from NetGalley but dammit if it wasn’t worth it. I’m not 100% sure which ones came in in February and which ones were January but if I had to guess, it was probably around 4 out of the 8 new ones I found on my Kindle. So, basically, my entire March reading list is from NetGalley. I’m fine with that. 

Now, the successes. I put ZERO books on hold at the library. That’s eBooks and regular books. Let me tell you, after Show Us  Your Books this month, it was hard to do. I’ve said before that I have no FOMO except when it comes to books and when I read people’s enthusiasm for certain books I need to read them NOW. But I calmed myself down and, rather than head to the library app immediately, I made a priority list for books to put on hold as my situation fixes itself.  Also, I bought ZERO books. I have a couple I want to buy for the column I write but I might just reach out to the publishers for copies (hey, it can’t hurt!). And I got ZERO books from other people. I always feel pressure to immediately read books given or gifted to me and not receiving any made it possible to work through the library pile. 

What’s next? Well, now that I know it’s possible to go a whole month without requesting books from the library,  I have no desire to permanently do that. I did learn that I don’t need to put all the books on hold at the same time and that I definitely need to space it out. Having a priority list is going to be key for me, as is culling my to-read list on Goodreads. There’s some shit on there that needs the boot. 

I also learned that having a huge library pile stresses me out. I feel enormous pressure to get through all the books in the pile in a fixed time frame (thanks, due dates) and it makes reading them somewhat less enjoyable. To combat that, I’ve decided that there should be no more than 5 library books on my nightstand at any given time. I can do 5 books in 3 weeks. 

And this might sound strange, but there’s a weird satisfaction in reading what I already have. I have a ridiculous amount of books on my Kindle and on my bookshelf and it’s feels good to just pick from those rather than waiting for the library to get around to giving me a book. Makes me feel more in control. Which is nice.

The library diet it accomplished exactly what I needed it to so we’ll deem it a success.

Moving on to March.

I struggled big time with what I wanted to do as a challenge this month. I know I wanted to do something around reducing decision fatigue but couldn’t figure out from what aspect. So after a ton of thinking, I decided to go with makeup. When doing my makeup and nails, I spend an inordinate amount of time deciding what to use and it’s frustrating because I always think I should have done something else. Which is fucking stupid. But that’s how my brain works and ordinarily, I roll with it.

For this month, though, I decided to pick one palette, one eyeliners, one mascara, two lip gloss/lip sticks, and two nail polish colors (visit my IG for which ones) to make it easier on myself as well as quicker (foundation and eye shadow primer are not included since I only have one of each). When I decide to put on makeup, I want to just do it and move on with minimal decisions to be had. Yes, I know that using a palette still provides a ton of options and involves decision making but it’s still less strenuous and less choices than I normally have.

Baby steps. 

And to be clear, this is more of a can I do it challenge rather than a habit change challenge. I want to prove to myself that I can reduce the amount of choices I have and be absolutely fine. 

And who knows? I might wind up with a signature color.

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January spending freeze results and February’s challenge

Roughly a month ago, I shared that I was doing a spending freeze in January. The purpose was to regain mindful control of my spending. This didn’t mean I couldn’t spend money; it simply meant there had to be a reason for it and if I couldn’t give myself a good enough reason, or there was no point other my own laziness or inability to control myself, I prohibited myself from the purchase. I didn’t care about savings or anything else other than getting back into the habit of paying attention to my money. 

I gave myself 3 rules:

  1. Don’t spend money on unplanned expenses
  2. Gift cards are cheating
  3. Stuff other people buy me is not (ex., husband bringing me coffee)

That’s it. That’s all I had to do. Not difficult at all, right?


So let’s talk about how I did. 

I did buy some things:

  • 1/5ish (I forgot to write down the exact date but it was early in the month): $26.99 at Ulta. This was for gigantic bottles of my shampoo and conditioner that ordinarily run around $28/bottle and were on sale plus I had $9.50 in coupons and reward points. I now do not have to buy shampoo or conditioner until maybe the summer since I had bought two bottles at the same price at the end of December. 
  • 1/9: $12 for a subscription to The New Yorker. I read a ton of articles from this magazine and I was tired of running out of my monthly free ones. So now they come to me, unlimited.
  • 1/13: $255 for tickets to see Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden. I know. It’s a lot for a concert. But it’s item #2 on my life to-do list to see Billy Joel at home (I’ve seen him in Philly twice) because growing up in New York, he’s basically a religion. When the tickets became available, we bought them without thinking twice. 
  • 1/14: $12 on a bow keychain for my daughter. She’s a cheerleader. We were at a competition. This happens sometimes. I think I was also still on my Billy Joel high because I ordinarily have zero problems telling her no.
  • 1/25: $2.39 for an iced coffee and $14.40 for a book (Bottomland by Michelle Hoover). The coffee because I just wanted it and the book because it’s not available at my library in any form except audiobook and I don’t do those. I also supported a local indie bookstore by doing so. 

Total without concert tickets (I’m not including them since they were planned for; I just wasn’t sure when we’d actually be able to buy them): $67.78

I’m completely pleased with how I did and since the point was to fix a bad habit, I’d say I succeeded. I don’t see myself going back to what I was doing because it didn’t leave money for the things I actually want to buy and now it’s there. 

Which is awesome. 

30 Day Challenge #2

With that out of the way, let’s talk about my February challenge. 

This month, I’m not so much aiming to fix a bad habit but more to use up what I have and get my reading pile back down to something normal (rather than the impending avalanche that lives on my nightstand). To accomplish that, I’m going on a library diet. 

It’s true. 

For the next 30 days, I am not allowed to put a book on hold (the ones that are currently there are fine), get books from NetGalley, Kindle First, friends (except one from Steph that we talked about last month), or anywhere else. I currently have 6 library books on my nightstand, 5 more on hold, 4 NetGalley books, and roughly 2394370 books I’ve bought. It’s out of hand and I need to rein it in. I have no shortage of what to read not to mention my stacks are anxiety inducing and I’m three books short of having to move my nightstand lamp to the floor to make room. 

If I’m being honest, I’m panicked as hell at the thought of not putting books on hold but it’s become a legit problem. I read fast but not that fast and book FOMO is real. I used to not care and now I care too much. I need to stop caring and read what I want, when I want. 

February’s challenge should help with that. 

That’s it. Wish me luck!

Have you ever done a library diet? How’d it go? Any helpful hints?

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30 Day Challenge #1: Spending Freeze

Happy New Year, friends! I hope you all had a fun night, doing whatever you did. Me? I went to a party, sans husband who was home with a fever, for a few hours. Fun fact: it was a costume party and I, who never dresses in costume, dressed up. I went as Janeane Garofalo’s character from the movie Mystery Men. Never heard of it? If it helps, neither have most people and absolutely no one knew who I was. So that was fun. Also, I couldn’t drink because no designated driver. So that was fun, too. 

But now that’s over and we’re getting down to the business of the year. And while I have no goals or resolutions, I am choosing to focus on improvement and habit changes. I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted to approach this and then I thought: 30 DAY CHALLENGES! I love the idea of 30 day challenges because I really can’t think of anything I can’t do for a month. Hell, I made it, successfully, through a Whole30. If I can do that, I can do anything. 

I haven’t fully mapped out all the 30 day challenges for the year (I am taking suggestions if you have them), although I do have January and February planned. I’ll keep you in suspense for February. As for January, well, that’s what we’re going to talk about now. 

Given the hemorrhaging of money that happens in December, and the fact that I have become completely oblivious and unintentional as to how I spend my money and what I spend it on, I’ve decided I’m doing a 30 day spending freeze for January. I’m not doing it save or pay down debt or any reason other than I need to start paying attention again. I have had it with haphazardly buying random crap and wondering a) why I have it and b) where all my money went. The moment that made me realize this is how I needed to start the new year? I recently cleaned out all my makeup and assorted other products and realized how many duplicates–unnecessary duplicates–I have and it’s all as a result of mindless spending (you know how it goes. Walk into Bath and Body to buy one thing, smell all the scents, buy 27 bottles of antibacterial soap instead of the thing you meant to buy). Apparently, that’s where my money goes (also to Wawa or Amazon or Walgreen’s. Seriously. I added it up. It’s disgusting and I have no idea what I bought most of the time).

So in an effort to use what I have, regain purpose and intention in how I use my money, and stop wasting it, I’m pushing pause on my spending. I have bigger plans for my income. I want to do that stuff instead.

My rules for my freeze are simple:

  1. Don’t spend money on unplanned expenses
  2. Gift cards are cheating
  3. Stuff other people buy me is not (ex., husband bringing me coffee)

Easy enough to follow. I think. I mean, they’re not difficult nor are they expansive or unreasonable or too restrictive. I guess that’s what happens when you make rules for yourself. 

I’m confident I picked a shit month to do this. I mean, is there really ever a good month to do a spending freeze because, you know, life, but this month is extra bad. We have 2 cheer competitions, one of them a 2 day one in Atlantic City, NJ (please, don’t be jealous of my trip to Atlantic City in the middle of January. I know it sounds incredibly appealing), and my dad’s birthday. I can plan as much as possible for these events, and I’m perfectly capable of saying no, but sometimes it’s exponentially easier to say yes. And while my bank account won’t necessarily suffer from saying yes, it’ll definitely be a setback in mindset. But if I know it’s a setback, and I choose to do it anyway, do I still learn from it? 

I feel this is a chicken and egg discussion and I think I’ll stop now. 

So that’s it for my January challenge. I’ll report back at the end of the month to let you know how I did. 

Have you guys ever done a spending freeze? How’d it go for you?

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What I hope you receive from me

This post is part of Alyssa’s back to blogging nonchallenge challenge

Reflecting on what I hope people receive from me was harder than I thought. I didn’t know whether to look at from the perspective of my family, my daughter, my friends, online…which do I pick? Because there’s a bunch of different qualities I hope people are picking up on, and it’s not always the same from group to group. Then I reflected further and found some similarities:

Consistency.  What you see is what you get and while I’m pretty guarded about my feelings, I’m always me. I realize that’s kind of a contradiction. But I don’t change who I am based on who you are. 

Honesty. You may not like it but I’m not going to lie to you. I will tell it like it is. Lying goes against one of my core beliefs and I’m uncompromising on that.

Reliability. I will show up when I say, do what I promise, and be there to help when you need it. I hope people realize that I’m someone they can rely on whether it’s with their house keys, their pet, their secrets, or to hold their hair back when they puke. We all need someone we can count on. I like to think that’s me. 

Humor. I like to laugh and I like to make people laugh and I like to have people around me who make me laugh. 

A comfortable place. So, that sounds weird. But what I hope is that people realize they can be whomever or whatever they want around me. You don’t have to act, pretend, or distort who you are. Say what you feel and say what you mean. Let your freak flag fly high and proud when I’m around. I won’t judge you.

A voice for those who can’t speak for themselves. It’s a big motivation behind why I write and I hope that when I share my struggles, it gives people someone to relate to or makes them feel less alone. I hope it helps educate and destigmatize and foster understanding. And if it makes a difference to one person, it’s all worth it. 

Support and encouragement. I don’t believe in tearing people down to make myself look or feel better. I don’t believe in not helping when I know I can. What I do believe in is listening and encouraging and being a positive voice in your ear or on your phone, especially when you’re feeling like you can’t do it yourself or you want to quit. I believe in networking and assisting and promoting and connecting, and I hope my actions match those beliefs. 


How about you guys? What are some things you hope people receive from you?

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Back to Blogging: Significant songs

This post is part of Alyssa’s back to blogging nonchallenge challenge. I think I got that right.

I love music. Always have, as long as I can remember. I even write about it a lot (like my playlists with Erin, a regular feature I did back when I wrote about money, and I have some other random playlists floating around, too). So when the prompt came up to list 3 song that define your life and why, I had to get on that. 

I’ll say, it was hard to narrow it down. I went with 4 (because I do what I want) and while one isn’t a surprise since I mentioned it a couple of weeks ago, I’ll repeat it anyway. I also went with songs that define my life now, rather than overall because I’m a much different person than I was when I was 18 and even 30 and to use songs from back then would be fun but not necessarily accurate. However. Some of these songs have been constant in my life for the last 10 or so years so maybe what I just said isn’t entirely true. I don’t know. Music, especially good music, is timeless. 


Song #1: Maybe by Sick Puppies
This song changed my life. I wish that were hyperbole but it’s not. It came to me during an extremely difficult time, personally and professionally, an while 2 years went by before I took the message to heart, it stayed with me the whole time. It’s like the song was giving me permission to walk away from all the horribleness and let me know that yes, it’ll be hard but things have to be hard and change before they get better. 


Song #2: The Middle by Jimmy Eat World

For whatever reason, when I’m in the middle of any sort of crisis or weird situation or some sort of tough, awkward time, this song appears on the radio almost every day. I take it as a sign, like the universe is sending me a message that it’ll all be okay in the end and whatever I’m going through is temporary. 

Song #3: America’s Sweetheart by Elle King

I love everything about the song. Specifically, the message. It’s amazing. Essentially it’s about embracing who you are, loving yourself, and everyone who doesn’t like you or wants you to change can fuck off.

Song #4: I’m Not Alright by Shinedown (also, Amaryllis by Shinedown. Is it cheating to have 2 songs by the same band grouped together if they’re from the same album?) 

What I love about I’m Not Alright is that it gives permission to be not okay. To not be perfect, to be flawed, to be weird and quirky and that if you have a mental illness, it’s okay because it’s not the sum of who you are but the sum of all those parts make you who you are. That’s exactly how I feel about my depression. And Amaryllis is a song I listen to on my bad days; it helps give me clarity and perspective and keeps me going.



Song #5: Count on Me by Default

I am not a big crier but this song gets me every. Single. Time. Not even kidding, I can not listen to this song without getting choked up. I’ll tell you why, too. I heard it when I was pregnant with the child and it says exactly everything I wanted and want her to know . Everyone knows that life sucks sometimes and that there’s one person in their life who is there for them all the time, unconditionally, no questions asked, no matter what, and I want her to know that that’s me. 


I’m sure I could have added to the list but we’ll just stop here. How about you guys? What songs provide the soundtrack to your life?

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