If you want to get your finances in shape in 2017, a money challenge is a good place to start. Not only can tackling one serve the practical purpose of helping you save some cash, it can also teach you a thing or two about your own money habits. The idea of any financial challenge is to motivate you to take action; and once you see the progress of your actions, you’re motivated to keep going.
If you’re looking to kick off a challenge on January 1, try one of these five free ones recommended by personal finance experts.
1. THE ROCKSTAR FINANCE WEEKLY CHALLENGE
The popular personal finance site Rockstar Finance recently launched a series of weekly challenges hosted by Derek Olsen of the blog HowDoIMoney.com. Olsen lists a new challenge every Monday, inviting readers to join and share their progress via Rockstar’s online forums. The first challenge prompted readers to dig deep and come up with a meaningful financial goal, while the second one challenged them to sell something on Craigslist. Each challenge includes actionable, quantifiable steps.
2. THE CASH CONFIDENCE CHALLENGE
Stefanie O'Connell is a personal finance expert who often writes about the unique roadblocks women face when it comes to their finances—namely, the wage gap. "The crisis here isn’t competence, it’s confidence," O'Connell tells mental_floss. “Unfortunately, the result of that lower confidence isn’t making bad choices, it’s making no choices. Which, when it comes to money, career, and our respective financial futures, holds us back from affording and enjoying all the things we really want."
O'Connell cites a BlackRock Investor study, which found that 42 percent of women feel confident about their finances—compared to 71 percent of men. In response, she recently launched the Cash Confidence Challenge to empower women when it comes to personal finance. The challenge includes seven days of lessons, guidance, and worksheets. While it’s aimed at women, anyone can join.
"We start out by defining what it is we actually want—without putting personal contingencies, limitations, or judgments on those goals," O'Connell says. "We’ll then break down our respective dream lifestyles into tangible, financial metrics, identifying next steps as well as available resources to help us follow through, and [create] an action plan for managing potential obstacles and mental roadblocks.”
3. A “NO SPEND” MONTH
This challenge is a little extra challenging, but that’s what makes it interesting. The goal is to see how much you can save in a month by cutting back on any expense that isn’t an absolute necessity. Some variations of the challenge focus on cutting out a specific expense in your budget, such as restaurants, movies, or impulse spending.
Aside from the practical purpose of saving money to pay down debt or put towards your goals, a “no spend” month can help you spend more mindfully. You’re forced to think twice about your habits and decisions, which can shed some light on how those habits serve you to begin with.
For accountability purposes, you could ask friends or family members to join, too, then track and share your progress with each other throughout the month.
4. SAVE $1000 IN A WEEK
Ramit Sethi, author of I Will Teach You to Be Rich, is a fan of big wins: actions that make the biggest difference to your finances. In his “Save $1000 in 1 Week” challenge, Sethi shows participants the most lucrative methods to cut back on expenses.
Participants sign up via email and are sent a new challenge every day. Challenges include saving on cable, car insurance, gym memberships, and more. Sethi gives readers the exact scripts they should use to haggle down these expenses, and the goal is to save at least $1000 in seven days.
5. THE “LIVE RICHER” CREDIT CHALLENGE
Tiffany “The Budgetnista” Aliche launched the Live Richer Challenge a few years ago, and it’s grown into a movement that includes over 200,000 women who have saved a collective $25 million. “The previous challenges were so successful that I decided to host a new LIVE RICHER Challenge every year,” Aliche writes on her blog. “The 2017 Challenge will focus on helping you to improve your credit.”
The challenge is 22 days long and is organized into three weeks. The first week will cover credit knowledge, the second will show participants how to improve credit, and the third challenge will cover credit maintenance. When you sign up, you'll receive a starter kit via email along with weekly challenge updates.
Every New Movie, TV Series, and Special Coming to Netflix in May
BY Alvin Ward
April 24, 2018
Netflix is making way for loads of laughs in its library in May, with a handful of original comedy specials (Steve Martin, Martin Short, Carol Burnett, Tig Notaro, and John Mulvaney will all be there), plus the long-awaited return of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Here’s every new movie, TV series, and special making its way to Netflix in May.
27: Gone Too Soon
A Life of Its Own: The Truth About Medical Marijuana
Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures: Season 1
God's Own Country
Hachi: A Dog's Tale
Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay
Hellboy II: The Golden Army
High School Musical 3: Senior Year
John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous Live at Radio City
My Perfect Romance
Pocoyo & Cars
Pocoyo & The Space Circus
Queens of Comedy: Season 1
Simon: Season 1
The Bourne Ultimatum
The Carter Effect
The Strange Name Movie
Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V: Season 2
A Little Help with Carol Burnett
Busted!: Season 1
Dear White People: Volume 2
Forgive Us Our Debts
Kong: King of the Apes: Season 2
My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman: Tina Fey
No Estoy Loca
The Rain: Season 1
The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale
Hari Kondabolu: Warn Your Relatives
Bill Nye Saves the World: Season 3
Evil Genius: the True Story of America's Most Diabolical Bank Heist
Spirit Riding Free: Season 5
The Kissing Booth
The Who Was? Show: Season 1
Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife
The Phantom of the Opera
Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce: Season 4
Grand Designs: Seasons 13 - 14
Only God Forgives
The Game 365: Seasons 15 - 16
The 40-Year-Old Virgin
Inspector Gadget: Season 4
Bridge to Terabithia
Disney’s Scandal: Season 7
Small Town Crime
Some Kind of Beautiful
Señora Acero: Season 4
Mob Psycho 100: Season 1
Shooter: Season 2
Terrace House: Opening New Doors: Part 2
Tig Notaro Happy To Be Here
Fauda: Season 2
Survivors Guide to Prison
Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life
The Toys That Made Us: Season 2
Trollhunters: Part 3
The Break with Michelle Wolf
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 4
Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story
My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman: Howard Stern
If your main interests are true crime and cooking, you’re in the middle of a Renaissance Age. The Michelangelos of nonfiction are consistently bringing stellar storytelling to twisty tales of murder and mayhem as well as luxurious shots of food prepared by the most creative culinary minds.
But these aren’t the only genres that documentary series are tackling. There’s a host of history, arts, travel, and more at your streaming fingertips. When you want to take a break from puzzling out who’s been wrongfully imprisoned, that is.
Here are the 20 best docuseries to watch right now, so start streaming.
1. WILD WILD COUNTRY (2018)
What happens when an Indian guru with thousands of American followers sets up shop near a small town in Oregon with the intent to create a commune? Incredibly sourced, this documentary that touches on every major civic issue—from religious liberty to voting rights—should be your new obsession. When you choose a side, be prepared to switch. Multiple times.
If your heart is broken by what’s going on in Flint, Michigan, be prepared to have that pain magnified and complicated. The filmmakers behind this provocative series were embedded with police in Flint to offer us a glimpse at the area’s local struggles and national attention from November 2015 through early 2017.
Narrated by Meryl Streep, this three-part series covers a half-century of American experience from the earliest days of second-wave feminism through Clarence Thomas’s Supreme Court nomination in the 1990s. Ellen DeGeneres, Condoleezza Rice, Sally Ride, Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, and more are featured, and the series got six more episodes in a second season.
After the massive success of Serial in 2014, a one-two punch of true crime docuseries landed the following year. One was the immensely captivating study of power, The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, which chronicled the bizarre, tangled web of the real estate mogul who was suspected of several murders. The show, which could be measured in jaw-drops per hour, both registered real life and uniquely affected it.
The second major true crime phenom of 2015 was 10 years in the making. Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos uncovered the unthinkable story of Steven Avery, a man wrongfully convicted of sexual assault who was later convicted of murdering a different woman, Teresa Halbach. Not just a magnifying glass on the justice system and a potential small town conspiracy, it’s also a display of how stories can successfully get our blood boiling.
Speaking of good conspiracies: documentary titan Errol Morris turns his keen eye to a CIA project that’s as famous as it is unknown—MKUltra. A Cold War-era mind control experiment. LSD and hypnosis. The mysterious death of a scientist. His son’s 60-year search for answers. Morris brings his incisive eye to the hunt.
Based on Mark Harris’s superlative book, this historical doc features filmmakers like Steven Spielberg and Guillermo del Toro discussing the WWII-era work of predecessors John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens. Also narrated by Meryl Streep, it looks at how the war shaped the directors and how they shaped the war. As a bonus, Netflix has the war-time documentaries featured in the film available to stream.
If you can’t afford film school, and your local college won’t let you audit any more courses, Mark Cousins’s 915-minute history is the next best thing. Unrivaled in its scope, watching it is like having a charming encyclopedia discuss its favorite movies. Yes, at 15-episodes it’s sprawling, so, yes, you should watch it all in one go. Carve out a weekend and be ready to take notes on all the movies you want to watch afterward.
David Chang, the host of the first season of The Mind of a Chef, has returned with a cultural mash-up disguised as a foodie show. What does it mean for pizza to be “authentic”? What do Korea and the American South have in common? With his casual charm in tow, Chang and a variety of special guests explore people through the food we love to eat as an artifact that brings us all together.
A legend of nonfiction, Ken Burns has more than a few docuseries available to stream, including long-form explorations of the Civil War and baseball. His 10-episode series on jazz exhaustively tracks nearly a century of the formation and evolution of the musical style across the United States. You’ll wanna mark off a big section of the calendar and crank up the volume.
In 2001, author Michael Peterson reported to police that his wife had died after falling down a set of stairs, but police didn’t buy the story and charged him with her murder. Before the current true crime boom, before Serial and all the rest, there was Jean-Xavier de Lestrade’s Peabody Award-winning docuseries following Peterson’s winding court case. The mystery at the heart of the trial and the unparalleled access Lestrade had to Peterson’s defense make this a must-see. (Netflix just announced that it will be releasing three new episodes of the series this summer.)
The sequel to the 2006 original is a real stunner. Narrated (naturally) by Sir David Attenborough, featuring music from Hans Zimmer, and boasting gorgeous photography of our immeasurably fascinating planet, this follow-up takes us through different terrains to see the life contained within. There are snow leopards in the mountains, a swimming sloth in the islands, and even langurs in our own urban jungle. Open your eyes wide to learn a lot or put it on in the background to zen out.
13. THE NATIONAL PARKS: AMERICA’S BEST IDEA (2009)
The cheapest way to visit Yosemite, Yellowstone, Muir Woods, and more. This Emmy-winning, six-part series is both a travelogue and a history lesson in conservation that takes up the argument of why these beautiful places should be preserved: to quote President Roosevelt, “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”
Experience the too-often-untold stories of conflict zones through the lenses of world class photographers like Nicole Tung, Donna Ferraro, and João Silva. This heart-testing, bias-obliterating series is unique in its views into dark places and eye toward hope.
Far more than a sports documentary, the story of the players at East Mississippi Community College will have you rooting for personal victories as much as the points on the scoreboard. Many of the outstanding players on the squad lost spots at Division I schools because of disciplinary infractions or failing academics, so they’re seeking redemption in a program that wants them to return to the big-name schools. There are two full seasons to binge and a third on the way.
Currently in its sixth season, the series is known for asking tough questions that need immediate answers and giving viewers a street-level view of everything from killing cancer to juvenile justice reform. Its confrontational style of gonzo provocation won’t be everyone’s cup of spiked tea, but it’s filling an important gap that used to be filled by major network investigative journalists. When they let their subjects—from child soldiers suffering PTSD after fighting for ISIS to coal miners in Appalachia—tell their stories, nonfiction magic happens.
From David Gelb, the documentarian behind Jiro Dreams of Sushi, this doc series is a backstage pass to the kitchens of the world’s most elite chefs. The teams at Osteria Francescana, Blue Hill, Alinea, Pujol, and more open their doors to share their process, culinary creativity, and, of course, dozens of delicious courses. No shame in licking your screen.
For those looking to learn more about culture while chowing down, world-renowned chef Nobu Matsuhisa guides guest chefs to different regions of Japan to ingest the sights, sounds, and spirits of the area before crafting a dish inspired by the journey. History is the main course, with a healthy dash of culinary invention that honors tradition.
Should a jury decide if a child is sentenced to life in jail without parole? How can you go to jail for 20 years for shooting your gun inside your own home to deter thieves? These are just two of the questions examined by this knockout series about the conflicts, outdated methods, and biases lurking in America’s criminal justice system. Insightful and infuriating, it makes a strong companion to Ava DuVernay’s 13th.
It won’t be available until April 27 (so close!), but it’s well worth adding to your queue. This four-part series utilizes a wealth of footage, including unseen personal videos, to share the tragic story of Robert F. Kennedy’s run for president in the context of an era riven by racial strife. Watching this socio-political memorial told by many who were there (including Marian Wright and Congressman John Lewis), it will be impossible not to draw connections to the current day and wonder: What if?