Category: money and happiness

The Trap Of The ‘Overly Virtuous Lunch’ + How To Avoid It

Struggling with self-control? Looking for self-discipline tips or motivation advice? Click through and read this post for unexpected advice. #motivation #habits #personaldevelopment #budgeting
It is a truth universally acknowledged that bringing lunch to work is one of the best, smartest, most healthy choices a person can make.

(snoooooore)

Who among us hasn’t pledged to ‘do better’ and schlepped a Tupperware full of under-dressed lettuce across town, truly believing that come noon we’re going to eat that plastic box of leaves and enjoy it?

When I was a classroom teacher, I’d do this all the time. In a valiant attempt to save money and eat healthy, I’d trundle my salad from my apartment to my desk.

At noon, I’d open my desk drawer, see that salad, stand up and walk next door to Sun Foods and buy: 
1. A bag of Cheetos (the crunchy kind, not the puffy kind)
2. A small can of Mr. Brown’s canned coffee
3. A ‘kempswich’ ice cream sandwich which is the best ice cream sandwich on the market don’t @ me

Now, if you’re keeping track, this ridiculous lunch neither made me healthier nor saved me money. In fact, it pretty emphatically did the exact opposite.

You know what I should have done? BROUGHT A LUNCH I ACTUALLY WANTED TO EAT.

The fancy, psychologist-sanctioned term for what happened here is ‘ego depletion’ – the idea that self-control or willpower draws upon a limited pool of mental resources that can be used up.

I call it “the trap of the overly virtuous lunch.”

See, I was asking too much of myself – I was asking myself to eat something I didn’t particularly like (I don’t like salads) AND I was asking myself to skip going to lunch with my fun, lovely co-workers.

I added insult to injury – denying myself doubly, which then backfired and led to me spending $9 a day on junk food and canned coffee.

So how did I solve this problem? I started bringing lunches I actually wanted to eat: couscous with crunchy cucumbers and lots of feta. Pad thai. Vegetarian chili and a little bag of Fritos for dipping.

And you know what happened? I stopped spending $9 a day on ice cream sandwiches and canned coffee.

But overly virtuous lunches aren’t just lunches, they can show up anywhere in our lives.

  • Going “no spend” for six months and then freaking out, falling off the wagon, and spending all the money you saved.
  • Dragging yourself to the gym at 5 am, seven days a week, to do a workout you totally hate, only to injure yourself and never, ever go back.
  • Giving up tv and social media completely, try to make yourself like knitting and puzzles when you really love Netflix, fail and then binge watch movies for four days.

What if you just found ways to get where you want to go in a way that’s actually enjoyable?

What if you stopped denying yourself everything, ever and gave yourself a release valve so you could stay the course in a sustainable, enjoyable way?

What if you admitted to yourself that you don’t actually like salads that much but you’d be very happy to eat pasta and roasted veggies for lunch?

It’s hard to deprive and deny and shame our way to success. It's not kind, fun, or particularly sustainable. Click To Tweet

It’s totally possible to get where you want to go without eating a single “overly virtuous lunch” – whatever shape that takes for you. 

This concept – the trap of the overly virtuous lunch – is one of the things I teach + talk about in my live, five-week course Bank Boost. You’ll learn how to earn more money, keep more money, and enjoy your life while doing it. It’s just $97 and we’re so confident it works, we offer a money-back guarantee!

Click here to learn more or just reply with any questions you have!

Photo by Dawit on Unsplash

Unintended lessons & where I learned them

Learn lifes unintended lessons. Sometimes we think we’re going to learn A, but life is really committed to teaching us B. (It’s probably a good idea to learn both.)

When I was 18, I packed my bags and moved to Germany for a month, fueled by visions of soft pretzels and hard cheeses.

I was taking part in an exchange program and – like all 18-year-olds – I already knew everything. Before I even boarded that Lufthansa flight, I knew what I’d learn from my time in Germany.

I was sure my trip would teach me:

  • How to speak German more fluently

  • How to pack light

  • Maybe how to finally understand soccer???

And did it? Yes, that trip improved my German and introduced me to one-suitcase travel. But more importantly, it taught me how to enjoy my own company and feel at home (almost) anywhere. I learned how to make friends across language and cultural barriers. I figured out how to take up space without apologizing.

All helpful, important things to learn! But since I was 18, I didn’t necessarily make the connection. I didn’t realize what I’d learned from my experience. I felt smug when I tested out of the second language requirement at college and that was about it.

Cut to ten years later and I’m heading to Wellington, New Zealand to get my M.A. in Applied Linguistics. And just like last time, I’m pretty sure I know how this is going to shake out.

What I expected to learn in graduate school:

  • Pedagogical theory

  • Neural Plasticity and how it affects our learning

  • Plosives and fricatives

And yes, sure, I learned those things. I also learned how to share space with multiple roommates, how to manage my time so I didn’t have to pull all-nighters, how to navigate the New Zealand healthcare system, and that I’m not really suited to graduate-level courses that are taught exclusively online.

It only took me ten years and multiple epiphanies to realize that learning is multi-faceted and multi-layered. It only took me a decade to realize that

Sometimes we think we’re going to learn A, but life is really committed to teaching us B. (It’s probably a good idea to learn both.) Click To Tweet

We think getting a dog will help us get outside more, not knowing that we’re going to learn about loyalty, responsibility, and why consistency really, really matters.

We think decluttering is about bringing things to Goodwill. But anyone who’s watched Tidying Up can tell you that releasing things that no longer fit our lives is a lesson in grace, intentionality, and self-awareness.

I see this a lot in my Bank Boost program. In Bank Boost we talk about a lot of nitty gritty money things: why you should pay for things with cash, how to rescue money that’s in places it shouldn’t be, how to use x tool to earn y amount of money.

But we also talk about making sure that your money is bringing you joy, that you’re squeezing every ounce of happiness out the money you spend. We talk about being willing to get uncomfortable – whether that looks like asking for a raise or telling your friend you need her to repay that money she borrowed.

When we do this – talk about happiness and discomfort and self-advocacy – something surprising happens. Yes, Bank Boosters add hundreds or thousands of dollars to their bank accounts.

Just as importantly they start getting braver in other areas of their lives. They have really tough conversations they’ve been putting off. They send a third follow up email. They stand up to the shitty landlord.

They take their awful ex to court. Here, shared anonymously and with permission, is one woman’s story:

“I took your advice on the “uncomfortable” strategy but probably not in the way you meant. I spent 33 years in an abusive relationship and I finally got my divorce in April.

My ex was supposed to be paying me support during the divorce and he owes me alimony now. But I was afraid and I let him get away without paying me. But you taught me that I deserve it so I took him to court!

The judge ordered him to pay me everything he owes me plus my legal fees. I ended up getting over $6000 and I was able to pay off all my credit cards.

(He also had to pay my lawyer over $10K in legal fee so I don’t have that hanging over my head anymore.) For me, this was HUGE.

Having the guts to stand up to him and demand my rights was something I never thought I would do. Thank you for giving me the courage to do that. Thank you so, so much!

Now I can start planning for MY future. I want to someday buy a house all by myself and now that it possible.”

What would happen if we opened ourselves up to learning what life was trying to teach us? How would our lives change if we made space for unintended lessons?

Photos by Max Yamashita and Geordanna Cordero-Fields on Unsplash

The Totally Unsexy Skill That Makes It Easier To Go After What You Want

It might not be the inspirational tip you're looking for, but learning how to live within your means will make it a million times easier to chase your dreams. #money #personalfinance #inspiration
When I was 32, I celebrated one of the biggest accomplishments of my life with a plate of nachos, a vodka gimlet, and gathering of friends at my favorite neighborhood bar.

Over a plate of melted cheese, we cheers-ed my upcoming 11-month, nine-country trip. As the night wore on and more cocktails were consumed, one of my friends leaned across the table and said “Okay, I’m just gonna say what we’re all thinking. How are you paying for this?”

I laughed because of course Midwesterners have to get lightly drunk to talk about money.

After I was done laughing I spilled the beans. I told them how I managed to live sans-roommate in a nice neighborhood, pay my $375-a-month school loan, wear these cute leather riding boots, and save enough to finance this huge trip … on $34,000 a year non-profit salary.

Want to know how I did it?

(leans in close and stage whispers)

I lived within my means.

Well, that’s wildly unsexy, isn’t it? Whenever I share this not-particularly-exciting information, I can see people become a) skeptical b) disappointed. It’d be a lot more exciting if I shared a salacious investment tip or confessed that I had a trust fund or that I was just putting it all on a credit card and hoping for the best.

But that’s not what happened. I got to take my dream trip because I did things like:

  • Bring my lunch to work

  • Buy pretty much everything, ever secondhand

  • Host potluck dinner parties rather than eating out

  • Stay with friends when I traveled – or camped!

  • Split wifi with a neighbor

  • Go to matinee movies, used my library card, had picnics in the park, etc etc etc

  • Didn’t buy stuff I didn’t need

When we talk about going after what we want, we usually talk about things like talent, luck, networking, and a tenacious work ethic. All those are important! And they will certainly help you get you closer to what you want – whatever that is.

But I’d like to posit that one of the most underrated skills necessary to chase your dreams is learning to live within your means.

What now? What does budgeting have to do with becoming an artist or a stay at home parent or opening a sanctuary for stray dogs or taking a round-the-world trip?

According to a recent survey, the average American spends an estimated $697 a month on non-essential expenses – that’s more than $8,000 a year. The mean income per capita in the U.S. is $48,150, about $24 an hour. That means the average American is working about 30 hours each month to pay for those non-essential purchases.
The average American works 360 hours a year to pay for their non-essential purchases. How much of our lives would be we get back if we made fewer of those purchases? Click To Tweet

Now, I’m not saying we should stop making every non-essential purchase, ever. Of course not! I spend thousands of dollars every year on travel, pedicures, supper club dinners, and outfits for my dog. Dog outfit are not essential!

But it’s worth remembering that we pay for our choices with the lives that we lead and all those non-essential purchases? They lead to less money in our bank accounts > longer hours at work > less time, money, and energy for the stuff we’re really excited about.

What if you dialed in those non-essential purchases by just 10%? Totally doable, right? I bet it’d be pretty painless to wear the same outfit to multiple weddings or bring lunch to work once a week. It’s not hard to make a frozen pizza rather than having one delivered.

Reducing non-essential purchases by even just 10% could free up 36 hour this year. Imagine what you could do with that! You could practice your stand up set, launch your Etsy shop, work on your novel, or train for a marathon.

And buying less shit you don’t need might also mean you can drop the side hustle, the overtime, or the second job. Which means – I bet you can see where I’m going with this – you’d have more time and energy to pursue things that light you up.

Real talk: dreams + goals require time and energy. It’s hard to find either if you’re working 60 hours a week to support expensive spending habits. Click To Tweet
Now, any conversation about money should acknowledge privilege. Because of the realities of life in America, some people will have to take jobs they hate because they need the healthcare coverage. Some people really do need to work 60 hours a week in order to pay for the bare necessities.

Not everyone has the time to wander the aisles of Goodwill, digging through racks of cheap secondhand clothing. Some people live in food deserts and they can’t do a huge shopping trip and then meal prep + freeze seventeen healthy, affordable meals that break down to $3 per person, per meal.

However, many of us – I’d hazard a guess most of us – could make one or two different financial decisions that would free up hundreds or thousands of dollars a year. Which would free up the time and energy we put into earning that money. And we could put that time and energy into something we’re really excited about.

If you’re really honest with yourself, where you could you rein in spending to free up money, time, and energy to spend on things you’re excited about? Tell us in the comments to create public accountability!

P.S. If you want help reducing those non-essential purchases in a way that doesn’t feel like deprivation, my incredibly popular program Bank Boost opens for enrollment on November 7th. Last time I ran it, it sold out in four days so you might want to jump on the waitlist!

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

Why You Need A Smile File + How To Make One

Looking for cheer up ideas? Want to make a smile file but you're not sure where to start? Click through for inspiration ideas and ways to cheer yourself up! #cheerup #happinesstips #selfhelp #selfdevelopment

Picture this: you’re grumpy AF. You overslept, you spilled coffee on your shirt, and because she wants to cheer a friend up, your co-worker is trying to tell you about something called a ‘smile file.’

Do you
a) roll your eyes so far back in your head you get a migraine
b) tell her she’s never allowed to speak in your presence again
c) pretend that you’re listening while quietly plotting her death

If this cheer up idea makes you want to punch someone, hear me out!

Really, a ‘smile file’ is just a personal collection of things that cures a bad mood – your bad mood. If the things that cheer you up are interviews with Nick Cave, hair metal music videos, and gifs of people falling on ice, that’s what you should put in your smile file.

Just as importantly, you are not required to call it a ‘smile file.’ If you think rhyming is dorky, you can call it something else! Or you don’t have to call it anything!

All I’m saying is: We all have bad days. Our bad days will be shorter + less awful if we take some time to create our own personal antidotes when we're NOT in the midst of one. Click To Tweet

Why do you need a smile file at all?

None of us are required to be happy at all times. In fact, that’s impossible!

I think it’s worth noting, however, that bad days and bad moods usually trigger our less-awesome behaviors and choices. Think about the last time you did something you regret – an expensive impulse purchase you can’t afford, snipping at your partner, mindlessly eating yourself into a cookie dough coma, stalking your ex all over Instagram and accidentally liking one of their photos from 2015.

There’s a pretty good chance that these things started with a bad mood. And if you could short circuit that less-than-awesome behavior simply by revisiting some self-esteem-boosting emails or watching a few funny animal videos, isn’t it worth a try?

How to make a smile file

Create an email folder that’s filled with only sweet things

Every time a client, co-worker, or vendor sends you a thank-you note, put it in your Smile File. Praise for a job well done, an amazing testimonial about how your ebook changed someone’s life, a thoughtful response to your newsletter, put it in your Smile File. Funny email from your kid’s teacher or your dog walker – you guessed it! – put it in your Smile File.

In short: any email that makes you smile and will likely improve your day on a second reading, put it in a specific email folder that you can easily reference.

Save all your favorite Instagram images to a ‘smile file’ folder

Did you know you can save all the  insightful captions, funny photos, and inspirational quotes you like on Instagram? It’s true.

Next time you see something you like on Instagram, just click the little pennant icon under the image and you’ll save it to your Instagram account. You can organize your saved images into folders like ‘funny animals,’ ‘memes about the 90s,’ and ‘inspirational quotes’ – or whatever would cheer you up!

Create a day-improving Youtube playlist

A 2013 study in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that people who listened to upbeat music could improve their moods and boost their happiness in just two weeks. But we didn’t need a study to espouse the healing powers of sing-shrieking along to ‘The Dog Days Are Over” while flouncing dramatically around the living room, right?

No joke, I have a 33-song Youtube playlist entitled ‘happy dancing’ and it improves my mood faster than an episode of Brooklyn 99 and a bag of pizza rolls WHICH IS SAYS SOMETHING.

If you use Spotify or Itunes, you could also compile playlists there!

Make a physical ‘smile file’ – like a real, actual paper folder in a filing cabinet

There’s something to be said for holding mood-improving things in your hands, rather than just clicking through emails and online photos.

If you have tangible evidence of the things that make you happy – handwritten cards, photos, ticket stubs and receipts from memorable outings, the application paper work for the big project – put it all in an actual paper folder and put it at the front of your filing cabinet so it’s easy to find and access.

It’s seems like a little thing, right? How could an email folder, a playlist, or some saved Instagram photos cheer you up?

How could something so small (and free!) be the difference between a good day and a bad one? Why not try. Worst case scenario – you have another email folder. Best case scenario – you’ve got a stockpile of things that make you happy and remind you of how awesome you are.

P.S. How to restart a bad day + 101 ways you cheer yourself up

photo by Laura Olsen // cc

The Glorious Freedom Of ‘Good Enough’ + How To Find It

Want to experience the freedom of "good enough"? Let go of perfectionism and optimizing and upgrading everything? Click through and read more!

“I have extremely specific window treatment needs.”

As ridiculous as it sounds, this is a real, actual thought process I’ve had for the last three years.

I’ll spare you the boring specifics, but the windows in our master bedroom are strange. For the longest time, I was convinced that the only answer was $350 worth of custom-made roller blinds.

I set aside $350 for my custom-made window treatments. I measured the windows approximately 17 times. I visited the overpriced window treatment website 19 times and never pulled the trigger.

Every night I glared at the terrible dark brown curtains that came with the house and thought about how much better my life would be once I had my fancy roller blinds. Life is what happens on the other side of good window treatments!!!

And then, while poking around a thrift store on a random Tuesday, I stumbled upon a set of pretty, cream-colored curtains for $7. They matched the paint in our bedroom, they were thick enough to block out the light from the street, and they were $7. What did I have to lose?

I imagine you can see where this is going, reader. I took those $7 curtains home, I “hemmed” them with Stitch Witchery, and slung them on the very same curtain rods that had been home to the awful brown drapes I hated.

Was this the window treatment a professional interior designer would recommend? Probably not.

Was it the solution I’d been dreaming of for three years? No.

But it was exponentially better than what I’d been doing. And would the expensive, custom blinds have been $343 better than these second hand curtains? I don’t think so.

And my “good enough” solution meant that I now had hundreds of dollars to put towards other things. I could get that massage I needed. I could take my friend out for a nice birthday meal. I could get the exit row upgrade on my next flight.

All because I opted for a quite-good-but-not-totally-perfect option.

Saying “good enough” in one area of your life opens up time, energy, and money to be awesome in other areas. Not every aspect of your life has to be polished and remodeled and optimized to perfection. Click To TweetYou know what happens when we allow ourselves the “good enough” option? Life opens up. We can breathe again. Hundreds of hours and dollars are available to us because we kept using the two-year old iphone and decided we could paint the cabinets instead of remodeling the whole kitchen.

Most of us are exchanging time for money. We spend 40-60 hours a week working to earn the money that we spend during the other hours.  The median income in America is about $32,000 a year, or $15 an hour. The average American would have to exchange 22 hours of their life to buy those damn custom blinds I wanted.

That’s 22 hours of life that could be spent playing with our kids, throwing sticks for our dogs, re-reading our favorite books, walking along the river as the sun set, or just watching funny videos on Youtube.

That’s a lot of life we could be living and enjoying because we chose the ‘good enough’ option.

What if – instead of buying a new outfit for every wedding and holiday party – we just wore something we already owned with some different accessories?

What if we decided that the recipe would be fine if we used dried thyme instead of fresh and medium cheddar instead of extra sharp – because that’s what we have on hand?

What if – when the car gets a scuff on the back bumper and the mechanic says it’ll cost $350 to replace – we buy the $12 paint pen and shrug?

And what if – after we did all those things – we took the money and time and energy we saved saying “Good enough!” and spent it on things we were really excited about? (Because how excited can you really be about a perfectly painted bumper?)


Imagine how many hours of our lives we’d have back if we stopped trying to have the absolute best, newest, most updated everything?

Now, you are, of course, allowed to have nice things. Sometimes upgrading to the better blender, the nicer sports bra, the more supportive mattress truly will improve your life. I am not exaggerating when I say that my Roomba is an investment in the quality of my life.

But when we constantly spend time, money, and energy trying to make something that’s already an A into an A++ we burn ourselves out and make ourselves broke.

3 questions that can help you find “good enough”

How will things be different if I upgrade this?

If we’re talking about a Roomba, your life will be different because your floors and carpets will be effortlessly clean, you won’t argue with your partner about who’s going to vacuum, and you’ll stop quietly resenting your dog. (No, I will never stop shouting about my love for my Roomba!!!)

But not every purchase does this. Will your life be dramatically improved by replacing one working television with a different working television? By getting a Vitamix when you already have a Nutribullet? Will your lunches taste better when you eat them out of one of those hipstery metal bento boxes instead of tupperware?

Maybe! Maybe not. Everyone’s answer is different. But I think it’s important to take the time to actually ask ourselves this question.

How many hours would I have to work to pay for this?

Truly, one of the very few personal finance books I recommend is Your Money Or Your Life. The crux of the book is this: most of us exchange our time for money. The less money we spend, the more hours of our lives we have to spend the way we want.

So run the numbers. How many hours do you spend working each week? And how much time do you spend commuting? Divide your yearly take home pay by the amount of time you devote to work in a given year.

Is that new phone worth 10 hours of your life? Is the just-wearing-it-for-one-wedding outfit worth 15 hours? Maybe they are! But again, I think it’s an important question

Why am I buying this really?

Sometimes to answer is “Because I’m sick of vacuuming all the time” or “I spend $15 a week on hummus and this nice blender means I can make my own.”

But sometimes the answer is “Because I’m bored” or “Because all my friends are remodeling their kitchens” or “Because I’m the only person at the coffee shop who’s not using a Macbook.”

You might be surprised by what you discover when you’re really honest with yourself.

So if you’re looking for permission to allow some part of your life to be “good enough,” this is it. <3

I want to hear from you! Do you struggle with feeling like you need to improve and upgrade everything? What’s one area of your life you’re allowing to be “good enough”?

P.S. Everything is socially contagious (and what to do about it)

Photos by Junior Moran and rawpixel on Unsplash

8 things to do if you’re broke after Christmas

Are you broke after Christmas? Looking for some personal finance advice if to get back on track after overspending? Click through for 8 money tips to deal with your Christmas credit card bill!

Are you basking in the post-holiday glow of perfect presents and good food? Wonderful!

Or are you trying to ignore texts from your bank about how your balance has dipped below $50?

If that’s you,
a) I’m sorry. That’s super stressful!
b) You’re not alone and this is fixable.

The average American spends $700 on Christmas presents while carrying a $6,000 credit card balance. Not particularly ideal! Let’s talk about how to true our wheels, right our proverbial ships, and get our bank accounts back to where we want them, regardless of how much we spent over the holidays.

8 things to do if you’re broke after Christmas

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