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Money Mentality

Extreme Savings, Money Mentality

The Ultimate Guide to Financial Liberation

When I decided to get serious about personal finance (and paying off my student loans), I knew that I had A LOT to learn. Like anything else in life, money management is a skill that needs to be learned, practiced and continually refreshed. It definitely helped that I was already interested in money, but I still had a lot of growth ahead of me. And honestly, I’m still learning, making mistakes and trying again. It’s a ~process~.

But if there’s one thing I know, it’s that I’m making progress.

I know the difference between an IRA and a 401(k), how income tax brackets work (lol, learned that the hard way), and how my emotions will always play a role in my finances (this may or may not be true for you).

I’ve learned by reading, researching, listening to podcasts and asking questions. So I wanted to take a moment to outline all of the resources that have helped me learn and grow. I hope they can help you too.

 

Investing

Investing was definitely the topic that confused me the most. I’m pretty risk averse and my knowledge about the stock market, index funds, etc. was essentially 0. These articles and resources have helped me tremendously.

1. I Don’t Know How to Invest and I’m Afraid of Making Expensive Mistakes by Afford Anything

This is the ultimate article on investing for beginners (like me). It’s long, it’s thorough and it’s ridiculously easy to understand. After you’re done reading, be sure to bookmark it on your computer. If you’re anything like me, you’ll come back to it multiple times.

2. How to Make Money in the Stock Market by Mr. Money Mustache

Short, sweet and to the point. The last paragraph has explicit directions for the index fund that he recommends.

3. Stock Series by J. L. Collins

Comprehensive, extensive and useful. The series will answer any question you’ve ever had, and probably some you didn’t even know you were wondering.

4. Compound Interest Calculator

The number one thing that has made me excited and ready to invest is entering numbers in this calculator. Watching compound interest do its thing is thrilling and incredibly motivating.

 

Saving and Money Mentality

If there’s one thing I learned about money during my self-education, it’s that saving is irrevocably intertwined with mentality. These are the resources that have helped me become a better saver, literally and mentally.

1. Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed by Raptitude

I’ve mentioned this article before, but it should be mandatory reading for anyone interested in creating change, but especially for people who want to save more money.

2. Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes

This book is AMAZING. Shannon unpacks our consumer culture in a completely unique way. She looks at consumption, waste and finances through the lens of the home, and she does so from a feminist perspective (YESSSS). Nothing I write will do this book justice, but if you’ve ever felt like there is more to life than manicured lawns and spending money you don’t have, this is the book for you. You can get it used on Amazon for a few dollars, but I actually found my copy in the local library.

3. The True Cost

I’m still working on eliminating fast fashion from my wardrobe, but this documentary definitely helped me to prioritize the change. Currently available on Netflix, The True Cost is an inside look at the fashion industry and the harm we are causing the planet in our pursuit of being fashionable. It’s both eye-opening and heartbreaking.

4. Cait Flanders

Cait has been pursuing a simpler and more focused life for years. All of her posts are heartfelt and honest. Her writing serves as a constant inspiration for me to cut back, slow down and be grateful.

 

You’re Not Alone

As I’ve embarked on this journey, one of the most challenging aspects has been feeling alone. The truth is that I don’t know anyone else in my “real life” who prioritized debt payoff or is aggressively saving for retirement. And even though I’ve found likeminded people online, I often feel left out in a different way—that I’m not aggressive enough. It’s a weird conundrum and can feel isolating, but the sites below have been the perfect cure.

1. Budgets Are Sexy by J. Money

Budgets are Sexy is an honest look at real life finances. J is honest about things that most personal finance bloggers consider taboo (like car payments) and it makes me feel so much less alone in my personal finance journey. Throughout the past year, I’ve come to realize that life fluctuates and changes. There are career changes, graduate degrees and cross country (or world) moves. Life happens and that’s okay. Through his honesty and transparency, J shows that rolling with the punches (and being open to change) won’t derail your finances.

2. The Financial Diet

The Financial Diet is an editorial site with a bunch of different writers. Anyone can submit a post and share their opinion or financial story. They also have excellent posts where they ask 5-6 people to anonymously share their thoughts on a certain financial topic. Anytime I visit the site I feel less alone in my journey. The site serves as a reminder that we are all trying our best and finances are incredibly personal.

 

Did I leave anything out? What else would you add?

Money Mentality, Uncategorized

The Pain of Getting Exactly What You Want

Sometimes life is hard, complicated or stressful. Sometimes it’s all of the above.

I’m currently in an “all of the above” stage and I’m trying my best to handle it with grace and faith.

Unfortunately, I have a track record of FREAKING OUT during times of change.

I’m a firm believer that we will be faced with the same hurdle in life until we can finally jump over it and move on. Right now, I’m staring at the same hurdle I’ve been facing for the past few years and willing it to move with my mind. *sigh*

What exactly is my hurdle? When-Then Thinking.

When-Then Thinking is the absurdly misguided belief that once you reach a certain point, achieve a certain goal or overcome a certain hurdle, then you’ll be ~happy~.

It’s an absurd belief because if you’re anything like me, once you reach the goal at hand, there will be a brief moment of celebration followed by fresh panic about the new things you need to achieve.

I’ve watched myself go through this vicious cycle again and again and again.

Yet, here I am. Still believing that when I achieve “X,” then I’ll be happy.

And unsurprisingly, this is exactly how I handled my debt repayment. I told myself (consciously and subconsciously) that life would be great once my debt was gone. It became a mantra that I repeated to myself every da and a phrase that I used to soothe my stress.

But of course, the day of debt freedom came and I wasn’t happy. Well, I was happy, but it was a short-lived joy. After it was all said and done, my debt repayment resulted in the most depressing debt freedom post EVER and a full blown career crisis.

This time, I’m trying to do things differently.

I’ve been using “Happiness Lists” (you can download my free template here) to realize that life is actually pretty amazing. I’m trying to trust that with hard work and dash of faith, that things will fall into place. But even beyond that, I’m trying to keep the changes in perspective: life isn’t going to begin or end, no matter the outcome.

 

 Any tips for handling stress?

Extreme Savings, Money Mentality

Being a Military Kid Taught Me About Money…and Loneliness (But Not in the Way You’d Expect)

As the child of a military officer, I moved…A LOT. I went to three different high schools, three different elementary schools and two different middle schools. Life was constantly in flux.

It’s a weird existence. And weirdly enough, it’s something that most military families don’t really talk about; it’s simply part of the job.

My sisters and I understood that “home” was a fleeting term, something used to describe your current address, but nothing more.

When the time came for us to pack our bags and leave yet another place, there was never a big talk or announcement from my parents about where we were moving next. Instead, there was a simple conversation.

As the list of where we had lived continued to grow, my sisters and I continued to grow too.

While most kids were excited about entering third grade, we were excited about exploring castle ruins in our German backyard.

We hunted for Easter eggs at this castle!

We hunted for Easter eggs at this castle!

It was an unusual way to live, but the strangest part is something that seems so obvious: I lived so many different lives.

In Alabama, I rode four-wheelers with friends and felt confined by the square footage of a small southern town. In Japan, I posed for pictures with Harajuku girls and laughed when the toilet spoke to me. In Arizona, I rode my bike around our suburban neighborhood and swam with our Golden Retriever in the backyard pool. Each place we lived in provided a snapshot of what life could be like, of what it was like for so many different families across the world. In many ways, it felt like I was only a visitor—observing the customs of a strange land, but never actually a local.

 Small town living in Alabama

Small town living in Alabama

In some places we lived, I made friends easily. In other places, the process of finding friends felt endless. But eventually, I would trade my skater shoes for Sperry’s or my Japanese sushi for In N’ Out burgers and adjust to my surroundings. However, the friendless in between still haunted me.

When I was seven years old, I found myself reacting to the painfulness of adjusting in a weird way: I kept wishing for the weekend. Each day that I rode the bus home, I would mentally write an “X” on the day and celebrate that I was one day closer to freedom.

But I quickly realized that there was a problem with my plan. “Freedom” never lasted.

I would spend the weekend in bliss, surrounded by my family, but no matter what I did, Monday always came.

This cycle continued for a few weeks before I realized what was happening.

Five days out of seven were spent waiting for the other two.

My seven-year-old brain imploded. So many days were spent unhappy and only two were spent in contentment. As I walked home that afternoon, I started crying.

Eventually, friends were made. The weekdays became more enjoyable. I joined the other kids on the playground during lunch. The school days slowly became filled with laugher. Without noticing, I abandoned my mental log.

But even though the log was abandoned, I’ve never forgotten that feeling. The fear of wasting my life still lingers. In many ways, it has pulled me in unexpected directions. The fear drew me into personal finance, and it allowed me to approach my debt repayment with a level of aggression that is usually reserved for NFL sports.

The fear of wasting of my life on things that make me unhappy is very much still alive. And so far, there’s only one way I’ve found to silence the fear: the pursuit of financial freedom.

Sometimes I think about my 7-year old self and wonder what she would think of my answer to her unspoken question.

I like to think that she would be proud.

 

Have any childhood realizations changed your life?

Money Mentality, Quote

Having a Bad Day? Read These Articles

It feels like life has been kicking my butt for the past few weeks. Overall, things are great: everyone I love is healthy and there haven’t been any major upsets. It’s just one of those times in life when things feel particularly hectic and stressful.

So in recognition of the funk I’m currently experiencing, I thought I would share a few articles from around the web that have been bringing me joy. Hopefully they will be able to brighten up your day a bit too.

 

1. A Mantra for 28 (Or Any Birthday, Really) by NZ Muse

A beautiful list of lessons learned and wisdom gained. It’s short article with a big impact.

NZMuse

2. An Anxious Day by From Frugal to Free

When you have dark moments, it’s nice to know that you’re not alone, and that is exactly what Kara provides in this heartfelt post.

FrugaltoFree

3. The Woods, Mountains and Happiness Within by Our Next Life (and Cait Flanders!)

This beautifully written essay is about finding peace in the present…even if it isn’t perfect.

OurNextLife

4. I Got Married! And I’m Still Debt-Free by Mixed Up Money

Nothing is more heartwarming than a wedding. The photos from Alyssa’s (cash wedding!) are magical.

MizedUpMoney

5. Time by Budget and the Beach

Tonya’s video is about the most asset we have…time. Inspirational and uplifting, it provides the viewer with an instant dose of gratitude.

BudgetandBeach

 

How have you been feeling lately? Any reading recommendations for bad days?

Money Mentality

The Financial Commandments

When I first started my blog (nearly a year ago!) I had a page that was dedicated to my “financial commandments.” They are the rules that I try to live by and the ethos of this blog. After redesigning the website a few months ago, I realized that they had gotten lost in the shuffle.

The “commandments” were the reason I decided to create my blog and the guiding principles with which I try (and sometimes fail) to live my life. (J. from Budgets Are Sexy was also kind enough to feature the on my favorite blog ever—his own!)

A lot has changed in the 8 months since I wrote them: I paid off my debt, I learned  am learning how to be kind to myself, and I’ve made some big life changes. But somehow, the “commandments” still ring true.

So without further ado, here they are:

 

1. Avoid Waste

99% of humans are wasting insanely large sums of money. Don’t be one of them

2. Only spend money on things that truly make you happy.

If it doesn’t make you happy or make you a better person, don’t even bother opening your wallet.

3. Learn what happiness actually is

…and what it isn’t.

4. AVOID ALL FINANCIAL EXTREMES.

Never sacrifice important things like your relationships or self-care in order to get ahead financially. Instead, ignore societal norms and cut out pointless expenses. Never save money to the point of misery or spend to the point of excessive. Binging and purging is unhealthy in both eating and spending.

5. Debt is evil.

Dispose of it immediately and never take out loans again.

6. You can do anything you set your mind to

…even if it is not the norm or seems hard.

7. Saving money will make you happier than spending ever could.

8. Life is short and fleeting.

Financial freedom is about creating a life that allows you to focus on the things and people that truly matter. Never lose sight of those things (and people) as you work towards your goals.

 

What are your financial commandments?

 

 

Extreme Savings, Money Mentality

Money Confessions: I’m Horrible at Budgeting

It’s true. I’m not great at budgeting. I’ve read about how other people budget. I’ve watched my partner try countless methods until finally finding one that works. I’ve watched videos and read books.

And I’ve been left with one simple truth: I HATE budgeting.

I hate it with a passion that is normally reserved for things like Los Angeles rush-hour traffic and dropped ice cream comes. And trust me, it’s not for lack of trying. I’ve tried every budget known to humankind: the envelope method, the zero-sum budget and the 50-30-20 method. NONE OF THEM WORKED.

I’ve never claimed to be great at money, just that I hate debt. But it’s been hard for me to admit my budgeting woes. The truth is that budgeting reminds me of dieting.

You are only allowed to spend eat a certain amount of money food each month. If you go over the allotted amount of money food than you’re a failure. The fact that I’m not supposed to do something has a laughably predictable outcome: I do it just because.

Feeling constrained and constricted makes me go insane. I’m not sure if it’s a personality type thing or some glitch I was born with, but I cannot abide by strict “rules.”

In other words, traditional budgeting is a nonstarter.

Here’s how a typical month of “budgeting” goes for me:

Day 1:

“Yay! This is the month that I’ll stay on track.”
*Puts half of salary into savings and other half into checking. Writes down the allotted amount for each spending category*

Day 6:

“Woohoo! Things are going really well.”

Day 17:

“I’m a failure. My money is already running low and I still have a lot more outings (i.e. fun things like dinners and road trips) to pay for. Man, I suck. I’ll never be good with money.”
*Internally cries and hates myself as I transfer money from my savings account*

Day 24:

“Next month will be better. I’ll finally do it! I’ll stick to a budget and be a success.”

Day 1:

*It all begins again*

 

If reading that made you want to pull your hair out and scream, you’re not alone. That is how I feel Every. Single. Month.

It’s the worst.

It’s a miserable emotional roller coaster that I subject myself to for no reason. I save about 50% of my income, have no debt and have built a healthy emergency fund. This torturous cycle is unnecessary because even on my “bad” months, I spend significantly less than I earn. It’s self-inflicted pain.

Last month, I finally decided to stop.

The first thing I did was give myself a (slightly) bigger monthly budget. I realized that part of the problem is that I was still living in “debt payoff” mode. I paid off nearly $14,000 of student loans in 7 months, but the aggressive payments weren’t sustainable in the long run and it was time for me to give myself some breathing room.

Secondly, I decided to separate my emergency fund and my “Oh crap, I need an extra $100 this month” fund.

You know those super sophisticated budgeters that have a separate fund for everything? $497 for travel, $321 for car repairs and $239 for medical. Yeah, I’m not that person.

As much as I wish it wasn’t true, I don’t think I’ll ever be that person.

So instead of falling for one of two extremes—dividing funds into hundreds of categories versus keeping it in one massive pot—I decided to try something else.

I moved all of my long-term emergency fund money into a separate bank. It is no longer linked to my checking out. I left $1,000 in the savings account that is linked to my checking account.

The $1,000 can be used for things like “Oh man. I really want to go on a road trip this month” or “I definitely need a new pair of running shoes.” It’s money that can be drawn from for various, non-emergency occasions.

It doesn’t mean that I’m giving myself free reign on the cash, but it does mean that I don’t have to have an almost panic attack every time I need to grab some extra cash.

So how is the $1,000 replenished? Exclusively from my extra freelance money. The savings from my full-time job is safely stored away in my other savings account and never touched.

So there you have it: I’m horrible at budgeting.

The truth is that I’m still figuring it all out, and I’m sure I will be for years to come. But I think the most important thing is that we all find a system that works for our unique circumstances and personalities…even if that means that we need to create our own.

Happy budgeting, friends.

Do you have any money confessions of your own? How do you budget?