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Money Mentality

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

“When the dog bites, when the bee stings

When I’m feeling sad

I simply remember my favorite things

And then I don’t feel so bad”

– The Sound of Music

When I was eight years old, my family and I went on the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, Austria. I had seen the movie at least twenty times and was so excited and it was just as magical in person. The mountains were breathtaking and the landscape felt so familiar that it seemed like the Von Trapp children were about to jump down from their perch in the trees that lined the street.

At the time, I didn’t understand a lot of the movie and definitely didn’t understand the historical context of World War II. But I did know what it was like to be scared and I adored the song about “raindrops on roses and bright colored ribbons.”

As an eight-year old, I vowed in my journal that I would “always be brave” and even when “I don’t feel brave, I will try to remember my favorite things.”

As I got older, my list of favorites evolved. My American Girl doll was replaced by tetherball which was eventually replaced with running.

In times of darkness or fear, I try to remember my list. Unlike last week’s list, The Sound of Music list is a list about the little things—the things that we often overlook as we look instead towards the future and wring our hands in fear.

This list is a celebration of the present. It’s a reminder to stop, breathe and soak in the small moments that ultimately come together to create our lives. Many of the things on my list are free. Some of the things cost a small amount of money and others are things I consider a splurge. But they all have one thing in common: they make me undeniably joyful.

 

  1. Swimming laps
  2. Reading outside
  3. Beach days
  4. Boogie boarding in the ocean
  5. Wooden roller coasters
  6. Morning runs
  7. Candles
  8. The first cup of coffee of the day
  9. Hiking
  10. Baking
  11. Fluffy blankets
  12. Twinkle lights
  13. The dog park
  14. The library
  15. Disney movies
  16. Modern art museums
  17. Playing basketball
  18. Bike rides on the boardwalk
  19. Sunset walks
  20. Musicals
  21. Massages
  22. Fresh lattes
  23. Scrapbooking
  24. Writing
  25. Taize services

 

What’s on your list?

Money Mentality, Real Money

If You Had to Choose

We all have different money situations.

Some have more. Some have less.

But there’s one thing we all have in common: a finite amount.

When it comes to money, there are so many options. Whether it’s saving for retirement, spending it all on a vacation or buying the new car tires you’ve been avoiding, there’s an endless array of ways to spend your hard earned cash.

But you have to choose. Each and every day we make choices about where our money goes and how it is spent.

Choices are made, one dollar at a time.

We’ve been told that we can have it all. The career, the family, the car, the house, the vacations. The list is endless. It’s the American Dream, packaged and sold in thousands of different forms.

But the Dream is a lie. You can’t have it all.

If you’re part of the 99%, you have to choose.

Will you buy a plane ticket to visit your family or a new car? Will you take the promotion that comes with 30% more pay (and 30% more hours) or will you stay where you are and spend the extra time with your family?

Sometimes we feel like we have no choice. And that’s intentional. The barrage of information, commercials and pitches are intentionally designed to make us feel confused and stuck.

Of course I can’t decline the promotion. We need the money.

My car is a necessity. I’ll visit my parents next year.

The choices start to feel less like choices and more like facts. “I can’t afford it,” becomes less of an excuse and more of a belief.

So life happens. Without love and attention, partners become strangers. Without exercise, bodies grow weak. Without noticing, parents become elderly.

In order to choose, we have to take a break.

We have to step off the treadmill of life and stop sprinting.

It feels difficult, but there are some easy ways to get started:

  • Take in the view from your apartment balcony. Step outside into your backyard. Ground yourself in the moment and take a deep breath.
  • Dust off your journal and ask yourself some hard questions: What do I truly value?
  • Pretend that you’ve already lived once and this your redemption round. You did it wrong the first time. What will you do differently now?
  • Go on a long walk near your favorite body of water and leave your headphones at home.

Once you’ve done one (or all) of the above, it’s time to make your list.

Here’s mine:

  1. Family

  2. Health + Safety

  3. Friends

  4. Meaningful work

  5. Adventure

 

 

This list is the roadmap to your finances. It’s your guiding light when things feel hard and money feels tight.

Hold tight to your list and make sure your spending aligns with what you’ve chosen.

Because the truth is that you can afford it.

But you have to choose.

What will you choose?

Money Mentality, Real Money

Money Confession: I Have a Car Loan

I’ve been blogging for over a year now and if there’s one thing I’ve learned since joining the realm of ~bloggers~, it’s that it is SO EASY to lie.

Instead of explaining how you spent 90+ hours a week to grow your million dollar business, it’s easy to simply say, “Hustle hard, ya’ll!” Early retirement? No more coffee or cars. Paying off debt? “Side hustle.”

The problem with these one to two word answers is that they barely scratch the surface of what is required (and what is sacrificed) in order to accomplish big money goals.

There are A LOT of things I don’t talk about on my blog. Sometimes I leave things out because it’s not my story to tell. Other times, it’s because it is too painful to talk about. Regardless of the reason, I can assure you that my money situation is more complex and nuanced than it appears.

Which leads me to today’s confession: I have a $3,000 car loan.

When I paid off nearly $14,000 of student loans last year, I swore up and down that I would NEVER take on debt again.

Debt was my greatest enemy and I was happy to bid it farewell.

So what changed?

Me.

Throughout the past year, I’ve done a deep dive into what actually matters to me. I’ve stopped chasing happiness and started chasing meaning.

I’ve become kinder to myself and made a conscious effort to become more generous…even when it’s hard.

I’ve also tried to come to terms with the fact that life is maddeningly, absurdly short.

My mom and my step-dad

As I was on my way to a UCLA math final in 2014, I received a phone call from my sister. She was in tears as she explained that they weren’t sure if my mom was going to make it. Due to one nurse’s mistake, my mom was unexpectedly experiencing kidney failure and no one was sure if she would survive.

I was forced to think about what life would be like without my mother, but I couldn’t imagine it.

She is the glue that holds our family together and the rock upon which my sisters and I lean. She is my very best friend and my role model. With my mother in a small town in Oklahoma that was a two hour car ride from the nearest airport, and me in California, there wasn’t anything I could do as I waited for updates. My sister told me to take my final and I did. While I calculated complex probability problems, tears fell on the page.

Three years later, my mom has recovered and she is as wonderful, loving and fiercely loyal as ever.

But even though three years have passed since that horrible day, I’ll never forget it.

It was the ultimate lesson of the fleeting nature of this world and the fragility of our human lives.

Nothing is guaranteed.

My (very, very small) car loan seems unrelated to my mom and the fleeting nature of life, and maybe it is. But in many ways, I think my car loan is a sign that I’m continuing to grow into the person I hope to become.

I hope to be a person who sees manageable amounts of debt as a useful tool.

I hope to be a person who looks at the big picture and not the irrelevant details.

I hope to be a person who is not obsessed with money or trapped in the past.

I hope to be a person who contributes in meaningful ways to society.

I hope to be a person who always tells my family and best friends that I love them.

I hope to be a person who doesn’t waste my life on trivialities like saving a few dollars.

I hope to be generous with people and organizations I care about.

I hope to be gentle, kind, humble and hard-working.

I hope that when my time on earth ends, I have helped to make it a slightly better place for someone else.

 

What kind of person do you hope to be? Have you ever had a change of heart about money?

 

Money Mentality

How to Stop Being a Jealous Asshole

The more that I read about money and immerse myself in the world of personal finance, the more that it becomes clear that people are jealous assholes. From judging people who “spend too much” to shaming millennials who are genuinely just trying to survive the world of corporate greed, there are a lot of people who have a lot of opinions about other people’s money.

But one of the things that annoys me more than anything else is the judgement of people who get financial help from family members.

Trust me, I GET IT. As someone who was cut off at 20-years old midway through college, I understand that it can feel unfair. During college, I was working three part-time jobs, attending school full-time and still poor AF.

In fact, I specifically remember working as a UCLA fundraiser and what it felt like to call alumni who would donate $10,000 without missing a beat.

I felt angry. It was a nasty feeling in the pit of my stomach that would eventually spread through my whole body until I felt my face grow flushed.  

Even though these people were donating money (aka a kind and generous thing), I felt furious. I was furious at the injustice. Other people were comfortable and secure in their finances, while I toiled away for minimum wage and regularly cried myself to sleep from financial stress.

The truth is that the world is unfair. And I firmly believe that it shouldn’t be. I believe that we should work to build societal safety nets for our less privileged neighbors instead of destroying the few safety nets that are currently in place. I believe that healthcare is a human right and that everyone should have roof over their head. I believe in “leveling the playing field” and I believe that people with more privilege should lend a helping hand to people who have less.

You know what that’s called? Being a good human. I believe that we should all be good humans, even if it’s hard or doesn’t come naturally.

But guess what? Being a good human doesn’t involve hating other people. As someone who personally knows multiple people who get significant help from their parents in the form of gifted housing, living at home, “loans” that never have to be paid back, cars, free trips and everything in between, I can assure that people who get help are all around us. And whether or not you want to admit it, you may be one of them. But I can also assure you these people are generous, kind, hard-working individuals with a serious amount of gratitude and humility.

So if you find yourself feeling like I did as a fundraiser, here are some things you can do:

 

  1. Unless someone acquired their money through the exploitation of other humans, animals or the environment, it’s none of your business how they got it or where it is coming from. And YES, this includes people who get money from their parents. IT’S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. Be happy that a fellow human doesn’t have to experience the stress, pain and fear of living in (or near) poverty.

 

  1. Start judging people for the good that they do with their money and not how much they have or where it is coming from.

 

  1. ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR OWN PRIVILEGE. Guess what? If you are reading this article, on the Internet, on your computer, during your leisure time, you have some serious financial privilege. Instead of judging other people, take some time to acknowledge your own privilege. Here’s a personal example: I’m white! It’s currently the biggest privilege in America and possibly the world. I was raised in a middle class family and my father is a lawyer! Even though I was cut off at 20 years old, my father still pays my phone bill! I have no idea why but I do know that it saves me at least $60/month. These are just a few examples, but I bet you can think of plenty more about me and more importantly, about yourself.

 

  1. If you still find yourself filled with rage, try using that anger to focus on actual things that matter like volunteering with local organizations that are helping people in need (like the Trevor Project or the ACLU) or getting involved with the upcoming midterm elections so sane people can reclaim Washington.

What do you think about people who receive money from their parents? Does it detract from what they have accomplished?

Money Mentality

The Power to Do Good (Even When it’s Hard)

It’s easy to see how money corrupts. From oil companies that destroy the planet to mega-million executives who exploit their workers in order to gain a bigger profit for themselves. There are endless stories of greed and pain.

And some of the stories are our own.

When my father unexpectedly cut me off in the middle of college, I learned firsthand that money can be used as a weapon.

In fact, I bet none of us would struggle to find instances of greed, fraud and destruction.

Unfortunately, it often feels more difficult to find acts of kindness.

In the face of economic injustice and destruction, it’s easy to feel powerless. In fact, it’s reassuring to feel like the problems are too big to be solved by a single person (a person like me or you) because then we are off the hook.

We are free to tune out and have other people deal with the mess. Throwing our hands up in despair while cinching our wallets in order to protect our own people is an understandable response.

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In fact, it’s been my response. After experiencing extreme hardship in college, I felt myself contract. After a taste of cruelty and poverty, my world shrunk. All that mattered was survival and the only person I felt I could trust was myself. Even after I got a full-time job and was safely middle class, I continued to hoard money and be stingy with others…and myself.

But that response—retreating into myself—is the easy way out. It’s easy cling to the past and replay the hardships we’ve endured on a never-ending loop.

It’s easy to care for the people we already love.

It’s easy to hold onto hate and fear.

It’s easy to retreat.

But it’s hard to move forward and let go of the past.

It’s hard to be generous with strangers.

It’s hard to have hope when there’s darkness.

It’s hard to forgive.

Those things are hard because they matter. Doing the hard work is how we create change.

And more importantly, it’s how we can reclaim money as a weapon for good instead of evil.

I signed up for the #GivingCards Project through the Rockstar Community Fund last month and I was surprised by what happened.

The task was simple: give away the $20 Visa gift card that was given to me (and the other participants).

But what resulted from the project was a complex inner journey that I’m slightly embarrassed to talk about.

We were asked to share what we did with the money in the forums, and this is what I wrote:

After some deliberating, I decided to use $5 to give a holiday card and Starbucks gift card to the women who cleans our building at work. She greets us every morning with a giant smile.

But on my way to work that morning, I passed a homeless man on the side of the road. He was snuggled with his dog and in that moment, I decided to do a u-turn and give him the card and gift card instead. When I handed it to him through the window, he got a huge smile on his face and said “God bless.”

While I waited at the red light, I watched him start to walk to the Starbucks on the corner. It’s funny how things work out. (I’m still planning to surprise the woman in our building with a gift card in the new year though!)

With the other $15, I bought a wool flannel to donate to our church’s clothing drive. The church is located across the street from a giant San Diego park that houses a large amount of homeless people. I donated the sweater on Christmas Eve.

It’s hard for me to talk about, but the truth is that I haven’t been as generous as I would have liked.  I lived uncomfortably close to the poverty line from 2013-2015 while finishing my college degree and I think that the feelings of fear, pain and scarcity continued to haunt me this year.

I still remember what it’s like to ashamedly take food from a food pantry and survive on pasta for months and become a shell of the person I was. Reconciling those experiences with my middle class childhood and current middle class adulthood are difficult, but the Giving Card reminded me that I don’t want to live in the past. I want to move into 2017 with generosity in my heart and help people who are experiencing hardships in whatever way I can. Thank you for the reminder, Rockstar <3

 

The Rockstar Community Fund is open to everyone who wants to be involved. From #GivingCards to the amazing #DebtDrop, there are SO MANY wonderful ways to do good this year and reclaim money as a weapon for good.

I hope to see you in the forums <3

 

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Do you think money is a weapon? Can it be used for good?

Money Mentality, Quote

24 Thoughts for 24 Years

Today is my birthday (!!) so I thought I would switch things up and write a different kind of post. Here are 24 things I’ve learned in my 24 years of living. Some are about money; some are still a work in progress and others are simply about life, but all of them are things I’ve been grateful to learn.

 

  1. It Keeps Getting Better

The older you get, the more you know yourself and what you want. This results in a better life, more fulfilling career, meaningful goals, better relationships and a happier existence.

 

  1. Forever People

Forever people are the rarest and most wonderful gift of all. They are the people that you know will always be there with no questions asked, no matter what. Regardless of time or distance, these are your people. I see some of my “forever people” every single day and others a few times a year. I am so, so grateful to have them in my life.

 

  1. Stuff is Lame

I’ve moved 6 times in the past 6 years and if there is one thing my moves have taught me it’s that stuff is lame. I do not enjoy spending my money on it and I do not enjoy lugging it up and down stairs.

 

  1. It’s Okay to Be Boring

There’s a lot of pressure to ~quit your job, travel the world and be #free~ but guess what? It’s okay to love weekends at home and grocery shopping with your other half. These small moments are gifts, not to be wished away or felt bad about.

 

  1. We’re Going to Die

Live accordingly.

 

  1. Be Proud to Be You

It’s never easy to be different, but your differences are what make you wonderful. I’m proud to be LGBT and in a relationship with the love of my life. But in a heteronormative world, this means that I have to come out ALL. THE. TIME. (i.e. Unassuming coworkers ask if I have a boyfriend, grocery clerks ask if we are sisters, and real estate agents ask how long we’ve been “best friends and roommates.”) These encounters are glaring reminders that I am different than most people. As I continue to get older, I continue to embrace the fact that this is a good thing (despite what certain parts of the country would have me believe). It means I’m unique and authentically living my life. Being different is a gift.

 

  1. A Happy Living Space is Worth the Extra Cash

I’ve lived in a dirty studio, a one bedroom with two other girls and an apartment with a windowless bedroom and constant street noise. The lesson learned? Clean, safe, private, quiet accommodations are ALWAYS worth the money.

 

  1. I Hate Cars

They are money-sucking leeches that add an absurd amount of stress to life. They are also insanely convenient. I’ve reconciled those two facts by becoming a one-car household.

 

  1. Your Early 20’s are HARD

Oh man. Your early 20’s are depicted as a constant party and while there have definitely some parties, there has also been an insane amount of stress. There is so much pressure to “figure it out,” find the ~perfect~ career, live on your own, go out with friends, save money, find your partner, etc. That is a crap ton of stuff to figure out in a few short years. As I start moving into my mid-20’s, I am starting to feel the (internal and external) pressure lift as I slowly but surely start to discover what I want.

 

  1. If You Don’t Like Something, Change It (But Not Right Away)

If you’re unhappy with something in your life, then you should change it. But that doesn’t mean that you need to abandon ship and jump headfirst into the unknown. It’s better to make a plan and start working towards it, one day at a time.

 

  1. Unhappy Periods End…But So Do Happy Ones

Life is cyclical and nothing will last forever. Your happiness will eventually be met by stress or tragedy and your unhappiness will eventually lead to peace and joy. I’ve learned that this is a tough pill for me to swallow.

 

  1. I LOVE Saving Money

I never really enjoyed paying off my debt. It felt like I was digging myself out of a hole…in the middle of the desert…while sweating profusely. But if debt is like digging a hole, then saving money feels like planting a palm tree and preparing for a life of leisure in the shade.

 

  1. People Will Annoy You, Ignore Them

Whether it’s online or real life, there are SO MANY annoying people. Just ignore them.

 

  1. Try Everything and Then Curate

I love the rush I get when I try new things. But if I try something new and dislike it, I don’t try again. Life is too short to force yourself to do unpleasant activities. (ahem, snowboarding)

 

  1. Being Debt Free is the Best

That is all 😉

 

  1. Spend Time Outside

Quality time in nature is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. Enjoy it, soak it in and always come back for more.

 

  1. Running is My Favorite

I’ve been running nearly every day since I was 13 and it never gets old. The clarity, peace of mind and sense of accomplishment I get from a good run will never, ever cease to amaze me.

 

  1. Treat Yo’Self

This has been a tough lesson for me to learn, but taking care of myself is the best gift I can give myself and the people I love. It also makes life infinitely more enjoyable.

 

  1. My Life Doesn’t Look the Way I Thought It Would

There are so many things in my life that look NOTHING like I thought they would. But everything that has turned out differently than I envisioned has brought me more joy than I could have ever imagined.

 

  1. Routines Are Great (But They Have a Bad Side Effect)

I LOVE routines. I love waking up in the morning, journaling with a cup of coffee and then heading to the gym before work. I love arriving at work and settling in for the day with the same people. Routines are amazing, but they make the day go by so much faster. And when we only have a limited number of days to live, this isn’t always a good thing.

 

  1. Never Stop Growing

I graduated from college 1.5 years ago and in that time, I’ve learned that I love learning for learning’s sake. In fact, researching new money facts, reading biographies and going on interesting historical tours are some of my favorite pastimes.

 

  1. Aging is a Gift

One of the main reasons I love birthdays (my own and everyone else’s) is because living for another year is such an amazing gift. In fact, it’s the ultimate gift. Most people hate aging, but if I’m blessed enough to have a few more decades on this earth then I promise to celebrate each new birthday with more gusto than the last.

 

  1. Make Hard Decisions Young and Often

The best time to work hard, pay off debt and save money is RIGHT NOW. You will never again be as young or as capable as you are in this moment. I am so ridiculously grateful to my younger self for working three-part time jobs in college instead of taking out additional loans. I’m grateful that my younger self sacrificed convenience and didn’t buy a new car when my old one broke. But mainly, I’m grateful that my younger self buckled down and paid of my loans. My current self is so very grateful for all the hard work my younger self did.

 

  1. I’ve Never Been Happier

As I look towards my 24th year, I can genuinely say that I’ve never been happier or more content, and even though I know that the future will hold a plethora of twists and turns, I’m ridiculously grateful for this moment.

 

Any birthday advice or thoughts?