Outside the Box: 66 Things to Give Up or Take Up for Lent (in beginner, intermediate, and advanced)

by | Feb 16, 2014 | Catholic Living, Lent, Liturgical Year, March | 72 comments

Through my various Lenten fails over the years, I’ve learned a different way of approaching Lent. In our house, we now view Lent as a time to try adding or taking away things from our personal and family lives to see if we are improved. We make it a time, not of suffering (necessarily) but rather of increased focus on God and others and decreased focus on self and personal comfort. I have found that I can take up or give up just about anything, no matter how big or small, and use it as a reminder to pray more and love more. With that in mind, here are 66 ideas of things to consider giving up or taking up, in beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels, for beginning, intermediate, and advanced Lents.

1. Don’t take the best spot available in the parking lot
2. Take the worst parking spot you can find 
3. Don’t drive: walk or take public transportation
1. Make the bed everyday
2. Make the bed everyday before you leave the bedroom
3. Put the throw pillows on and everything
1. Go to daily Mass once per week in addition to Sunday Mass
2. Go to daily Mass 2-3 times per week
3. Go to daily Mass every day
1. Don’t leave dishes in the sink overnight
2. Do the cooking dishes before dinner and the dinner dishes dishes immediately after dinner
3. Don’t use the dishwasher
1. Don’t use credit cards, spend only cash
2. Keep a list of things to buy and only shop one day per week
3. Don’t buy anything (except maybe food)
1. Don’t eat out at restaurants
2. Make all your food from scratch
3. Grow/raise all your own food
1. Watch only specific, preselected movies or TV shows, not just whatever is on
2. Watch TV and movies only as a planned family event, not spur of the moment, not alone
3. Don’t watch TV or movies
1. Say a family Rosary once a week
2. Say one decade of the Rosary as a family each day
3. Say a family Rosary every day
1. Only listen to audio books or Classical music in the car
2. Turn off the radio in the car
3. Say a Rosary in the car or listen to a spiritual audio book
1. Get up at a specific time each morning
2. Go to bed at a specific time each night
3. Be in bed for a set amount of time each night
1. Get dressed before 8am
2. No stretchy pants
1. Have dinner as a family
2. Have a family game night
3. Read a book aloud as a family
1. If you like email, make phone calls
2. If you like talking on the phone, write letters
3. Go visit someone in person
1. Know what you’re going to make for dinner by 10am
2. Start a meal-planning system
3. Teach your kids to meal plan and cook
1. Clean the house each week
2. Clean the house before bed each night
3. Clean the house before dinner each evening
1. Eat more simply
2. Eat up the food that’s in the back of the pantry and freezer
3. Eat only soup
1. Give up one particular type of treat
2. Give up all sweets
3. I’m pretty sure there’s nothing harder than that
1. Switch from coffee to tea or vice versa
2. Limit yourself to one cup of coffee or tea per day
3. Give up caffeine 
1. Turn the lights off in empty rooms
2. Have lights turned on in only one room at a time
3. Don’t use electricity
1. Say the Morning Offering when you wake up
2. And the Angelus at noon
3. And do an Examination of Conscience and say the Act of Contrition at night
1. Read the Sunday readings before Mass
2. Read the Bible for 10 minutes each day
3. And read the Catechism for 10 minutes each day
1. If you like TV, read a novel instead 
2. If you like novels, read a classic
3. If you like the classics, read great Catholic nonfiction

If you’ve got any ideas for an out of the box Lent, add them in the comments . . . 


  1. Amelia Bentrup

    Great ideas.

    1. say Evening Prayer for Morning Prayer (from the Divine Office.
    2. Say both Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer
    3. Say Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer and Midday prayer
    (The divine office for each day can be found online for free at divineoffice.org)

    1. Take a family walk together once a week
    2. Take a family walk together 2-3 times a week
    3. Take a family walk together 5-7 times a week

    1. Give extra in the collection basket each week.
    2. Research a new charity to give
    3. Do a family sevice project (ie. volunteer in soup kitchen or food pantry).

  2. Bonnie

    This is so great, Kendra! If I may be so bold, I would only add something along the lines of the following:

    1 – Go to the Lenten Confession night at your parish.
    2 – And go to confession one other time during Lent.
    3 – Go to confession once week throughout Lent.

  3. Jenny Cook

    There is something harder than giving up sweets: giving up sweets while still making them for others and not even taking one bite, lick, or taste in the process.
    Also, a charity called Lahash runs "Rice and Beans Month" in March (which always coincides with some part of Lent)…the premise being that you eat only rice and beans (and fruit and vegetables) since that is what so many people in the rest of the world have to eat, and then you donate whatever money you saved by not buying all kinds of other food to Lahash or some other charity that addresses world hunger. Here's a website: http://lahash.org/work/partners-projects/projects/ricebeans/
    This is a great, great list. Wow. I'm pinning this one!

  4. MamaH

    Thank you for sharing this! Every year I stress about Lent and always pick some things that just don't work. This is excellent and truly helpful. I shared it on my fb page and personal page. I really think so many families – and folks in general – can find this tremendously helpful:)

  5. Claire Rebecca

    Go to confession once a week! That's my goal. Also, for any other teenagers out there, maybe volunteer time to help a mother at your parish by baby-sitting for free?

  6. Madeline

    I am giving up paper plates this year. It sounds trite but I loathe doing dishes so I often go for the paper plates. It will be a sacrifice for me for sure.

  7. Hafsa

    This is a great list and I am definitely bookmarking this post to refer back to.

  8. Apple Jacs

    Love this list! A couple ones particularly for us women, could be…
    1. Give up makeup
    2. Give up blow drying your hair
    3. Give up mirrors

    1. Limit yourself to getting dressed in 5 minutes
    2. Lay out your clothes the night before and do not go back in the closet the next morning
    3. Don't wear pants during lent.
    4. A bonus I just thought of, choose 7 outfits to rotate during lent! Wow, that would be a tough one for me.

    Now to dread Ash Wednesday…

    • StumblingServant

      I gave up makeup and blow drying my hair when I had kids! lol. It would be a Lenten sacrifice for me TO use makeup and blow dry my hair now! haha. Those are valuable sleeping minutes 😛

    • Anonymous

      I've actually been contemplating wearing makeup for Lent! The idea being, this is the body God gave me, and so that my husband has the benefit of not looking at a ragamuffin every day. It would actually be a sacrifice to keep up my appearance!

  9. Micaela Darr

    This list is great, Kendra. Some other ideas:

    1. Speak only in a soft voice. (As in, no shouting.)
    2. Look directly into someone's eyes when speaking to them
    3. Wait 30 seconds before answering any questions.

    I'm avoiding food-related themes this year as they always seem to have some other aspect to them (weight loss, etc) and I really want to focus on the spirituality. But that Rice and Beans project looks awesome. Hmmmm….

  10. Green Acres in the City

    Thank you for sharing. My Husband and I joined the Catholic Church last Easter Vigil. We are always looking for helpful hints. I am a stay at home Mom to 2 little boys.

  11. The Sweet Wonder

    Thank you for these great suggestions! Right now I'm thinking of giving up processed sugars, but that's all so far…I needed some help with something to do in addition to giving up or switching out!

  12. Anonymous

    I am considering giving up Facebook (among other things, as well as adding to prayer life and almsgiving). I am in RCIA this year and this will be my first practicing Lent. I wonder if giving up Facebook is too much too early? Isn't that the point, though? My biggest hold up on it is that Facebook is the easiest and most efficient way to communicate with everyone about my wedding that is coming up in June. I am not sure if I am ready to make wedding planning for stressful than it already is. But, I am still praying on it.

    Great ideas, Kendra!

    • Sunday

      Maybe you could limit Facebook to one a day for ten minutes (or whatever makes sense). Then you could still stay on top of wedding stuff. But set a timer, so you don't get sucked in.

    • Mom_of_five

      A few of my friends give up FaceBook for Lent.. except Sundays .. (Resurrection Day)…

  13. An Pfister (Nguyen)

    In addition to or in lieu of "Being in bed for a set amount of time each night" try "Giving up hitting the snooze button." Although my kids are my alarm clock these days, I did this once while in school and it was very hard!

    • nikkispens2

      I gave up the snooze button one year and spent the extra time either reading the daily Mass readings or a reflection. It was great!

  14. EJ

    Fantastic post! I love the different levels – I find myself in beginner for some and maybe edging toward intermediate or advanced in others. Spending only cash, what a challenge!

    I would suggest something to do with smartphones – maybe leaving them off, leaving them at home, or disabling the Internet connection on them.

  15. Emma Wilson

    Last year I gave up elevators. It was incredibly difficult but better for me.

  16. Christina Grace

    1. Don't shop for clothes during Lent.
    2. Don't shop for clothes during Lent and give all of the money you would've spent on clothing to charity.
    3. Choose seven outfits and rotate those same outfits for the entirety of Lent.

  17. jen

    For knitters or crocheters:

    1.) Make 7×7 squares with stash yarn
    2.) Make a baby blanket for your local CPC or Project Linus (http://projectlinus.org)
    3.) Make 1-2 squares per day and assemble them into a blanket during Holy Week.

  18. Julia McCoy

    Last year I waited to be asked or asked permission before talking about myself. It was an eye opener, though I must say I cheated when it came to talking with my mom.

    • Wahzat Gayle

      Oh my goodness this a great one… I wonder if I am strong enough to try this. Think I am going to give a try. Thanks for mentioning

  19. kate @ be merry, kate

    I'm just now coming back to read this post in its entirety and I just love it. I don't think I will ever be advanced enough to "eat only soup" but we'll see. Certainly not this year!

  20. Danielle

    What a fabulous list! I read this when it was posted and have seen 3 friends of Facebook link to it since…it may be viral material 😉

  21. Kathy Tegethoff

    When my daughter went to school at Franciscan College at Steubenville, Ohio, her group gave up sleeping with their pillows at night!!! AHHHH!

  22. Claire Anatolia

    1. give up make-up
    2. give up using heat when styling your hair
    3. take only cold showers (this is a tough one)
    4.listen to only christion music
    5. make an asserted effort over lent to make sure that the people you care about know how you feel.
    6. never receive anything without saying a prayer of thanksgiving to God
    7. go to confession once a week
    8. be a vegetation and not only on Fridays.

    • AmieLou

      Please don't listen to only Christian music. Much of it is mediocre. And worse than that, most of it is theologically evangelical and espouses ideas that are not Catholic. Maybe listen only to instrumental or classical music instead.

    • Ana González

      Or Catholic music! There is plenty, good Catholic music (with voice or instrumental)

  23. Meredith

    I gave up using a fork for Lent a few years back… chopsticks were my new best friend!

  24. MikeB

    Ask Jesus Christ into your heart , if you haven't already. Commit to reading the Word of God each day and making it a habit. This will developing a personal relationship with Him and you will know His will for your life. Pray that you may develop the character of Christ, so others will see Christ in you and want to know Him as well and be saved. Spend time in prayer thanking Him for sending His son, Jesus to die on the cross, for the payment of our sins. His shed blood was enough. Ephesians 2: 8-9,For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast. USCCB Bible

  25. Becky519

    There are so many great ideas! But I have to say that the one mentioned in the comments a couple times about giving up mirrors I can't agree with. In Matthew 6:16-18 we are told to not neglect our appearance while fasting. This would apply to any sacrifices we make. We're not to appear to be fasting, but keep our appearance neat and do our prayer and sacrifice in private unlike the hypocrites. We need mirrors to do this; however, I can see only uses mirrors to get ready in the morning or when going out in public, but no other time. Simplify the 'beauty routine' but still look presentable and clean.

    • AmieLou

      I would up vote this if there were an option to. I think choosing to look less put together than you normally do during Lent not only violates the scripture you cite but is also a poor witness to both non-Christians and Christians who do not observe Lent. No one is going to want to sign up for that and so many non-Catholics tend to assume that if one Catholic person they know engages in a practice or sacrifice it must be required of all Catholics.

  26. amy

    Do an act of kindness for a neighbor each week. Reach out and get to know your neighbors better or introduce yourself to the ones you've never met.

    • Darryl K Williams

      Yes, something focused on others rather than self. I know many of the suggestions are focused on God, but maybe a very good way to focus on God is by focusing on others. How about engaging one homeless person each day for a little conversation? That would be tough for me.

  27. Mrs. Gamgee

    Hi, just stumbled across this via pinterest. Thanks for the list and for getting me thinking about what I am going to do this Lenten season.

  28. Christina Genaw

    Great list. I plan on going on an alkaline diet because cancer can't survive in that tyoe of environment. This would involve giving up coffee, black tea, red meat, pickles, & arrificial sweeteners. I already do some of these things. Plus I want to give up sugar…it's so addictive. Finally I plan to ADD: Read the bible every day AND do the rosary at least once a week…with the final goal of every day.

  29. Unknown

    I'm giving up playing with technology (Facebook, Pinterest, Words With Friends, texting, etc.) while my little one is awake. That way I'm focused on being present with him, but I can still communicate with friends & family during "after hours."

  30. Annie Gray

    1) tell one person a week what you love and appreciate about them.
    2) write a letter or an email to one person a week and tell them hat you love and appreciate about them.
    3) write a letter or an email to one person, each of the 40 days of lent, and tell them what you love and appreciate about them.

  31. Amy Kerns

    1. Limit smartphone/technology/screen use to 2 hours per day.
    2. Only use smart phone for phone calls/text messaging
    3. Deactivate social media

    • AmieLou

      I've had friends and family who live far away give up social media for Lent. What they forgot was that is the only way they communicate with those of us who are not nearby now and they made no effort to communicate with us in any other way. Be careful with that. Make sure that if you do it, you are not unintentionally cutting people out of your life for 40 days.

  32. Jamie Jo

    Wow…I love this list! Wish my printer was working…I'd print it up!!

    Thanks for all the ideas…love how you put it in order of how hard some of those are…and some made me laugh!! (I hope they were supposed to!)

  33. Mama

    We're coming up on Passion Sunday, so we have 2 weeks before the Triduum begins, and I have received a fresh inspiration from this list. It's never too late to practice a little self restraint during Lent. Thanks.

  34. Karen J Rinehart

    What is the point of "no stretchy pants"????? It's five degrees outside. You better believe I'm wearing my stretchable sweater leggings!

    • Kendra

      For me, wearing pants that button is a little less comfortable and a little more trouble, so I can use the little act of feeling the waist of the pants or of buttoning them up to remind me to focus my thoughts on Lent and on God.

      But this particular Lent is going to be a stretchy pants Lent for me, since I'm pregnant.

      The "point" of any voluntary Lenten discipline is to help us remember that it's Lent. Lots of little things can help do that, if we do them mindfully.

  35. Elie Fabs

    my friend was looking for a form several days ago and came across a great service that has lots of sample forms . If you are looking for it also , here's a http://goo.gl/bD2pn8

  36. Erika Anstead

    This past year for lent I had probably one of the more successful ones I've ever had.
    It involved (pre-lent) making a list of 40 different people who've touched my life and praying for one person each day.
    I then amped it up by also writing them a letter (handwritten and mailed whenever possible, if not then FB message was my backup).
    It was definitely challenging some days more than others, but fully fruitful!

  37. MoN Women's Gospel Reflections

    1. Make a visit to a Chapel during the week for silent prayer
    2. Weekly Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament
    3. Daily Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament

  38. Zentz Family

    These are wonderful – thank you!
    Last year I gave up yelling for Lent. Yelling in frustration, raising my voice, yelling across the house or yard to get someone's attention; all of it. Pretty sure it falls into your 3's category, but it was one of the best Lenten experiences I've ever had. It forced me to be intentional with my voice, words & proximity & it grew my relationships with my family.

  39. Laura Soto

    I'm just stumbling upon this post…I love it!! Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced is awesome. I have priest friend who only has bread and water throughout Lent (including Sundays). That's Advanced-Extreme!

  40. Ian

    Gave up meat this year for Lent. I forgot how difficult it is to be a vegetarian!

  41. Rosemary V

    Monday = Meatless Mondays.
    Taco Tuesdays (or: vegetarian tacos.)
    Fish: on Tues/Fridays
    Wed= light supper, soup & flat bread, toasted tortilla bread, or crackers, etc. Salad, or veggies.
    Thurs-simple spaghetti supper.
    Fri-is “fish day.”
    Sat-silly supper (Have breakfast for dinner, or have this “silky supper” on a day you choose.)
    Sun-eat healthy, & light,,still observe Lenten traditions, so no sweets, or whatever you gave up, i.e. chocolate, coffee, rich foods with cream & butter & cheese, etc.)
    You got this, mama! 😉
    Love in Christ,


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Hi! I’m Kendra.

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