10 Money Habits That Have Helped 100%
I come from a family where money was never talked about; yet it was screamed about, cried over and argued about. Loudly. Thankfully there's been a bit of healing that's happened (and continues to happen) in this arena. Below are 10 things I've done over the past years to transform my relationship with money.
These practices have worked for me. I won't assume that these practices will work for you—or that they would even fit into your lifestyle, belief system or financial plan, yet I share them with you because maybe there's one or two that will resonate, and inspire you?
>> Please note that sometimes I switch between past tense, present tense and who-knows-what tense in this email. Some of these practices I've already done, are doing, or plan to do. Thanks for your patience with my writing style;)
I got out of debt. This is one of the biggest accomplishments I've had in my life. I went through a few years of being car-less, riding my bike or walking everywhere that I wanted to go... I shopped at 99 cent stores for household supplies and some of my food, said no to a whole bunch of things (more on this later) including movies and plays and buying anything new because I was deeply and passionately motivated to get rid of my debt. There must have been something inside of me that knew that debt was a form of prison and being debt free was a form of freedom.
I created a few side hustles but back then, in olden times, we didn't call them side hustles, we called them part-time jobs. In addition to my FT work, I painted apartments, cleaned houses, worked in restaurants, did some light maintenance around my apartment building for reduced rent (the owners of the building lowered my rent by $100 month in exchange for bringing the trashcans from the backyard to the curb, and back again. Sweet deal!), I sold artwork and organized garage sales. I remember one time I rented my car to a friend (this was years before ride-shares and car shares) He came to watch the Super bowl in San Diego and they needed to rent my car because the rental companies were sold out. I basically enrolled in WIT U: Whatever It Takes University so that I could generate income and live below my means. More recently we've converted two extra bedrooms to our beloved Airbnb spaces, and converted another room to a workshop space where we've taught dozens of art, wellness and personal growth classes for the past 10 years.
I self-entertained. What I mean by that is that I didn't go out actively seeking entertainment of movies and plays and going to the circus or Cirque du Soleil or whatever people do for entertainment. I would strap on my new-to-me rollerblades and go rollerblading at the park, or stay home and make art. I was working on a fiction book for a few years and would spend time doing that. I'd host potluck parties in my apartment, volunteer at the local gay and lesbian center and soup kitchen. I wasn't going out and spending money on entertainment, I was entertaining myself very cheaply, sometimes spending zero money for days or longer. I also joined art clubs, started a few art clubs, joined writing groups and was able to be entertained for free. Even today I organize a number of community gatherings both in our home or out in the community, They're free and the rewards of having these community connections and building relationships is priceless.
I got very comfortable very quickly buying used things. For years I've bought used books, used furniture, used clothing, used carpets, used cars and used bicycles. I'm able to enjoy them a whole lot more because I'm not stressing over how to pay for them or worried that they're going to get damaged because they were shiny and brand new when I bought them. Right now my husband and I have only one car for the two of us that we bought used. It's 19 years old and still running perfectly and looks pretty good. Would we rather have a brand new Mercedes-Benz? Maybe. Would that make me happier? Absolutely not.
I taught myself some skills that I could make money with. I've taught myself website design, graphic design, how to decorate houses, how to organize people's belongings, how to organize art exhibitions, how to self-publish multiple #1 best selling books, how to refinish hardwood floors, how to get out of debt, how to live below my means, how to record and publish our podcast... All these things I've either made thousands of dollars by putting them to use—or have saved thousands of dollars by being able to do them myself. At one point I had seven websites up and running, each with multiple pages, landing pages and imbedded PayPal buttons. I would've had to pay a whole lot of money to have someone do that for me but instead I taught myself how to do it. Are they the most beautiful websites in the world? No. Do they need to be? No. Do they work well and get the job done? Absolutely. (The next skill that I'm teaching myself is how to edit videos. It's my New Year's resolution for 2023: to spend several weeks trying to master this skill or at least develop it enough to where I can produce fairly decent videos.) We're also continuing to enjoy cooking our own meals, and growing our own vegetables (truth be told my husband Eli is the one who does the majority of this but I am on board with it and not sitting around whining that we should be going to restaurants "because we deserve it").
I say 'no' often, and clearly. I've said no a lot because I had two very clear goals: I didn't want to get into debt and I wanted to have a better relationship with my money. So there were multiple times that people would invite me to restaurants, vacations, theatre, concerts, etc and I was very clear that I needed to say no. And as I learned recently by saying no now I'm able to say yes later on. It's never felt like I was denying myself of something because I knew that by getting in control of my money now I would be able to have more freedom and more fun in the future. I was and am totally fine with delayed gratification. All it took was saying no. Did I feel like I was missing out? Sometimes. But that was a fleeting feeling and it was overshadowed by a strong knowing that I was getting in control of my money—and that feels more powerful and empowering than going out with friends for Thai food. (Going out for pizza is another story. I mean, I'm not stupid.) ;)
I got happy with what I had. There were lots of opportunities for FOMO (fear of missing out) but I elected instead to practice gratitude and be super mindful and grateful for what I had. I've learned to be happy with a $197 cell phone, a very cheap cell phone plan (around $10/month), a used desk top computer, no laptop or ipad. I've learned to be happy sitting around a campfire in the backyard or laying in the hammock with one of the dogs. Would I prefer traveling First Class around the world and eating organic caviar? Perhaps, yet I can't imagine that I could or would be any happier doing that.
I figured out that success leaves clues. This means that others have also transformed their money story and afterward wrote books and blogs, recorded podcasts, released youtube videos and/or produced movies about their journey. Since realizing this, I've committed to being a lifelong learner of other people's success. This has been a game-changer for me, and I'm deeply indebted to the content that others have written and recorded so that we get to learn from their wins, mistakes and near-misses. I've been able to radically change my story from I'm poor, I'm not very good with money, this is the lot in life that I've inherited to a more powerful and supportive narrative that's helped change and transform my past, present and future.
I moved out of the country. I know that this is seemingly impossible for lots of folks because of jobs, family and other 'obligations', but for us, living in a country that has an uber low cost of living was instrumental in changing the income/expense ratio, and gave us a heightened level of freedom that we weren't able to create while living in Southern California. Plus it's been an amazing and life-changing 13 year adventure that I wouldn't trade for anything— except another slice of pizza (see #6 above).
I saved money in the bathroom. Saving the weirdest for last! We've been able to save hundreds of dollars by buying a $32 electric hair trimmer and giving each other haircuts for the past 20 years, making our own healthy mouthwash with tea tree oil, baking soda and water, using coconut oil for hair gel, moisturizer, etc and essentially buying very, very few beauty products. I don't know how much we've saved over the years with this habit, but trust me... it adds up!
I have lots of conversations about the green stuff. I've learned to move past the discomfort of talking about money, and can now easily talk to my friends and Eli about saving, investing, money habits, emotional spending, etc. Also, two years ago during Covid we organized a weekly book club where we mostly read money/prosperity/mindset books. It's helped immensely to have weekly online gatherings with others who are on the path (hello ladies!) to talk about where we are financially, where we're going, what's getting in the way, and what we're intentionally creating/letting go of.
There you have it! These are the habits and practices I wanted to share with you today, and I trust that one or two of these might help you to create your own saner, healthier habits around money.
Love, light and prosperity,
PS. Please send this blog post to those who might be struggling with money. I'd be honored and humbled if one or two of the above habits could help someone else. #truth