Day #1 and Your First January Money Diet Challenge

Lantern festival | January Money Diet

Welcome to the first day of the 2016 January Money Diet. This year, we embrace our new dieters and say hello to many repeat dieters who have participated before. Our community includes money dieters in the U.S. as well as in Canada, Germany, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, the U.K., and Australia.

Best of all, we have YOU. I’m so glad you’ve joined us.

For the next 31 days, we’ll be joining hands and making a commitment not to spend cash on anything but essentials. We’ll encourage each other, cheer each other on, and share lots of ways to live large without spending. At the end of the month, we’ll each do something extraordinary with the extra money we’ve saved.

Let’s jump right in, shall we?

Today’s post includes the first of 5 challenges that will help strengthen your relationship with money. If you choose to try these 5 challenges, you’ll be automatically entered in a giveaway for prizes including cash, financial books and more.

The Paradoxical Link Between Giving and Receiving

Prosperity and giving are connected in a beautiful way. It might not make logical sense, but the more we give away, the greater abundance we experience. We receive more, and then we can give away even more. In the process of sharing with others, we also feel happier.

In a month when many of us feel squeezed after the holidays and anxious to get back on track financially, it feels almost counterintuitive to start by giving more. And yet, because I’ve experienced this wonderful paradox in my own financial life I know that giving generously this month will unlock amazing things for each one of us.

The age-old principles of sowing and reaping are the yin and yang that bring balance and joy to the way we manage money.

Here is your first challenge, which you can work on at your own pace throughout the month.

January Money Diet Challenge #1: Give 31 things away.

During this no-spend month, look for opportunities to share your abundance with others.

Some of us may choose to give away 31 things we no longer need — perhaps items like clothes, furniture, coats, dishes or other items that would bless another person. Some may prepare a hot meal for someone, or send a thank you note, or teach someone a skill, or babysit, or listen, or give a back rub, or shovel a snowy sidewalk, or pass along a book. What you give is completely up to you.

Be on the lookout for unexpected gifts and blessings that come your way this month, too. I encourage you to return to this page and leave comments about the 31 gifts you give, and your experiences of both giving and receiving. I can’t wait to hear your stories!

Gratitude book | January Money DietEach of you who participate in Challenge #1 and comment on this page will also be entered in a special drawing for a copy of one of my favorite books, A Simple Act of Gratitude by John Kralik. It’s the inspiring true story of a man who transformed his dreary life by writing and sending 365 thank-you notes — one every day to a deserving person, for a whole year.

I’m excited to share this journey with you, and you’ll be hearing from me again tomorrow.

Until then, enjoy this New Year’s Day and the promise of a fresh financial start in 2016.


The signature for Eliza Cross

Grateful thanks to Jirka Matousek for the use of his stunning Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival photo.

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Day #1 and Your First January Money Diet Challenge

  • Jacqueline

    I can never understand why anyone would keep hold of things that could really help someone else, you know store a pram in the loft just incase they might need it 15years on still there when i was pregnant with my first we had very little and if people hadn,t have helped me i don,t know what i would have done, i give loads of stuff away and still have more than enough, i don,t have loads of pairs of shoes, but how many can you wear, better to give than receive it makes the world a better place,
    just blessing someone is the best thing, makes me feel better than any make over etc
    love Jacqueline

  • Virginia

    I was working out of town most of this month, so much of the first 3 weeks were spent mulling over all of your excellent recommendations. This past week I was finally able to spring into action and purged about half of my wardrobe and took it to the Salvation Army. Really, who needs 20+ workout shirts or 12 pairs of pajamas. Some of the things I gave away were at least 15 years old and had long been replaced. I had just been too sentimental or lazy to get rid of the older ones. Thanks for the motivation to finally do this! I feel so serene now when I open the dresser and see order and space rather than chaos! Now I am ready tackle the rest of the house, one room a month!

  • Amy

    gave at least 31 things away…loved this challenge! Also got rid of 30 items per day! House is looking pretty clear…going to keep going because I haven’t tackled the garage or the basement! February…here I come.

  • Helen Shaw

    Came late to the challenge but have caught up by the end of the month. Given away 35 things this week and plan on making it a regular monthly activity. The loft will be tackled soon, husband beware!

  • Kelly

    Even after four declutter weekends in 2015 we still managed to find more than 31 things to give away. Good things. The more we declutter, the more we can see the remaining stuff for what it is : just more stuff. We should not even comfortable to “dam up” the resources we are blessed with, when we are meant to channel them on for the good of all.

  • Sara

    Hey Eliza! Such a great challange to start off with! I have completed it.

    Many of my gifts were treating close friends and family members to dinner. Normally I am quite tired after work and a bit too tired to have friends over for dinner on weekdays, but I made an effort this month and had so much fun. I also made an effort to make a new friend, bring some friends to my gym and share some exercises with them. I also made personalized cards for friends and family with old gift supplies. I also reached out to colleagues and family members who are ill and made sure they know I am thinking of them.

  • Elizabeth

    I successfully completed this challenge this week – gave away a ton of jewelry to a friend, brought a bunch of extra metal bookends and some unused marker sets to the library, and sent a package to my cousin with some books and sheet masks.

  • carole

    Gave away our old Christmas tree, lawn mower, shoe rack along with other misc. items

  • […] 2. Challenge #1– Give away 31 things- I have a box of kids clothing already packed and have a couple of options. I am going to make sure this box is gone before the end of the month. […]

  • Marissa

    It started with a spring clean over Christmas break and ended up with me finding all sorts of goodies (like missing treasure) – clothes, handbags, jewellery that has since been donated to the local Vinnies store, school uniforms have been passed onto to family and friends, and i also come across some old scratchits & lotto tickets which i had not previously had time to collect but was sure glad when i finally did!! Has been a wonderful start to the year and so glad i have also stumbled across this website ☺

  • Annette

    This is my first money diet and I just completed Challenge 1! I gave 31 things away. In the process I de-cluttered my house, cooked dinners and baked cakes for friends and family and re-connected with people that I hadn’t spoken to in a while. What a great way to start the new year.

  • Elizabeth

    I gifted about 40 sheet masks, but to 2 people, so I’m only going to count that as 2 items. I gave away a ub of body butter to a colleague (I already had an identical one). I gave several books to another colleague. So that’s 4! I think I can easily make the rest of my count with a good haul to the Furkids Thrift shop… but it’s the start of the semester and I need to get a little ahead with reading so I can spend a day doing the scavenger hunt and also collect items for Furkids.

    So much to do! 🙂

  • Chrissy

    Great challenge! I actually just started the KonMari method to tidying and all I can say is that it really is life changing. I have only gone through my clothes, bags, shoes, and accessories and I got 6 donation bags and 1 bag of trash. I donate bags of clothing all the time so to realize I could donate even more was awesome! Books coming up this weekend.

  • Amy

    Donating over abundance of school supplies to local library children’s dept

  • Susan

    I am almost done with the 31 challenge. I gave away goods I don’t need anymore but are still in excellent condition, compliments, home cooked meals, and my time. Everything I gave made so many people happy which I am grateful for. I also started a gratitude journal- my friends and family are journaling as well. Love this challenge

  • Your JMD was so helpful for us last year. This year we have some unexpected (and as yet, unknown in amount) medical bills coming, so I am grateful for the encouragement to live more wisely and richly at home this month. We are book hoarders (well, maybe not hoarders…) so I think I’ll start my giving away there. Thanks!

  • I hit my goal of 100 items, and surpassed the 31 items goal! Many things given away to charity, and a handful of items given away to people I know. 🙂 You can see my donation pile here on my blog!

  • Stephanie

    I love this, I have been teaching our Au Pair to cook. She is from Czech Republic and didn’t know how to cook when she joined our family recently. I have had the joy of sharing family recipes with her and teaching g her kitchen skills she will have for the rest of her life. I have also compiled a cook book of family recipes that I am having bound and plan to give to her and other friends. I love to cook and share my passion with those around for healthy eating.

  • Nancy O'Donnell

    Love this incentive to give. The other night I dropped off a bottle of tonic water, a lime and a decorated sugar cookie to a friend who is committed to stop drinking alcohol. I keep a bag near the door and fill it each week for a “free store” around the corner that literally gives items away for free.
    Thanks for your gift of creative vision and encouragement to others.

  • julee

    This is a great start, I have been collecting toiletries and hats as well as gloves, so those who are living outdoors can have a easier time this year. Thanks for hosting this year, I am having fun already!

  • Carol

    This is my first year of participating in the money diet. I am excited! Staring out by giving my “new condition” boots to a homeless gal who comes around my church. She is still wearing sandals and it is getting into the low 40’s at night in Southern Cal where I live. Hope Virginia is receptive to taking the boots. God bless everyone in 2016.

  • Angelica

    Perfect! I have a bag full of of things I’ve been wanting to give away (in the name of decluttering) but I believe that giving brings abundance 🙂

  • Catherine

    I have started a major decluttering effort in my home and in my art studio. I will have 31 items and maybe more by the end of the month to donate. The Diabetes Society in my area will come by to take away unwanted household items. They benefit from dropping the items off so I help them and help others and help myself too. I will make sure there are 31 items in my next Diabetes donation.

  • Marcia

    Super idea to start off the year. I’ve already placed a box in the living room, to add to each trip to/from another room. Books and magazines going to my local cancer hospital waiting rooms, as they really helped me during treatment 3 years ago. Decent clothing, cleaning products, & toiletries to the women’s and children’s crisis center….

  • Becky

    This is always so helpful and this year it is imperative! Thanks so much.

  • I’m looking forward to participating in your challenge. I’m also in the process of doing a 20 week no buy challenge with a friend so I think this ties in nicely.

    I’ve got a bag of items that I’m planning to give away (some as gifts, some to friends and the rest to charity) and I’m also making the effort to give my time to those who are important to me. I’m planning to spend some time each evening playing games with my husband instead of watching TV and have a few outings planned with my mum.

  • Colette

    How exciting and encouraging to know there are so many joining this challenge! I am the biggest collector of vintage treasures (and other things). It’s time to move a lot of it along! I have a box of items already to donate, and will be adding to it daily. Kudos for putting this together!

    • Colette

      I gave away 13 vintage aprons as well as a brand new blanket throw to a mother of 8 (going on 9!) that has 3 little girls who love to bake. Altogether, I’ve gifted over 31 of my belongings to others. It feels great!

  • Frannie

    I have been working on the 1st challenge for 2 days now. I have started with my Kitchen cabinets and so far I have 3 boxes of items to give away. Plus I am only half way finished. The cabinets that,are finished look so nice and organized so much so that I am no longer overwhelmed with this project instead I am eager to finish up. If I can figure out how to post pictures I will post the boxes of stuff I no longer need or want. Have a Blessed day!

  • Marlyn

    I brought books I have already read to the senior home for them to enjoy.

  • Day #1 and Your First January Money Diet Challenge | Happy ...

    […] We'll encourage each other, cheer each other on, and share lots of ways to live large without spending. At the end of the month, we'll each do something extraordinary with the extra money we've saved. Let's jump right in, … Article by simple living – Google Blog Search. Read entire story here. […]

  • Wanzer

    Donated a bag of clothes, gave a Thinking of You card to a sick neighbor, posted a thank you for being a friend to all of my friends on Facebook, and wrote a list of 28 other things I will ‘give’ away this month.

  • Victoria

    This one will be easy for me. We are down sizing starting now to move into an RV full time. We have already given so much much away to people who can love or use our hand-me-downs. Yesterday I gave our daughter some serving dishes she has always admired. Today I gave dinner to a friend’s out of town guess. We still have so many Items to pass a long, this has been fun and will continue to be fun. Helping others who can use our stuff and helping us prepare for the next chapter in our life. We also have a donation box for things that no one wants but are in good condition. Right now there is a vacuum and some serving utensils in the box. 🙂

  • Catherine Godfrey

    I love this challenge I found 40 items so far. I’ll be donating dishes: plates, bowls, etc.. to a local transactional housing facility. I’m soooo glad to find others that can use them. I also have many household decore items going to the same place. Since the residents live in there own space. It’s a converted hotel. Everyone deserves a home that enjoy living in.

  • Lyn

    I can’t believe this is my 4th time with the January Money Diet. My kids started going through their rooms yesterday and I explored our house today. Really weird, but when I counted our joint pile, including some random objects and some costume jewellery of mine, we had 31 items. Quite strange, but there it is. Can’t wait to bring it all to our local ‘goodwill’ store on Monday. Thank you again for inspiring continued action and reflection!!

  • Libby

    I baked cookies yesterday to give to a family which has been so welcoming and helpful to my son.

    Am planning to bake and donate more cookies to a charitable event on the 23rd of January.

    I am really bad at thanking people who have been helpful to me. I’m challenging myself to write 29 notes this month and snail mailing them.

  • Catharine

    Have offered time to a friend who’s husband has dementia so she can take some needed time to go out.
    Am dog sitting a beautiful Greyhound whilst his owner visits his daughter, a pleasure for us and the extra dog walk helps with the fitness regime.

    I’m taking another friend to the hospital on Monday for an outpatient visit.
    Poor in cash but rich in time.

    . So I’m sharing some. Xx

  • Jessica

    What a great way to start the year. We frequently donate financially and through unused goods, but The ideas given for this challenge have made me think more broadly about giving. Cooking meals and spending time with a grandparent who is now widowed will be in the forefront of our giving.

    Happy New Year to all! Best wishes for a successful money diet, health and happiness in 2016.

  • Annie

    I donated 12 items to goodwill today as a start and the universe blessed me with a free case of bottled water! Someone left at bottom of shopping cart. Continuing my journey to declutter! I like this diet better than the weight loss diet!

  • Kris

    Great idea! Can’t wait to give away items and time to those who will appreciate them.

  • LouAnne

    I’m so excited about doing this challenge! The first thing I decided to do was clean out my pantry and get a box together of foods to give to some friends going through a difficult time. Thank you for starting this challenge by reminding us what truly matters!

  • Lisa

    We have given away a lot this past year and I still find things I am no longer using, or clothes that don’t bring me joy; so giving away 31 items will be fairly easy. After reading your post, to challenge myself, I want to try to give my family my undivided attention, even if it is just one conversation a day, but a conversation where I stop what I am doing, look at them and be present.

  • Heather

    What a great start. I have already started a donation box in the garage. You have inspired me to write a few few thank you notes that I have been wanting to write for awhile. I am also going to make it a priority to volunteer at the food bank this month.

  • Vesta

    I like the idea of one item per day in a box in my living room. I’m in.

  • Vida

    Starting going through closets with my boys yesterday!!!

  • Good luck everyone, I’ll join in soon

  • I am actually looking forward to giving this year. Thanks for your blog. It is so encouraging.

  • Susie

    Love this……..I have multiple items of clothing to give to the local charity store, scores of make up items, sunglasses, handbags, and other personal items to give to the local women’s centre, for women who are preparing to return to the workplace.
    And, lots of other items…….I am in the middle of a huge downsizing exercise and I want the good stuff I am farewelling to go to someone who needs them.


  • Janice Frost

    Donated books I’ve stacked downstairs that I was reluctant to part with. The library will take part and the women’s shelter will take the rest. That feels so good to clear shelves and share with others.

  • Heather

    I love that we are starting out this challenge with giving. It opens up a whole different perspective on the saving mind frame- what can I give rather than what can I horde. Bedsides the fact that following December when we are so reminded of giving… this is an opportunity to keep it going through out the year. Thank you. I am so excited to give- I have a huge bag for Goodwill sitting in my hallway to start the year off right!

  • Lynn Louise

    I pulled out a box and collected about 15 items in it already that I think others would benefit from more than myself. I’ll keep adding as the month goes on. Our neighbor down the road is a single Mom and I am going to offer her free babysitting at night if she ever needs it. And we love animals so this is a good challenge for me to help out and donate to our local animal shelter on Saturdays. A great challenge to kick start the money diet!

  • Carol

    Thank you for this opportunity. I would like to move this year and purging items my daughter and I don’t need will make the process so much easier. This a great first challenge!

  • Terri

    This year I’m beginning with thank you notes for gifts and times with friends and family. I forget to express my appreciation far too often.

  • Kath

    What a great challenge, I always think of giving in terms of money, but giving your time and care is even nicer. Today friends of ours need help moving their sheep so we are going over as a family to help. Looking forward to applying this challenge in as many ways possible this month and teaching this gift to my children. Thank you.

  • Lynette

    What a great initial challenge, will get me thinking in a new mindset in a way of focusing my time, no I do not need to buy new things my time could be spent volunteering to those in need and I love the idea of putting one item in a donation box each day a great way to give useful items to those who really need them.

  • Betty

    I am so excited about this month of challenges. Today I sent a thank-Yoo-hoo note to my son’s boss. He provided support and financial help to my son recently when he had a family crisis.

  • Donna

    I also will start a donation box and will add to it as I put away all my Christmas decorations. Perfect time to clean out my attic. I am looking forward to this month and this challenge.

  • Kirsti

    So looking forward to completing this challenge for the first time! We had the Year of self imposed Austerity and paid off our mortgage last year.
    Usually at this time of the year I am spending up big at post Christmas sales but for the second time I won’t be. Instead I’ll be looking for free things to do with my children and staying with friends on holidays. Thank you for your inspiration!

  • Dreabelle

    I love this first challenge I gave my church elder who came to visit some biscuits he has been very good to my family this past year at a time which must have been difficult for his own family as his son died very suddenly.
    I also will put away 1 item a day that I don’t use anymore that might be useful to someone.

  • Katy Emanuel

    Love this challenge. We actually set aside a couple bags of clothes for friends with children smaller than ours, as well as some toys to pass on. I am also making up cycled mittens with my daughter to send as a surprise to family members throughout this month.

  • Elizabeth

    I have a co-worker who is taking care of her grandson. I’ve been giving her the clothes my sons have outgrown. It helps her tremendously from a financial aspect and she is very appreciative. I’m glad I can help her out!!!

  • Kim

    I will also start a donation box and add to it daily for the month. Will also do baking for the neighbors. Looking forward to the next challenge.

  • Elizabeth

    This is my first year to participate! I love that you started with giving. It truly transforms thoughts and makes for gratefulness for what we do have.

  • Annette

    This is an unexpected challenge and I love it. Today I am cooking dinner for friends and family and this is perfect time to de-clutter the house and storage areas and pass on items I no longer use to friends and family and donate some items to charity. Thank you for this!

  • Melodie

    What comes must also go out. Got 3 new pairs of running shoes so 3 of last year’s are going to the homeless along with t shirts, running shorts and gym bags. There are kids leaving in the tent city that are on their school track team. I’m hope these are enjoyed by them. I already work with homeless and those in poverty and when needed help with a local animal shelter. I’m blessed and I know it.

  • Melissa

    Will declutter as I put Christmas away over the next several days and will drop off the items for donation. Looking forward to this challenge.

  • Doreen

    How exciting! I begin decluttering today and have many nice things to pass along 🙂

  • Anja

    Hi Eliza, it’s funny to think that this is the first challenge and here I was sitting yesterday, sorting out clothes and other things that I will give to the refugees arriving in our town daily at the moment.
    I think I will follow Kim’s idea too, to look for one item a day over the next 31 days that will then go to someone else.

  • Adria

    Thank you for hosting this year’s money diet! I commit to teach my daughter to run and find the love of running. I commit to prepare one meal per week for my dad who lives alone. I also commit to giving away items which I no longer need and can perhaps benefit someone else.

  • Kim

    Hi Eliza,
    I’m looking forward to the 31 Day Money Diet! I’m a terrible manager of money and have a very difficult time controlling my impulse to shop.

    I LOVE the first challenge. While I have very little extra cash to give away; I have a house full of items I no longer use but am reluctant to part with for sentimental reasons.

    I’ve decided to contribute at least one item everyday for the next 31 days to a huge box in my LR designated for donations.

    It helps me to let go of items knowing that someone in need may still use and cherish the items as I have.

    • What a wonderful way to give, Kim — good for you! I, too, have struggled with impulsive shopping and will be sending you so much positive energy in the coming days. We’ll take small steps together, and good things will happen. Okay? xoxo

  • patricia

    I love your financial challenge and enjoy being a part of it. I just sent a new years card to a friend who is having financial problems to encourage her for this new year.

  • Petra

    I just texted my friend who is living in a nursing home to come and visit her on Friday. I worked the last 3 month 3 jobs and next Friday is my first day off, but I decided to spend some time with her.
    I wish everybody a great 2016.

  • I love your infectious positive attitude, Carla! xoxo

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