What challenges do you like reading about and why?

I really like reading and hearing about no-spend challenges or buy-nothing-new and so on.

I like reading about how people’s lives are changed, with their relationship with “stuff” now different.  I like seeing people pay down debt with what they didn’t spend, or increase their savings (or vacation fund, or whatever they put the money towards that they value more than their gazingus pins or whatever they were buying habitually without really appreciating).  I can’t really seem to get tired of reading about people’s personal journeys with challenges that limit what they can buy.  Even their failures are instructional.  (I googled “no spend challenge” and it seems like it was really a THING back in January 2018!  But it’s still a thing even if not a THING.)

I don’t know WHY I like this brand of challenge so much.  A friend suggested it’s because I’m uber-frugal, and I’m like, so I like watching people challenge themselves at doing something I’m really good at!  (I’m not actually uber-frugal, given that we spend more than the median family makes each year, but conditional on our income one could make that argument.)  But that can’t be it.

Because I’m also REALLY good at reading novels.  Like SUPER good at reading novels.  And I find people’s novel reading challenges to be supremely boring.  Like, read 12 books a year or 30 or whatever.  I don’t count and I don’t get counting.  So me feeling superior is not it.  Though, I do kind of get a kick out of when people who read only white dood books do a “read only women authors” or “read only authors from underrepresented groups” challenge.  Because then they discover all these great books that they never knew existed, which is cool.  I do already read mostly women authors and a lot of underrepresented authors, but because the fact of bias in the publishing industry means that anything by an underrepresented group actually published is probably going to be better than average or it wouldn’t be published.  Similarly self-authored stuff is going to be better on average for the same reason– more underrepresented group people aren’t getting regular publishers because of bias so there’s higher quality.  So… that’s kind of selfish on my part even ignoring the benefits of diversity.  I’d love for a world in which mediocre books by underrepresented groups are also published just like they are with white authors, but we’re not there yet.

So I guess I like challenges when people’s eyes are opened and they learn something about themselves or about the world.  When challenges help people grow.

I do kind of like wheezywaiter‘s random challenges even when they don’t work.  Because I’m curious about people’s experiences with things even if they’re not things I’m going to want to do.  So it’s not just challenges that are likely to be successful and life-changing, but seeing what happens and what works.

I am not the only person in this world who loves reading about challenges.  I mean, that’s kind of wheezywaiter’s current brand right now, and it’s made his popularity go way up according to a couple of his videos.

But I don’t like all challenges.  Maybe the question is more about why I don’t like the reading some number of books challenges.  And maybe it’s just that I don’t like challenges that are about doing something fun.  Which makes sense– a few years back #2 did a read steampunk books challenge and she hated it.  Challenges take away fun from things that are already fun, but they add something to things that aren’t.  Sort of like taking that Jane Austen class in college was the last time I ever reread Pride and Prejudice without zombies, but it made Mansfield Park somewhat interesting.

Do you like to read/watch other people’s challenges?  What genres are your favorite?  Do you prefer doing or watching?

15 Responses to “What challenges do you like reading about and why?”

  1. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    celeste p has an old script that can be slightly updated using Stone in place of Mueller:

  2. jjiraffe Says:

    If you like this genre, I enjoyed and would recommend a book called “Not Buying It” that followed a writer (Judith Levine) for a year while she bought nothing. She was not a naturally frugal person, so her perspective was interesting to me. She had specific rules she followed, and some exceptions–like completing a remodel (!)–which were maybe questionable. She also explored trends like minimalism groups and carbon offsets. The book was well-written and thoughtful, which made it more rewarding to me as a reader. I see some of the reviews are low, but seems like that was mostly because people didn’t like the writer’s “liberal politics.” I had no such problem, although there was a tedious chapter on a cell phone tower in her local town that was super boring. Fair warning that the book is probably fairly dated–written in the 2000s. Here’s the link: https://www.amazon.com/Not-Buying-Year-Without-Shopping/dp/0743269365

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Neat. I haven’t actually read any of the books—I’ve been more into the episodic nature of blogs and podcasts and vlogs. Maybe I should try a book from someone I haven’t already read the blog for.

  3. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    I love counting the books I read now just to know the number, I never did before last year. I was curious. But also I like sharing them because like you, I hope people will discover URM authors through something I’m already reading.

    Watching challenges is fun, I like seeing people achieve things.

    I’m not really into structured challenges for myself, I already feel like I face enough challenges that use up my willpower and motivation on a daily basis, I don’t need to create more obstacle-like goals. Goals though, those are nice, achieving them is a reward in itself.

  4. Miser Mom Says:

    I’m kind of addicted to “getting rid of clutter” thread on Mr. Money Mustache — I have no idea why that is. And the Zero Waste Home blog, which isn’t described as a “challenge” technically, is one that also inspires the heck out of me. I really liked “The year of living biblically”, probably for reasons that you mentioned, i.e. the author learning a lot about himself while being willing to try kind of nutty things and make mistakes along the way.

    The challenges that I start reading but then start avoiding are the ones that seem to be the most navel gazing — people who have no idea of the literature (trying to be eco without actually talking to people who are successfully eco, or food challenges, or such) and who do it with a “look at me” attitude rather than learning from/encouraging others on the same path or examining their own place in a larger culture.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I’m not actually that into decluttering challenges… I’m not sure why? Maybe because I’ve never actually seen one that didn’t end up back in the same place a little later? Maybe decluttering reminds me of cleaning?

      I do kind of like the extreme minimalism challenges though (where people try to live with very little). Those were all the rage like a decade and some change ago. And I like the zero-waste stuff. Hm…

      Why do I like one but not the other? I have no idea!

  5. middle_class Says:

    I like No Spend, no dining out, and getting rid of clutter challenges. However general “No Spend” challenges have so many loopholes that it feels less challenging.

    I am on an unofficial challenge to get rid of 1 item per day via sales, donation, or dump. I write the dumped item on a list. Some days I get rid of a ton, some days I totally forget about my challenge!

  6. Debbie M Says:

    I’m a sucker for role reversal, which happens sometimes in movies, and which sort of happens in some of these challenges. I think it’s the social scientist in me.

    I think I also like reading about when people are doing something I want to do but are being way more extreme than I would have thought of being because then I might get some good ideas or at least a better perspective. (I always hate when my starting state is more extreme than their ending state, like when one person reduced her budget by eating out *only once* a day.) And I also like when people learn things about themselves that they never would have learned or even guessed had they not tried the challenge. The worst is when I don’t like how they’re doing the challenge–like trying to live on a food-stamps budget without learning how to cook and so they just eat garbage, or that one guy who wanted to visit every country and ended up just touching down and maybe spending the night and going for a jog and then running off again–that seemed so horribly tragic.

    But really, I think I most like the humor of the writing/speaking that so many of these posts have. (Hello, Wheezy Waiter!) At the very least, I want to hear about the quality of the experience, not just the quantity. I don’t just want to see a checklist (although I’m fine with having checklists for myself).

    My first thought was that I don’t do challenges myself because I don’t like the pressure. But I started blogging because of a challenge. And I’m challenging myself to read books and watch movies from different countries, though I don’t have a specific time frame or a specific number in mind. I admit that many of these books and movies are fun, but many are not. The best is when I find a book from a country where I fear the reading will be no fun, but then it turns out to be fun after all! And I feel like I should do a climate-change-fighting resolution because there really should be some pressure.


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