Day 3: Five Day Writing Retox

Prompt: What am I more afraid of, failure or success?

This is a free writing exercise so the following might make little to no sense. Also, if you are doing this 5 day retox with me, please submit your pieces to catmartecoaching@gmail.com. I’d love to read them! 10 Minutes


More people admit they are afraid of failure vs. success. It makes sense to be afraid of failure because we should all want to succeed. Being afraid of success, on the other hand, is talked about less and yet so much more relatable. It’s not the succeeding part that scares us, it is everything that comes with it. Success can bring along power, authority, responsibility; success can feel like a weight on our shoulders that isn’t necessarily present if we fail. Of course, failure can bring on shame, guilt and disappointment. So what do most of us do? We don’t even bother and avoid failing or succeeding. For most folks the safest place is right where they are, neither failing nor succeeding (it’s called a comfort zone for a reason!).

What we don’t realize is that there is something to gain from both failures and successes and that something is insight. Insights into our own strengths and weaknesses, our own inner superpowers and vices. We learn about ourselves in a way that can only be achieved through the discomfort of failing and succeeding.


10 minutes completed! Only 4 months late 😅. I started this challenge to get myself back into writing and it worked, only I didn’t complete the challenge — yet! Who said it was 5 consecutive days anyways?! Like I said, it did work as I started working on an exciting new writing project that I’ve been thinking about sharing here. It’s a bit off brand but hey, rules are meant to be broken right? Until next time, xo- Cat

Day 2: Five Day Writing Retox

Prompt: If my success was inevitable, what would I do?

This is a free writing exercise so the following might make little to no sense. Also, if you are doing this 5 day retox with me, please submit your pieces to catmartecoaching@gmail.com. I’d love to read them! 10 Minutes


Honestly, I stared at this prompt for a few minutes before I understood what it was asking me. I think it’s asking what I’d do if I knew I wouldn’t fail, yeah? Well I would be more bold and more confident in my decisions I suppose. Right now I make a decision and try really hard to stick to it because indecision is so much worse, and yet, I am constantly second guessing myself and wondering if that is the right decision. But if I knew I wouldn’t fail, I’d know any decision would be the right decision because I wouldn’t fail either way. I think this is the wrong way to look at life though. I think we should do the things we love regardless of whether we will succeed or fail. I think the question should be, if I knew I would fail, what would I do anyways? Would I still want love if I knew it would fade away? Would I still want to be successful if I knew one day it would mean nothing?

The thing is, in the grand scheme of things, everything amounts to nothing because we will all rise and fall one day. One day we will all be 6 ft under (as a matter of speaking) and maybe there will be a brief moment of sower but soon enough the world will continue as it always has. This is not to be melodramatic, it’s just to say that life is full of impermanence and therefore we shouldn’t limit ourselves to those things that are definite. And really, what’s worth reading if we know how it will end? I think there is something beautiful about giving it your all without the certainty that it will work out in the end. Back to the decision making train real quick- I like to tell myself that all decisions are the right decision regardless of the outcome, because I can never go back and change the decision so it must be the right one, no? The same must be true of our outcomes- if we cannot change them, then they must be what’s meant to be and it is up to us to find the meaning in it. And if that is true, we can choose to find the success even in our misfortunes and then there would be no need for this question whatsoever.


Okay I went over just 1/2 a minute because I had a thought and I didn’t want to lose it when the timer went off. Without re-reading this one, I already know I went down a rabbit hole but I think there was definitely something there. Anyways, until tomorrow, xo- Cat

Day 1: Five Day Writing Retox

Prompt: Are you happy with your life as a whole?

This is a free writing exercise so the following might make little to no sense. Also, if you are doing this 5 day retox with me, please submit your pieces to catmartecoaching@gmail.com. I’d love to read them! Okay time starts now: 10 Minutes.


This is a tricky question because on the one hand, I am happy with my life as a whole and on the other hand, if I were to die in this instance, I’d feel like I left too soon and didn’t get to do so many important things in my life. I really want to own property, for example, and I know alot of folks might see that as a materialistic goal, but for me, it’s about being able to call a small piece of this earth home. It’s also a pride thing- I like to pride myself in the fact that I always accomplish what I set out to do and I haven’t quite done this one yet so I don’t feel accomplished quite yet. I had a basic list of things I wanted to accomplish in life, all of which I’ve accomplished except this one. Anyways, going back to happiness, I suppose I am grateful for all the things I have and that should make me happy, but they aren’t one in the same.

Happiness is a feeling I haven’t quite figured out yet. I understand joy as small bursts of happiness but how do we sustain happiness over time? Can we be consistently happy or is it better to be happy once in a while? It’s interesting because I don’t feel unhappy, I’m just not sure I am “happy.” When I start to think of the reasons why I should or would be happy, it is really a sense of gratitude, not happiness, so is happiness just a by-product of gratitude or can you be happy and ungrateful? I suppose some people are…


Well my alarm went off and it’s safe to say I didn’t get very far. But I guess that isn’t the point really. The point is to get writing. Again, if you did this prompt, I’d love to hear from you! Till tomorrow. xo- Cat

On payday I did what I usually do and filled out my budget spreadsheet, making calculations and adjustments and more calculations and more adjustments till it dawned on me that I am borderline obsessed with my budget (remember what I said about being obsessed with your goals?). I check it at least once a week and adjust as needed. I don’t know what life would be like if I didn’t have a budget…no wait, that’s a lie, life would be a mess, that’s what it would be. My budget is the holy grail of money in my life. With a tremendous amount of mental shifting and pain taking effort, I’ve finally instilled in myself the mindset that if there ain’t room in the budget for it, it ain’t happening— full stop. The fact is that budgeting is not something you do, it’s something you subscribe to. It’s a mindset. And if you don’t have a budgeting mindset then it won’t matter how many different budgeting plans you try, it will never help you stay in budget. 

Why budget? 

It’s tempting to think of a budget as something restricting when in all actuality it’s freeing in a lot of ways. When you budget, you don’t have to worry about over extending yourself and creating future debt for future you. You also inevitably cut out all the things that were nice but not necessary, leaving more room for all the things that are great and by their greatness make them necessary. For example, I used to go get manicures and pedicures all the time, and that was nice. Was it amazing? Not really. Did it fill my heart with joy? Eh. This might not be the same for everyone; someone else might treat getting their nails done as their ultimate treat/self care/self love routine, and that’s great! The key is to find what makes YOU happy and make room for that in the budget by taking out all the things that are just eh. 

Who budgets? 

Let me tell you a secret, not so secret: anyone with a significant amount of wealth, either in liquid assets or fixed has a budget. Sometimes it’s called an accountant or a financial advisor, but all it is is a budget! Another way to think about it is money management. How are you managing your hard earned funds so that you get the most benefit out of every dollar? The bottom line is, if you care about building wealth then you’ll budget your money, that’s who budgets…

My 4 Budgeting Rules 

  1. Adjust all of your expenses to occur during a one week period. This is the foundation of the budgeting plan I’ve laid out in rules 2, 3, and 4. It works is by giving you time to earn and plan for every dollar you make in a given month, and then pay all your expenses at once. This works really well for me because I get paid monthly (I know, at first I though WHAT THE HECK??). When I get paid at the end of the month, which happened to be Wednesday this month, I sit down and fill in my budget, then I go ahead and pay all my bills which are all conveniently due between the 1st and the 7th of the month. Once everything is paid and done with, I don’t have to think about a single expense for the rest of the month. For those who get paid weekly or bi-weekly, the same end result can be accomplished by setting all your expenses to be due at a particular time (say the end of the month) and then setting money aside each week or whenever you get paid to cover those expenses. This method avoids having to use one paycheck to over a big expense like rent or car insurance. Another way to think about it, is that you are creating weekly/bi-weekly sinking funds for your monthly bills and expenses. In 2, 3, and 4 below I’ll show you how it works.
  1. Plan for fixed expenses. You know every first of the month the rent comes knocking at your door, so why aren’t you prepared? You can reduce your money related stress by simply planing ahead. If you get paid weekly, you can take out 1/4 or 1/5 (depending how long the month is) of the rent money every paycheck. Say your rent is $800/month and you make $600 a week, you can set aside $200 a week to pay your rent, by the time the first rolls around you’ve got all you need and don’t need to scramble to come up with rent money or spend an entire paycheck and then some on rent. Same applies to their fixed expenses; if you know you pay $65 a month for your cell phone bill, you can put aside $15 dollars a paycheck (I promise you won’t even notice) and again by the time you come around to pay your cell phone bill, you’ll have all the money needed. Let’s use my income and expenses as an example.

I take home about $750/week and pay $1,200 in rent, $65 for my cellphone bill, $80 for internet, and $104 for car insurance monthly. In order to accumulate the payments for my fixed expenses throughout the month, I’d have to save 1/4 of all my fix expenses each week. That comes out to $362.25 a week for fixed expenses, but we aren’t done yet.

$300 Rent
$16.25 Cellphone 
$20 internet 
$26 insurance 
Total $362.25
Remainder $387.75
  1. Pay yourself first-ish. Some people say you should always pay yourself first, but I’m more like “I before E except after C” kinda girl. In other words, I like the idea of paying myself first but only after I’ve secured my basic needs. Without meeting your basic needs how can you accomplish any money goals when you’re only just surviving? So I like to make sure my rent money is situated, for example, before I get carried away paying myself first. When it comes time to figure out how much I should be paying myself, I decided on a percentage. At the moment, I am paying myself 5% of my paycheck to myself.This may seem small to some, but I rather err on the side of realistic and accomplishable. There have been many a time where I’ve tried to really stretch my goals, only to disappoint myself. I’ve basically learned the hard way that it’s better to start small and work your way up as oppose to starting too high and falling flat on your face. Let’s continue with my budget as an example, if I put side 5% of $750, I get $37.50, with my fix expenses, that brings my remaining balance down to 350.25 per week.

  1. Plan for Variable Expenses. Plan for variable expenses last because they are often more flexible and can be adjusted as needed. For instance, credit cards are variable expenses— sometimes you pay well over the minimum, sometimes you pay the minimum and sometimes you don’t owe anything at all. Because you won’t know with certainty how much you will owe in variable expenses, it’s good to set aside a percentage of your income to cover the amount that is equal to or greater than your minimum due. For example, I have 5 cards, the minimum combined of all 5 is $130 per month, so depending on what else I have going on that week, I may set aside $32.50 (1/4 of $130) or I may set aside a little more because I know I have nothing going on that week. This brings our remaining balance down to $317.75.

Depending on your family size, $317.75 may seem like not enough or more than enough. As a single person with no children or other dependents other than my dog, $317.75 per week is more than enough to spend on groceries, gas, entertainment, etc. The best part is that I know I’m putting money aside for upcoming expenses and do not need to stress out or over extend myself when it’s time to pay up.

The Bottom Line 

I’m not a financial adviser nor do I claim to know anything beyond the basics. With that said, I’ve been budgeting for a good 10 years now and I’ve learned a thing or two about what works for me and what doesn’t. I’ve basically taken the advice of the Dave Ramseys of the world to make my own plan and my own financial path. Hopefully this plan can serve as a guide or a starting point for others looking to get serious about their budgets. If you’re ready and excited to have the best budget game you’ve ever had, you can download my free simple budgeting guide to help you get started. 

Let’s be real, I was broke till not too long ago. But no more. I’ve been learning the ways of the rich and I’m here to share these golden secrets with you. It’s actually not a secret at all —the rich love to talk openly about how they got to where they are. You know what it is? It’s hard. That’s the real barrier to entry. The rich can feel comfortable sharing all their secrets because most won’t listen and those who do won’t follow through. It’s why the rich get richer and the rest of us resent them.

How Not to Get Rich

Sometimes it’s not about what you do or don’t do, but how you think. I first learned this lesson in Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad. Most notably, he said his rich dad thought he was rich before actually being objectively rich. He didn’t say “I will be rich” he said, “I am rich.” Right now I’m reading Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich and it’s the same deal— those who believed without a plan B that they will accomplish something, inevitability accomplish that something. If you don’t have the rich person’s mentality, you lack vision and therefore cannot grow rich.

Most of us cannot conceptualize this mentality because we see things at face value. How am I rich now if my bank account is empty? To us, being rich is an objective, observable and measurable thing to be. You are rich if you have X amount of money and assets, full stop. The secret here is that being rich is NOT a status, it’s a mentality. In Think and Grow Rich, Hill describes it as desire plus faith. If you desire something deeply AND you have faith you will get it, it will come. Of course not magically out of thin air, but it will come eventually because with desire and faith, you will keep working and working at it until it comes true. If you don’t desire with relentless faith, you lack commitment and therefore cannot grow rich.

What I’ve come to accept despite my reluctance is that commitment is not enough. You could be fully committed to accomplishing your goals and end up getting knocked down so many times that you eventually give up. Say your an actor whose gone to 300 auditions and never had a call back, would you go to the 301st audition or would you finally call it quits? If you’d call it quits then you do not have a rich person’s mentality. Rich people are winners and winners don’t quit. According to Hill, Thomas Edison failed at inventing the light bulb over 1,000 times before he finally get it to work. If you quit, you lack perseverance and therefore cannot grow rich.

Rich Habits 101

People don’t grow riches, riches are inside all of us. Maybe your parents or your community didn’t teach you how to foster a rich person’s mindset but it’s never too late. It all starts with your mindset. You can cultivate this mindset by doing as the rich do.

  1. Hone in on your problem solving skills
  2. Change your spending habits
  3. Keep learning and Think Smart
  4. Obsess over the goal
  5. Be flexible

Hone in on your problem solving skills.

Poor dad thinks, well this was the hand that I was dealt, can’t do much about it, while rich dad thinks, I am rich, I just need to get the money to show it. Poor dad thinks, can I do this? Rich dad thinks, how can I do this? Problems are only problems because we don’t know the solutions yet. According to Kiyosaki, the rich do not disengage when there are obstacles, in fact, that’s when they lean in. That’s why it took Edison over 1,000 tries to figure out the lightbulb. Smithsonian Magazine reports a quote of Edison saying “I have not failed 10,000 times—I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.” It’s the kind of mindset that fuels perseverance and that never give up attitude that allows failures to turn into lessons and lessons to turn into riches.

Change your Spending Habits.

Here’s a practical one. It’s not all in your head, you do also have to make literal changes to grow rich. I dive deeper into this topic on my post, Your Broke because You Act Rich, Except Rich people don’t act like that. One common mistake people make is living at capacity, or in other words, spending every dollar you make. When you live at capacity, you don’t have room to save and then what happens when you need money for an unexpected expense? You go into debt, that’s what happens! Even if tomorrow you start making loads more money, if you aren’t careful, you will experience lifestyle creep, where your spending habits re-adjust to match your income and your back at capacity. Changing your spending habits so that you live under your income capacity is a great way to secure funds for savings and cut out unnecessary (and detrimental) spending.

Keep Learning and Think Smart.

Attaining knowledge is one of the first steps to attaining success and wealth. Of course, it’s not just about attaining knowledge, it’s about how you use that knowledge. As Hill said in his best seller, professors hold a great amount of knowledge but they get paid very little. Someone who doesn’t hold half the knowledge of a professor but thinks smart has the potential to make triple that of someone who knows many things but not how to use them. The trick is to know what to do with what you know and to know when you should enlist in someone who knows more. For example, I know from experience if I have a salaried job I can easily do my own taxes because it is not very complicated. On the other hand, if I am self-employed, I should hire a professional that can help me get more bang for my buck and masterfully work through a more complicated process. In this way, thinking smart is simply knowing how to use what you know and what others know to your advantage.

Obsess over the goal

No one accomplishes a really hard goal that they are mildly interested in. First of all, if it’s extremely difficult or seems impossible (like building generational wealth) only someone that is unapologetically obsessed with accomplishing it will get it done. That’s why Bill Gates and Paul Allen spent day and night working on a software for a micro-computer that was more sci-fi than reality at the time. Gates and Allen were not only obsessed with the goal, they’re entire futures were resting on this goal. That’s the type of energy and weight needed for someone who wants to see their dreams come true. Let’s be clear here, it’s not just Harvard dropouts that make their dreams come true; Eminem started off with major disadvantages as a poor, white kid with nothing but a dream, only to become one of the most widely recognized and acclaimed lyricists in his genre. His story of rags to riches, like so many others, speaks to the tunnel vision and ‘can’t give up’ attitude that can bring you success and prosperity.

Be Flexible

Don’t be flexible with your goals, be flexible with the means. I once interviewed the CEO of a company I worked for and she said something I’ll never forget. She said, I am where I am today because I always said yes first and figured out how to do it later. She said first they asked her to open a branch office in another town she’d never lived in, so she said yes and then she learned how to open a branch office; then they asked her to manage the team at the branch office so she said yes and then she learned how to manage the team; then they asked her to be the director, she said yes, then they asked her to be the CEO and she said yes. Along the way she was asked to do so many other tasks she’d never down before but she said yes anyhow. The point is not to go around saying yes to irrelevant things, but to be flexible and take risks, learning as you go.

The Bottom Line

I hope everyone gets a few takeaways from this post, but most importantly, if you want something enough and you are willing to work hard for it, push through the lows and keep moving, you will get there. As humans we all have doubts, but our courage has to be stronger than our doubts. Most importantly, we have to believe more than anything that we will get there.

Where we left off…

 I want to explore how we obtain happiness in our everyday lives. How do we cut down on stress and worry, and start living our lives to the fullest. To tackle this seemingly impossible task, I’ve decided to write a series of posts to review and summarize Dr. Haidt’s book and other works out there on happiness.

Now…

I’d say I’m about 1/3 done with the book and so far, Dr. Haidt has reiterated points we’ve all heard before—things like, you are in charge of your destiny and, life is about the journey. He makes it interesting by also including psychological studies that back up these points and give them a bit more “scientific merit.”

So far the book has been centered on our perceptions of ourselves and how are brain works to create these perceptions. But for me the most interesting thing has been on how our perception of ourselves can help us resolve (or at least give a different view of) our conflicts with others.

This is not about improving our self-image or self-esteem…

When talking about the way we see ourselves, specifically in a moral sense, Dr. Haidt brings to light our tendency to think ourselves morally above our peers. In the book he details a series of experiments where people can more accurately guess the moral compass of others, while having a skewed (favorable) perception of their own morality. This observation helps us explain in part why we can be so hypocritical, judgmental and self-righteous at times.

Dr. Haidt cleverly gives us the solution to this problem at the very beginning of the Chapter with these two ancient proverbs;

“Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?… You hypocrite, first tale the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye. “

Mattew 7:3—5

“It is easy to see the faults of others, but difficult to see one’s own faults. One shows the faults of others like chaff winnowed in the wind, but one conceals one’s own faults as a cunning gambler conceals his dice.”

Buddha

Now what?

In Chapter 4’s closing paragraph, Dr. Haidt invites us to use this knowledge of ourselves to improve our relationships with others. Next time you get into a fight with someone, he encourages you to think about what you might have done wrong and offer that in the discussion. According to him, this will trigger our natural tendency for reciprocity, wherein, the person we are at odds with will also offer something they did wrong and the two will get closer to resolving the issue.

Final Thoughts

I liked Dr. Haidt’s suggestion of looking within and I appreciated him backing it up with the theory of reciprocity, mentioned earlier in the book. I think he misses something important though…by trying to make the explanation very scientific and data driven, he misses the humanizing effect of looking within. For me, the idea of accepting some blame or responsibility for our own contributions to a problem also serves to remind us of our humanity. If we can see the fault in ourselves, we can more easily accept the fault in others, whereby, softening our judgments and our animosity.

Does this bring us closer to happiness? I think so. We are social beings, who thrive on meaningful, healthy relationships; Improving them can only make us happier.


This post is part of the Happiness Series. View more posts from this series.

Check out Dr. Haidt’s book site: Thehappinesshypothesis.com

A quest for answers…

I recently started reading Jonathan Haidt’s book, the Happiness Hypothesis, and while only on chapter 3, I find that it has opened my eyes to really interesting findings on the human brain, psychology, and morality. This makes sense since Dr. Haidt is a moral and ethics professor at NYU. But the book, according to its title, isn’t about morals and ethics, or the human psychology, rather about happiness.

Without having read the entire book, I suspect Dr. Haidt’s conclusion is that we are the key to our own happiness. But what does that mean? What does happiness mean? Is it a sense of content with our lives? Is it the feeling of joy and excitement? Is it living without regrets?

I think there is a big difference between looking back at your life, feeling content or satisfaction with how it played out, and living everyday as a happy person—as someone who is truly happy in every sense of the word. I want to explore how we obtain happiness in our everyday lives. How do we cut down on stress and worry, and start living our lives to the fullest. To tackle this seemingly impossible task, I’ve decided to write a series of posts to review and summarize Dr. Haidt’s book and other works out there on happiness.


This post is part of the Happiness Series. View more posts from this series.

Check out Dr. Haidt’s book site: Thehappinesshypothesis.com

Day 30: #MaskMondays Beauty Routine

30 Day Writing Challenge

Photo by John Tekeridis on Pexels.com

Disclaimer: I may earn a commission for any purchases that you make through certain links on my site, at no additional cost to you. All opinions are my own, I only link products and brands I’ve personally tried and believe in. Read full disclaimer.

It’s day 30 of my writing challenge (more like 30 posts within 60 days but here we are!), and I’m excited to end on a high note with a self-care post. I first learned about #maskmondays from YouTuber and curly hair beauty guru, @MzBiancaRenee. The concept is that we should be deep conditioning and exfoliating our hair and face at least once a week with face and hair masks, hence “mask Mondays.”

As @MzBiancaRenee points out in one of her videos, Mondays can be rough, and most people don’t make social plans on Monday, so why not make it a self-care day?

What You Need

Face Mask

You can create a super simple one from coffee grounds, as I mention in a previous post. Or if you want one ready made, check out 100% Pure’s Hydrogel Face mask in Caffeine Restorative (can you tell I like coffee?). They also have other types, such as Green Tea or Ginseng.

Hair Mask

You can either use a deep conditioner, such as Shea Moisture’s Deep Treatment Masque or DIY mix with coconut oil and essential oils, such as lavender, peppermint or cedar-wood to promote hair growth.

The Bottom Line

#MaskMondays is an easy way of giving your face and hair a deeper cleanse and incorporating self-care into your lifestyle. And don’t limit yourself, if you have a basin you can soak your feet in Epsom salt or do a full body moisturizing treatment with coconut oil. The point is to carve out some time in your busy life for you.

Healthy Habits 101

30 Day Writing Challenge

There seems to be widespread misconceptions and misinformation about mindfulness. The term itself is a Western concept inspired by the ancient Eastern practices of Buddhism, but taking on a slightly new meaning. According to Virginia Hoffernan’s witty, if not cynical, piece in the New York Times Magazine, it came to be as a rough translation of the Buddhist term, sati. Hoffernan points out that sati more closely means “memory of the present.”

Later in history, the term was adopted by a Western scientist who happened to practice Zen Buddhist meditation. He saw the term as an opportunity to mask meditation and convert it to something secular that would appeal to the general public at large.

Hoffernan concludes her article pointing to the fact big business and advertising agents have taken mindfulness and turned it into a commodity. She could be on to something here, however, it’s not a very strong argument in a society where everything is a commodity. Can you name one thing that isn’t a commodity? Take the The Minimalists for example. They were two guys who gave up their fat paychecks on Wall Street to live simple, minimalist lifestyles— yet now they get paid big bucks to teach other people how to live minimally via their highly successful blog, podcast, documentary, etc.

Despite Hoffernan’s tone and skepticism, I find that mindfulness, and meditation, can have enormous benefits on your psyche and overall well being. Whether it’s been commodified or not, the internet (and our old friend, the library) make it easy to learn about and practice mindfulness for free.

That’s nice, but why should I practice mindfulness?

There are tons of books, articles and research papers that touch on the benefits of mindfulness. To name a few, you can check out, Forbes article, 6 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Mindfulness and Meditation; the American Psychological Association’s article, What are the benefits of mindfulness?; Henepola Guanaratana’s book, Mindfulness in Plain English.

For me, the most valuable benefits of mindfulness are the reductions in stress and anxiety.

How can I practice mindfulness?

There are several different ways to practice mindfulness. Below are just a few that I’ve tired and really like.

1. Following your breath: Find a comfortable position. Breath in to the count of four, hold for four counts, breath out for four counts. Repeat.

2. Guided Meditation: Find a free video on Youtube or an app that will guide you through a mediation session. I really like the Oak app for guided meditations and to help me fall asleep.

3. Mantra (Ohm): Find a comfortable position and a mantra that you like, such as ohm, and repeat for a minute or two. There are videos on Youtube that can walk you through this.

4. Yoga: I find yoga to be a great way of being mindful because for 60-90 minutes you are focused on your practice and not on the world around you. Disclaimer; This one could cost you the big bucks if you go to a studio, but you can find free yoga videos on youtube and free yoga apps.

The Bottom Line

If you’ve never tried it, try it. And remember, it takes between 60 -120 days to form a habit (so be patient!). If you’ve tried it and decided it wasn’t for you, that’s okay too! The point here is that life is not just about gains, it is just as important to form habits that will relax your body, calm your mind and recharge your soul.

Saving Habits 101

30 Day Writing Challenge

Yesterday I went out with a friend and we were having a conversation about money. She kept referring to herself as cheap and I kept correcting her and saying she was frugal, not cheap. It is easy to conflate the two but they are not one in the same. While being cheap can be a hinderance on your wellbeing and of those around you, being frugal is a lifestyle that can help you declutter your physical and mental spaces.

In a nutshell, to be cheap is to only care about the bottom line, regardless of other factors, such as quality, or it’s effects on your lifestyle, the people around you etc. To be frugal is to be mindful of your spending habits and to spend on things that are truly important to you, rather than getting a good deal. Check out the chart below, originally appearing on businessinsider.com for a deeper look into the differences.

Admittedly, there was a point in my life where I would have considered myself cheap. It was a combination of not having sufficient funds and not knowing any better. These days, I like to think of myself as frugal— spending more for quality items and limiting spending on unnecessary items.

Frugality is about more than just spending less or saving more. For one, its a lifestyle tide to mindfulness. I’d rather cook a healthy, well thought out meal than order fast, unhealthy take out. It is also about the idea that quality is better than quantity. I’d rather have 5 pairs of high quality (perhaps expensive) shoes than 100 pairs of cheap, fast-fashion shoes.

Choosing to live a frugal lifestyle is making the decision to be selective with your money, time, and indulgences. These days, I find myself buying less junk, spending less time with people I don’t value, and feeling overall happy with my spending habits. Here are some things I’ve changed overtime:

  1. Using my Credit cards to Socialize
    • FOMO (the fear of missing out) was a major source of anxiety in my life, so much so, that I never said no to invitations. It originally steamed from being the “new girl” in town and wanting to make friends. Then it was because I wanted to maintain my friends. Now that I’ve lived here for 5 years, and have a solid group of friends, I have more or less recovered from FOMO. But more importantly, I’ve learned that you should never be ashamed to say, “Thanks for the invite but I’m budgeting or I’m low on cash right now.” The other thing that changed is my mantra. Where I used to think, “Eh life is short, live it up,” now I think, “I am going to live til I’m 105 years old and have plenty of time to ‘live it up’ once I become financially free.”
  2. Impulse Shopping
    • This one is a killer. We live in a society built on consumerism, capitalism, instant gratification, and the idea that more is more. But in reality, less has always been more. One trick I mention in my post, How to Save like an Impulse Shopper, is to delay gratification. Delayed gratification is the concept of waiting to obtain something you want for something potentially better. In this case, if you see something in a store that you want to buy, instead of buying it immediately, you would leave it, wait a few days, then purchase it, perhaps when you have more cash or when you find the same thing you wanted in a different store for a better price. Postivepsychology.com article, Delayed Gratification: Learning to Pass the Marshmallow Test, gives a full breakdown of this phenomenon.
  3. Using my Credit cards to Travel
    • Again, this bad habit was a result of my “Eh life is short,” mantra. Now that I can visualize the longevity of my fruitful, financially free life, I am more conscious of limiting my debt. Even more enticing is the amazing feeling you get from cash flowing* a vacation and coming home owing nothing to the credit card companies (I’ve cash flowed about 3 trips, and counting)!
  4. Buying Cheap/low Quality
    • Quality will always beat quantity. I learned this lesson when I bought my first real expensive winter jacket. I had been gifted a high quality winter jacket by a family I worked for when I was in college. That jacket lasted me several years and was still in pretty good condition when I donated it. I was worried about buying a new jacket of lesser quality so I threw down $250 dollars to by a quality winter jacket that would replace that one. It was the best purchase I’ve ever made! My new (2 year’s old) winter jacket is in mint condition and it keeps me so warm. I could have spend half that amount and gotten an okay jacket, but then I’d likely have to buy a replacement twice as fast and it wouldn’t have kept me half as warm!

The Bottom Line

Once you start taking control of your money and your spending habits, you will begin to free yourself from social pressures to spend, careless or unnecessary debt from more “stuff,” and, most importantly, you will free yourself from money (or lack there of) controlling you.

*To cash flow something is to pay for it with money you’ve earned and have in your possession, either in your banking accounts or in actual cash.

Saving Habits 101

30 Day Writing Challenge

More countries around the world are embracing the concept of borrowing money, especially as national economies become intertwined with one another. For example, it used to be well off families sent their children abroad to get degrees, but now you do not need to have the money upfront because there are international private loan companies that will loan you the money to go to university in a different country.

I can only imagine how many doors this has opened for modest families from countries such as India or China* who dream of sending their children to better universities in the US, as an example. This has even opened doors for American students who want to pursue degrees in more affordable countries, such as the UK or Canada but do not have the money up front.

While loans and loan programs have closed gaps in education, the housing market and other big ticket items worldwide, “borrower’s culture” is causing us to lose all sense of how much money we actually have. As a result, we are constantly spending money we don’t have.

The Financing Brand found an interesting study by Filene on borrower types. The study is geared toward credit unions and offers meaningful insights on the mindset and decision making process of borrowers. According to the study, Convenience is king.

Convenience is king. Consumers will choose the path of least resistance when obtaining loans, even if the deal isn’t as good. For instance, a desire for instant gratification explains why people will jump on dealer financing when buying a new car. It’s critical to make the lending process easy and streamlined.

-The Culture of Borrowing and Debt by Filene

Essentially, this is telling us that people like to borrow money when it is convenient and offers instant gratification. Why wait till payday when you can buy those nice shoes today with your credit card?

Convenience Cash is King

If you want financial freedom, the first thing you have to do is kill the mindset of Convenience is King. That is what credit card companies and loan companies sell to you so that you borrow more. To achieve financial freedom, on the other hand, you have to engrave into your mind that Cash is King.

Cash is King* is a way of life. It is the principle that you do not live above your means and you do not spend money you don’t already have. If you live by this principle, you will save yourself from the constant cycle of buying on credit, paying it slowing, accumulating debt, buying on credit, paying it slowing, accumulating debt. Consider this scenario— it’s Thursday and Sara and Caroline both are broke but they get paid tomorrow. The women have differing financial habits;

Convenience Is King

After work, Sara goes to Happy Hour with friends, she doesn’t have any cash so she buys a drink with her credit card for $12.

Afterwards, Sara goes to the mall and sees some curtains on sale for $49.99, since it’s such a good deal, she buys them with her credit card.

When Sara gets home she sees she has uncooked chicken in the fridge and decides she’s too tired to cook so orders in using her credit card ($30).

Cash Is King

Caroline is invited to Happy Hour but declines because she doesn’t have any money and suggests they go to brunch this weekend.

Instead, Caroline walks around the mall and sees some curtains on sale for $49.99. She doesn’t have any money so decides to come back on Saturday after payday.

When Caroline gets home, she finds some uncooked chicken in the fridge and throws it in the oven to make with some rice.

At the end of the day, Sara racks up close to $100 in credit card charges for things she didn’t really need or could have waited to purchase. The next day she can either pay the full $100 balance that she spend the day before, or she can pay the minimum due and risk accumulating interest, either way, she is out of $100 or more.

Meanwhile, Caroline didn’t spend any money, she got paid on Friday and decide she didn’t really need curtains (because the lure of instant gratification was gone) and was able to pay cash for brunch with her friends on Sunday. In the end, she didn’t owe anything on her credit cards.

The Bottom Line

The moral of the story is pretty clear cut, yet, in the world we live in, it is easier said than done. Changing one or two habits can make a world of difference. 1. If you don’t have the cash, don’t spend it. HARD STOP. 2. Only borrow if it is a true necessity and if you can comfortable pay it back without straining your budget. To the latter point, the Filene study also outlined several different borrower types. I think the best type by far is the Balanced—those who do not borrow often and never more than they can afford, but if they do borrow, it is for good reason.

*China and India send the largest amount of international students to the US.

*For the purposed of this post, cash refers to paper money and money in your checking account.

30 Day Writing Challenge

Read Part 1 & Part 2

Skeletons

Jorge makes it home just in time today, but when he walks in he doesn’t find Valentina. The kids aren’t home either—this is strange, he thinks. He walks cautiously into the living space towards the kitchen as if someone is going to jump out at him. No one is there. No one is home. He’d never heard the house so quiet. He pulls out his phone to check his messages, oh no, wrong phone, he thinks and checks his other pocket for the other phone. Jorge pats his back pockets and his front pockets, checks his coat, and spins around 3 times scanning the surrounding area. He runs to his car to see if his phone is in the car. Panic starts to seep in. Jorge’s face turns ghost white as he frantically checks his car.

This has never happened before. He used to be so careful. Now with everything going on, he’s losing his grip on things. He’s slipping up. This is all because of the baby, he thinks. Hitting himself across the forehead he grimaces at his own arrogance. He can feel it in his gut, this is all about to blow up. Well, at least he has his kids, he thinks. They will forgive him one day, he thinks.

Still not sure where Valentina and the kids are, Jorge jumps back into his car to retrieve his phone. All his hard work and effort to make it on time today is out the window. Now he will for sure be late to dinner. Once again, Jorge drives up McArthur Blvd at lighting speed. He makes it to his destination in just 45 minutes, a record speed! Looking at his watch, he thinks, oh man, maybe I can make it before Valentina, there’s still hope.

Jorge hurries out of the car towards the door, not noticing the white SUV parked in front of the house. He fiddles with his keys at the front door, trying to find the right one. Dang it, he thinks, so many dang keys. Before he can find the right one, the door opens. “Jorge,” he hears someone say.

“Oh hahaha, Jorge, I like that! His name is George. Valentina, I’d like to introduce you to my husband,” says Melissa. Jorge—George—Jorge is afraid to look up. Valentina, a fierce little women, retorts, “Oh that’s funny, when did you start going by George, Jorge?!”

Melissa looks at Valentina baffled, and Valentina continues, “I knew something fishy was going on. But this! This is too much! This is unbelievable. I thought to myself, how can you afford a BMW as a journalist, huh? One minute you were a starving writer and the next you are traveling the world as a journalist?! Did you think I was stupid?! i started to think, uhm if he’s lying about his income, what else is he lying about! I’ve been following you around for months— waiting for you to slip up. Well here you are. Do you care to explain to your other wife what is going on here Jorge Sebastian Martinez de Peña?!”

Still trying to process what is coming out of Valentina’s mouth, Melissa starts to put the pieces together, “Wait, are you? Are you saying George is….is….George what is going on?

There is no hiding now, no explaining, no rushing from place to place. Jorge slowly lifts his gaze to meet Melissa’s—the guilt and shame in his eyes confirming her biggest fears. Just like that, one by one, the skeletons in his closet come tumbling out…