Alarm systems are complicated affairs. However, if you’re just looking to catch a sandwich thief at work or a cat spilling over all you water bottles, then Make shows you how to build an alarm system with an Arduino and a USB camera.
Once you get the alarm set up, it’ll sense movement near the Arduino, snap a picture, then send it over to you using If This Then That. All you’ll need is an Arduino Yún, PIR sensor, a USB camera, speakers, and a USB sound card. It’s a bit on the expensive side, but it’s infinitely reusable and easy to move from place to place. You probably don’t want to go and rely on this to protect all your valuables at home, but it’s a fun project for less important stuff.
Money challenges seem to be popular at the end of the year, probably because we’re all nursing our holiday spending hangovers. These challenges might be gimmicky, but they’re still a great first step for getting started with personal finance.
If you’ve never heard of a money challenge, it’s basically a goal with steps to motivate you to save more cash during the year. Chief among these is the 52-week challenge, and there are a number of variations on it. As popular as these challenges are, not everyone is a fan. When I wrote about them once at Get Rich Slowly, some readers said money challenges simplify personal finance; they don’t focus on the big picture. Others say they aren’t ideal savings strategies: automatically paying yourself first is the best, most practical savings habit you can develop.
Those are valid points, but here’s why I think money challenges are still great for personal finance:
Challenges appeal to money noobs: To a lot of people, personal finance is intimidating. Most don’t know where to start, so they don’t start at all. But a first step is all it takes. If you’re not sure how to take that first step, a challenge is an easy, accessible way to get your feet wet in the personal finance world.
Challenges are fun: Let’s face it, personal finance isn’t the most exciting topic. Turning it into a game can be motivating. You might actually look forward to managing your money when it’s presented as a challenge instead of a chore.
Finally, money challenges are great learning opportunities. It’s hard to make it through a challenge without learning a thing or two about your habits. If you’re looking to get started, here are a few more of these challenges and techniques we’ve covered:
While there’s definitely more to personal finance than these challenges provide, they’re still a great introduction to money management.