Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover

Tag Archive: monthly challenges

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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Choose Your Own Adventure: February recap and March goals 

How the hell did February fly by so quickly? I don’t know if it has something to do with it only being 28 days or if they all morphed into one long, snowy, cold day but the fact that it’s March is amazing to me. 

But with the new month means a new round of goals with Steph, Stephanie, and Ashley and that’s always fun. I love the theme of this month, too: relationships. We’ll get to that in a minute. For now, though, let’s recap how I did on my February create goals.


I only had 3–write my 40 by 40 list, write my already done list, and create my recipe binder. Then, if time permitted, I was going to edit some of the stories my husband has written for our daughter. Let me be honest and upfront. I did not do any editing of those stories. They need it, badly, but I’ll have to work on those another time. 

For the other three, I did them all! Well, mostly. You can read the 40 by 40 list and the All These Things That I’ve Done list and, as for the recipe binder, I did clean it out but because my laptop will not connect to our printer, I couldn’t print any of the ones I want to add. I did, however, make a list of all the recipes I want to print and/or hand write and put in the binder (mostly family favorites and a few others I want to try) so it’s a half-pass. 

Of note from the list (only one side is pictured. And I don’t know if the spots are water stains, bacon grease stains or something else)–my family eats an extraordinary amount of foods with ranch dressing in them. And chicken. 


So, yay for me conquering February! I even started working out again as a way of creating a healthy routine for myself so that’s a bonus. 

Now, March. 

This one is a great topic and one I need to commit to. I’m great at spending time with my husband and my daughter sans technology and I’m pretty good at playing with my dogs, too. The cat is an asshole so she doesn’t count. I don’t have too many friends but the ones I do, I’m pretty good about seeing or talking to when my life isn’t held hostage by cheerleading (and I’m even making friends with the other parents! Who knew?). The one area I do fail in as far as relationships is with my parents, my grandmother, and my little sister. 

I do not call, text, visit, or speak to them often enough. Granted, from August-April, time is stretched thin for face to face visits but there’s no reason I can’t pick up the phone and call or text my sister. I also need to make sure that I’m texting/calling/seeing some friends a bit more than I do. 

That being said, my goals for March are:

  1. Call my grandmother at least twice. 
  2. Speak to my mom and dad every week.
  3. Text my little sister at least twice (I speak to my middle sister pretty often and we’re going to Disney with her, my brother-in-law, and nephew in April so she gets a pass)
  4. Make plans with friends I haven’t seen in awhile (looking at you, Steph!)
  5. Get better about responding to emails from other bloggers

These are not difficult goals but ones that I can accomplish as long as I try and make the effort. 

Now I leave you with an ecard that has a quote I first heard from my friend Marcy back in college and it’s still hilarious

Are you guys making any relationship goals for March? What are they?

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Simplifying in December

GoalSettingLinkupThird month of Choose Your Own Adventure challenge is in the books. And I’m pleased to report, it mostly went well.

So that’s good.

As a refresher, I focused on organizing three areas of my house, with a plan to work on my Pinterest boards as well (you can read the full post if you want). With regard to Pinterest, I did eliminate some pins and boards, but I’ve decided this is a work in progress. There’s just too much in there to have dealt with all in one month. I’m hoping to have this all done by January as long as I can follow my new rule of one pin in, one pin out. 

With regard to the three areas of my house I wanted to organize this month–my living room table, my front entrance closet, and my daugther’s homework station–I got it all done. I only remembered to take a before picture of the homework station so forgive me for the lack of complete details.

Here’s the results. I’ve highlighted all the things I used to complete the challenge and I only needed to spend $1 (on the crayon caddy) to do it. Everything else was taken repurposed from another part of the house. Not pictured are the trash bag of coats and shoes for Goodwill and the mountain of paper tossed into recycling. I apologize for my shitty photography and also the puke green color of my wall. I hate it and haven’t yet picked a new color to replace it.

Organizing results


The theme for December is simplify. I like this and I actually got an inadvertent head start when my husband and I decided that our daughter would have a choice–a big birthday party again or just a few friends for a sleepover and then a family activity of her choosing on her actual birthday (which is a Saturday so that makes for easy planning). She chose the sleepover. And this is awesome because her friends are great kids, mostly well behaved (two of them are sisters from a set of triplets; the third is a boy and is definitely not invited), and they all get along. They’ll be at my house around 8 so it’s cupcakes and snacks. I’m not even buying crafts for them to do. They’re creative. We have Frozen. It’s easy, cheap, and I don’t have to put on pants. Simplified birthday FTW!

I felt like I needed to come up with something else to simplify because I had the birthday thing already planned and settled before this theme was announced and using it as the only challenge seems like cheating. It proved to be harder than I anticipated. I’m not really one to make things complicated. I’m pretty good at keeping things simplified. I know my limits, don’t pack my schedule, am good at saying no to things I don’t want to do (unless it involves my family), and clutter makes me anxious. This list had some great ideas to focus on except I already do a whole bunch of them. Christmas Eve is just the three of us and we have our simple traditions down to a science. 

So I got stuck.

Then I started looking around and I realized I can simplify my blogging life. I have no fewer than 6 notebooks full of ideas and two planners I’m working from. It’s very easy to get confused. If I can consolidate all of that, and perhaps start using some automated tools and an editorial planner, I can focus on other blogging stuff and my two(!) new projects for 2015. So that’s my focus. Simply blogging tasks. 

Are you guys participating in the simplify challenge? What are you focusing on?


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The November in which I get organized (sort of)

I think today is the day we’re supposed to report on our results of October’s Wallet Watch and I think tomorrow is the day we link up for our Choose Your Own Adventure Challenge but I’m pretty much a mess and since I’m remembering both now, they’re getting crammed into one post. 

If you want to break it up, read the first half today and the second half tomorrow but that seems a bit ridiculous to ask of you guys so you probably should just knock it all out today. 

Let’s cover the Wallet Watch first.

This is what went down: 

  1. No unplanned going out to eat. The results: HAHAHAHAHA! I never should have even made this a rule because we didn’t even make it past the first weekend.
  2. Stop abusing my Starbucks gift cards. The results: I still have $5 left on one of them (which is half of the $10 initial amount) and I started drinking more tea at home. This was aided by the fact that my daughter said “Mommy, you should drink tea from home. It’s cheaper.” 
  3. Stay away from nail polish and makeup. The results: I bought no new makeup. I bought no new nail polish. I spent $0 on anything beauty related, except for what was necessary like face wash. But I’m committed to getting the Naked or Naked2 Basics palette for Christmas. Or Hanukkah. Either will do.
  4. Find free stuff to do. The results: I think I did okay with this. Um. Well, except for the I can’t mention what it was family road trip the first weekend of the month. That was CRAZY expensive and maybe we used the money we had saved for our new dishwasher to do it but every minute was worth having to hand wash my dishes every day for the forseeable future.


So, to sum up

And now, the Choose Your Own Adventure Challenge.


I had one goal. To not drink diet soda. And I mostly achieved it. Except on the 7 or so days that I didn’t and had the deliciousness that is diet soda.

And it was glorious. #noshame

For November, the theme is organizing which I love more than words can say. I need to get some of my shit organized because I keep losing important things like bills and my daughter’s homework and gloves. And I really want to start using Pinterest more than just a place to internet hoard (between Pinterest and Pocket, I am set for DAYS with things to do and read). So I focused my organizing to these areas:

  1. My daughter’s homework station. She doesn’t have a desk yet and we needed somewhere to keep her craft supplies and homework and assorted school stuff. It’s impossible to find anything. It needs to be dealt with.
  2. My hallway closet. First of all, it smells like feet. So that needs to cease immediately. And the piles of winter accessories need to be sorted and stored in a fashion where my daughter doesn’t wind up wearing my gloves and my husband doesn’t have to use my polka dot umbrella.
  3. The living room table. I don’t know how to describe this situation. It’s essentially a table that gets filled with junk daily. I hate looking at it and if we didn’t need it, I’d set it on fire. Since we need it, it is a moral imperative that I figure out how to tame it.
  4. Pinterest. I need to cull my pins, reorganize my boards, and sort some into my new boards so that when I want to do a project, I can go to my board of projects I’ll actually do and when I want to menu plan using save recipes, I can find ones that fit my time constraints and my budget, and I need to do something with my secret boards, too. 


I’m pretty sure I could attack my whole house so I might revisit this challenge on my own in a couple of months but for this month, the above list will do.

And this is how I feel about it.



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Challenges are challenging

Back at the beginning of September, I joined the Choose Your Own Adventure challenge. I love the concept of this because a) there’s basically no rules except to stick with the theme and b) who doesn’t enjoy a little goal setting?

Life According to Steph

September’s theme was fitness which was great because I had just purchased Focus T-25 and was totally committed to making it through the first 5 weeks. And I started off really well, too. Didn’t miss a day. And then. New Orleans happened.

It is amazing how just being away for 5 or so days can really disrupt your exercise routine. I have been exercising regularly for the last 2 years, mostly as a way of managing my depression, and since I’ve gotten back, my motivation to exercise (or do anything, really) has been non-existent. I’m losing weight, which is good, but I need to get back into working out before another episode happens and things get ugly again. Depression Jana is a mess, and she’s ugly. Like, UGLY. I actually look worse than this:

No one needs that. Which means I should probably find some sort of motivation and get my fat ass moving again. 

But I digress, and as far as the challenge goes, I think I did okay. I mean, half a month of success is better than zero month of success, right? RIGHT??

Moving on.

For October, the theme is food. In the fall, I usually spend my Sundays cooking and baking, and not only does it keep me distracted while the husband is watching all the football games I don’t care about, it means we save money since there’s ready to eat meals in the house so no spontaneous going out to eat (we’ll get back to this in a minute). I don’t have any time in October to cook on Sundays because each and every Sunday means a cheer competition and of course they’re far away and we have to be there at the ass crack of dawn, and by the time we get home, all I want to do is nap. There’s no time for cooking. So, instead of committing to finding new or interesting or creative recipes to try for this challenge, I’m deciding not to drink any diet soda (and Nadine is joining me. Peer pressure, Nadine. PEER PRESSURE). It’s probably the only thing I can choose that wouldn’t be setting myself up to fail. 

Now that we’ve covered the Choose Your Own Adventure challenge, let’s address Steph’s Wallet Watch. She did this back in April and it was a resounding success for me so I’m going to try it again this month. 


Like the other challenge, this is a make your own rules deal. So here are my rules:

  1. No unplanned going out to eat. My husband’s birthday is this month, and I know we’ll go out for that, but it’s planned so it doesn’t count. But we have gotten so lazy on the weekends, and it’s costing us a fortune. So that needs to stop.
  2. Stop abusing my Starbucks gift cards. I have a few. I have a raging affinity for their green tea. Since I’m not actually paying, I’ve been going almost every day, which isn’t leaving much in my gift card reserves. I think it might be better if I just bought the tea bags and made the stuff at home.
  3. Stay away from nail polish and other makeup. I did a huge refresh on my makeup and nail polish stash in August and September and anything I do now is just unnecessary. I don’t need to spend the money and I’m slowly running out of storage space.
  4. Find as much free stuff to do as possible. Cheer competitions are expensive, and we have so many this month that they’re taking up all of our fun money. If we want to afford things like food and electricity, we need to cut back somewhere. Fortunately, I love my library books and my Netflix and Amazon Prime and Redbox (with coupon codes, of course) so sticking to this rule should be easy. One exception: I am taking myself to see Gone Girl. I’ve been waiting for this movie for a long time. I don’t give a shit that a matinee ticket cost $9. I have a big purse so snacks and drinks will be coming in with me. #savingmoney

I’ll let you know how both of these go in November. I’m going in confident. We’ll see how I end up.

Are you guys participating in any of these challenges? Do you do monthly challenges on your own?

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