Some people like challenges and if so, adopting a challenge is a good way to stay motivated. Just think of the 100 push up challenge (I’m looking at you Syd ), the buy nothing for a year challenge, the no-car challenge, the X dollar a month food challenge, the no impact challenge, and so on.
Finding a challenge is good, because it provides you with some rules and often there is much creativity and a greater sense of accomplishment involved with finding ways to solve problems under those restrictions rather than just using the traditional method of paying by credit card and arguing with a representative customer service until you get (or go) your way.
For instance, if you take a packaging challenge e.g. having to store all packaging in your house, not only will you gain a real understanding of all the superfluous wrapping(*) that consumer products ship with, but you will also find ways to avoid buying things that are excessively packaged. If you start weighing your outgoing garbage, maybe you will start composting to reduce that number.
(*) My packaging pet peeve is tea bags, where tea comes in a tea bag in a paper envelope in a box in a shrink wrapper. ARGH! Is all that really necessary? The most ironic example of this are organically grown teas; I suppose the shrink wrapper was organically grown too, eh?
Most of those challenges are finite in time, typically a year. I don’t know why that is? Possibly because it provides people with a way out? Or maybe it provides people with a goal or a finish line after which they can revert to their old habits. I think this completely defeats the purpose, unless you’re only looking for a book deal which seems to be a dime a dozen on those kind of projects. So just ignore the deadline and adopt it as a lifestyle. In the garbage example, I think you could just reset by cleaning out once a year, but I bet that won’t even be a problem. For instance, I reuse incoming envelopes and packaging material whenever I send a letter or a package and thus I never pay for envelopes or bubble mailers.
If you follow all the tenets of ERE, you will find that most of these challenges are fairly easy or you are already doing them. For instance, under our food budget, we are spending a little over $2/person/day, and so that could easily be turned into a challenge except it’s not challenging if you’re already doing it, naturally.
However, if you want to impress me, pick something like Riot 4 Austerity. If you follow their rules (and add housing which they leave out), you should by able to meet your early retirement goals quite easily.
For those with uncooperative spouses, it should not be too much of a problem to find a challenge you can do on your own, like cold showers