Category: money and happiness

Picking Your Luxuries: A Guide To Living Lavishly With Less

Can you live luxuriously while living on a budget? Yes! Sort of. Click through for find out how >> yesandyes.org
This guest post comes via the fantastic Megan over at (the now-sadly-defunct) Charade. Pop over and read through her archives about  style, career and living a fabulous life on a student budget.

When you’re surviving (however stylishly) on a budget, you’re never going to ‘have it all.’

Five star penthouse? Chauffeured limousine? Overflowing Chanel wardrobe?

Hmm… not so much, but that doesn’t mean you should get into a habit of scarcity and lacking, because to become too accustomed to the scrimping and saving lifestyle is to beat any chance at abundant living. Trying to have it all might fail you, but picking your luxuries might not.

Define your Ultimate Luxuries

Our ideas of what constitutes a luxury are all different, for some of us, travelling the globe is the meaning of life; for some, the latest fashion and style rule. Some think good food is next to godliness, whilst some prefer getting sozzled on great wine. A personal trainer might make your day, or a shiny new laptop; perhaps a stonking CD collection is your idea of heaven, or regular Swedish massages.
My point is, there are tonnes of ways to lap up the luxury in your life, and not one of them can be called a luxury with any more validity than the next; it’s all relative.

So, what’s it going to be for you? For Sex and the City’s Carrie, it was shoes; for Paddington Bear, Marmalade Sandwiches; for my sister, Cath Kidston; for me, five star hotels (the Bellagio for my 21st birthday? Yes please.) What feels most luxurious in your life? What has you starry-eyed at a mere mention? Choose it. That’s your ultimate luxury, your one, unashamed, frivolous necessity, for which you openly celebrate with not a scrap of guilt.

Don’t let other people’s opinions of how you should spend your time or where your money should go affect your choice. It’s your life, after all, and whatever it is that gives you the dizzying warm and fuzzies is absolutely worth the investment. You deserve it.

If your ultimate luxury is a small one (Lush products every bath time, a complete Audrey Hepburn DVD collection) then choose two, choose several, choose as many as you can to fit within your budget.

Assume a Luxurious Mindset

Now that you’ve chosen your ultimate luxury, let the feeling of opulence reach its loving arms around your life and squeeze all the goodness out that it can. If you can afford only one ultimate luxury, that’s no reason to allow the rest of your existence to pale into mediocrity alongside it.
Try to look at your whole life as a series of little luxuries, from your first cup of tea in the morning, to a few drops of lavender on your pillow at night. Appreciation is the sole source of worth within any luxury, why not up your appreciation of the day-to-day? Let your whole life be a luxury.

But! A Word of Warning on Luxury

The luxurious mindset is not living above your means; I’ll never recommend getting into credit card debt to feed your fetish. A luxury stops being luxurious if you’re ruining the rest of your life to support it, and a gift that’s worked hard for is a gift that means a million times more.
Remember, too, that there are such things as long-term luxuries and the longer you have to wait for them the sweeter and more special they become. Having a savings account might seem like the most yawn-worthy activity you can imagine, but when looked at as a gleaming pot of gold to fund your dream French chateau, it starts to sound a little more interesting.
Moreover, a luxury is not an addiction, neither must it be simply hedonistic or materialist – it can be time spent with your family, or improving your knowledge on a certain topic, playing an instrument well etc. In other words, a luxury is what you make of it, hence why we can call anything a luxury, if we have the correct mindset.
What are you favorite luxuries? I love expensive cheese, Aveda shampoo, nice perfume, and really good pillows!
P.S. Did you know I host a free, private Facebook group for 3,000+ people who want to add more money and more happiness to their lives? Click here to join us!
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash // cc

True Story: I Didn’t Buy Anything New for One Year

True Story: I didn't buy anything new for one year // yesandyes.org
This is one of many True Story interviews, in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/challenging/amazing things. This is the story of Holly and her one-year shopping ban. Nothing new! For 365 days! Impressive, no?
Free 5-day money bootcamp

What was your relationship with money/consumerism before you took on this challenge?
Before the challenge my relationship with money was nuts! I spent most of my money within a week of getting paid, I had no savings, I paid off credit cards and store cards only to spend on them a few days later. I shopped without even thinking about it, just wandering about aimlessly and coming home with stuff I just didn’t need. I didn’t know anything about a budget and even though I have a well paid job I was always complaining about being broke.

What made you want to go on a shopping ban?
In the personal finance community we talk about what’s called a “Lightbulb Moment”. That’s the moment that you suddenly think “Uh oh, I need to change my ways or else.” For me it wasn’t really one moment but several over a couple of months.

I wore something new every day, I was always having packages delivered (I spent up to £50/$75 a month on books from Amazon), I had dinner out twice a week and eventually I realized that all these seemingly insignificant expenses were adding up to about £500/$740 per month. No wonder I was broke!

How did people in your life react to your decision?
At first some people laughed, they knew what I was like and didn’t think I’d be able to last a month! Someone even told me they could only go a year without shopping if they were in a coma! I’m glad they were doubtful though, it just spurred me on. Having a blog and writing about the challenge was great. I didn’t think anyone would care but the fact that complete strangers were taking the time to read and leave encouraging comments kept me motivated to finish the year. I didn’t want to let anyone down.

So tell us about your year! How did you make do with the things that you already had? Did you alter them? Do lots of borrowing and bartering?
I used to have mending days where I would sit and fix all the clothes that I didn’t wear because they were damaged (missing buttons, dropped hems etc.) then they’d be all lovely and new again. I didn’t need to borrow any clothes because I had so much stuff it was unreal.

One day I took everything out of my wardrobes (you call them closets!) and donated anything I didn’t need to charity. Having less stuff became a bit of a thrill and now I like to declutter as much as possible. I sold books, CDs and DVDs on Amazon, I donated things, held car boot sales (like a yard sale) and put all that money towards the debt. Instead of spending money partying I had friends over for games nights or movie nights which were so much more fun.

What were the biggest challenges? How did you get around those?
I didn’t miss clothes, shoes, bags or accessories as much as I thought I would. What I really missed was reading the Sunday papers in bed (newspapers and magazines were banned too) but luckily I had a subscription to my favorite magazine and I would look forward to it every month.

I’d set aside an evening to read it in bed and truly take it all in as opposed to flick through and chuck it on the floor (I used to buy about 20 magazines a month). The worst part though was when I accidentally spilled bleach down my favorite jeans within about 2 months of the challenge. It sounds so trivial but at the time I was distraught, I cried for about an hour. I just had to suck it up and get on with it though.

Did you ever cheat?
I personally didn’t buy a single thing on my banned items list during my year without shopping. I did however allow my parents to buy me a ski jacket despite the fact that people weren’t supposed to buy me things…very naughty! However, we were going on a ski trip and I didn’t have a proper jacket so it was really a necessity and I don’t feel too bad about it. Oh, and it was my Christmas present too!

How much money did you save? Are you going to put that money towards anything special?
By the end of the year I had saved about £5000/$7400. I built up an Emergency Fund of £3000/$4445 which is enough to cover my expenses if I was unemployed for six months. I’ve really come to realize how important it is to have some savings tucked away, it’s a real comfort knowing that it’s there.

I bought my first digital SLR camera and now I’m saving to buy a house. I also have a travel fund which I add money to every month so that whenever I fancy a trip away I already have the funds in place.

What was the first things that you bought when the ban was over?
I wanted to choose something really special that would be a symbol of the whole challenge so the first thing I bought was a gorgeous necklace from an Etsy shop. It’s absolutely beautiful and I’m so glad I bought something handmade from a unique designer. I always get compliments on it.

Do you feel that the shopping ban has permanently changed your shopping behavior?
Definitely! I’m way less frivolous and, even though I am allowed to shop again, I always think my purchases through. Savings comes first so as soon as I get paid I transfer money to my different savings accounts and then budget the rest so that I don’t go overboard. I try to stretch my money as far as possible so I walk everywhere and cook at home to save money.

Would you recommend trying a shopping ban? What advice would you give to someone who wanted to stop shopping?
If you want to get out of debt then I would absolutely recommend a shopping ban. Once you start only spending on necessities you’ll be amazed to find how much money you actually have. It’s important to sit down and make a budget, figure out what you owe, what has the highest interest and tackle that first.

If you’ve never saved before, put a little aside each month and watch it quickly add up. Cutting out small “treats” like a daily coffee, magazines, new lip gloss, takeout food saves money straight away. And remember, no matter how poor you feel, you are probably one of the richest people in the world. Check out Global Rich List to see how rich you really are – I’m in the top 5%, it’s a good reminder that we can survive with a lot less money than we think.

Have any of you ever put yourself on a shopping diet? Any questions for Holly?

P.S. I got laid off 3 times in 5 years & My house burned down + I lost 90% of my belongings

photo by clark street mercantile // cc

101 Ways To Cheer Yourself Up

Need to cheer yourself up? We all need some happiness tips from time to time! Whether you need better self-care or just a mood boost, these tips will help!
Do you need to cheer yourself up? We all need a bit of cheering up from time to time – and it’s easy to fall back on the ol’ standbys of wine and Netflix. We can do better! This guest post from Steff can help!

101 ways to cheer yourself up

6 Smart, Fun(ish) Things To Do With Your Tax Return

Looking for things to do with your tax refund? Things other than a shopping spree or car repairs? Click through for 6 smart, fun(ish) ideas! >> yesandyes.org

Ahhh, Spring! When a lady’s thoughts naturally turn to tax returns.

Right?

Though not quite as tantalizing as that cutie in accounting, tax returns are one of the joys of this time of year. And if you, like me, earn approximately $2, you can count on some serious bank. But since we´re all trying to be grown ups here, how’s are you going to spend that?

Pay off Credit Card Debt

But you knew that already, right? Riiiiight?! It´s not a particularly sexy way to spend your money, but super important and, in the long run, you’ll be really, really glad you did. If the siren song of Visa often overwhelms you, stick those credit cards in a bowl of water in the freezer.

Contribute to your IRA or 401K

Yes, again. Deeply unsexy. Super important. Your 65-year-old self will thank you! (I opened a Roth IRA and it was surprisingly painless!)

Invest in Yourself

You are your biggest asset, yo! Why not take a class or workshop that will make you a little more pink slip proof? Maybe you can learn how to write grants, use that software that nobody in the office understands or create a basic website.

If that doesn´t float your proverbial boat, use a bit of this money to buy supplies for your Etsy shop, buy a laptop to help your freelance writing or get some wicked headshots to kickstart your acting career.

Green up Your Living Space

Because I love any excuse to feather my nest. And this excuse is pretty damn valid! Low flow shower heads, fluorescent bulbs, water heater blankets, non-toxic cleaners and compost bins all go a long way towards reducing your carbon footprint.

And after spending money on all that un-fun stuff, you can probably validate a wee shopping spree at Ten Thousand Villages, a fair trade retailer that helps artisans from developing countries sell their wares at fair prices.

Donate to Your Local Food Shelf

With the downturn in the economy, more and more people are accessing food shelves, and fewer people are donating to them. Help turn that around with a cash donation or even just donating all those canned peaches you´re never going to eat.

Buy Something Fabulous and Frivolous

After all that do-goodery and responsible spending you deserve some tomfoolery! Maybe add a classic piece to your wardrobe that will last forever? Or splash out on a really nice haircut?

Or fly to Vegas for the weekend with your girls! Buy yourself something fantastic that will bring you compliments and memories for the months to come.

How are you going to spend your tax return?

P.S. If you’re paying in this year, you might like this: 22 free (or cheap!) things to do when payday is far away

photo credit: Padurariu Alexandru // cc

9 Ways To Save Money For Travel (or any big purchase)

Trying to save some travel money? Socking away $$ for your big trip? I saved enough on a teacher's salary to travel for 10 months! Here's how >> yesandyes.org
Dear Sarah,
I’m writing is to ask you about saving money for travelling. You see, I’m off in the beginning of March for three months in New Zealand, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. My boyfriend and I bought our ticket on Saturday and I’m getting pretty worried about the money situation – even though we’ve decided to do it on the cheap.
I have a full time job but it pays badly – do you have any tricks to raise money in a fairly short time? Although I’m sure you were sensible and saved up over a long time!
Oh, friend. Yes, I was sensible (and a bit boring) and saved up over a long time. But all is not lost! You can put away a good chunk of money if you’re willing to make some changes.

9 ways to save money for travel (or any big purchase)

Get a Second Job or a side hustle

Blowing your mind with my originality, right? But it’s obviously easier to save money if you’ve got two or three streams of income. And a second job doesn’t have to mean working every evening and weekend at Starbucks. You could tutor the neighborhood kids, house-sit for family friends, babysit your cousins – there are a million options.

Here’s an article with some great ideas for second jobs. I know that working two jobs is a drag of epic proportions. But if you’re doing it for a limited amount of time and to raise money for a very specific reason, it seems exponentially more tolerable. At least that’s what I always tell myself while I’m tutoring poorly behaved fifth graders.

Put Yourself on a Crazy Tight Budget

Again with the mind-blowing, right? Suzy Orman, watch out! Making a budget is wicked easy: look into how much you need to buy your round-the-world ticket/new car/house/Jimmy Choos, look at how much discretionary income you have, do a bit of math and see how long it should take you to save enough to buy said pair of shoes. If you’re not happy with that amount of time: reexamine the way you spend your money.

Surely you can trim a little fat?

*Cancel the cable (that’s what Hulu is for, y’all!)
*Split wi-fi with someone in your building
*Cancel your gym membership and go for walks with friends or workout at home
*Start cooking at home instead of eating out so much
*Go cold turkey on Starbucks
*Don’t drink so much. If you’re going to party, pre-game at home so you’re not spending $40 at the bar every weekend
*Get a flatmate
*If you engage in retail therapy (aka: are human) why not hit up a thrift store or a nice second-hand boutique? You’ll save heaps of money and still feed the hunger for new shoes

My budgeting non-secret

I allot myself a certain amount of ‘fun money’ each week and withdraw that amount in cash from an ATM. Once that money’s gone, I’m stuck at home eating soup and watching library DVDs until Sunday rolls around again.

Realize that every non-essential thing you buy is a step away from your dream

Oh, that’s a bit dire, isn’t it? But it’s true, y’all. Before you buy yet another set of decorative towels, realize that all that terry cloth equates to one night in a Cambodian hostel. Or a can of paint for the house you want to buy. Or two weeks worth of car insurance on that Saab you don’t have yet. If you want to make these things happen, you have to make them a priority, right?

Find Sponsors

If you’re saving up for something remarkable and do-goodery – launching a non-profit,working with an under served population – there might be people willing to help fund your dream. Learn how to write grants proposals, contact your local paper and see if they’re will to write up your story.

If you’re incredibly cheeky (and clever) you could even aim for corporate sponsorship like Dancing Matt of Youtube fame (Stride gum sponsored his trip) or Maggie Mason, whose life list is being sponsored by Intel.

Remind Yourself Why You’re Doing This

No amount of budgeting will help if you’re not in the right mindset and let’s be honest, giving up your Americano habit isn’t particularly easy or fun. But nearly everything in life worth having requires a bit of work and sacrifice, no?

Make an active effort to remind yourself why you’re making these sacrifices.If you’re saving up for a trip to India learn how to make paneer, listen to some punjabi mc and rent some bollywood flicks. If you’re socking away money for a house, make lists of features in your dream house, stop by designsponge and haunt all those real estate open houses. You’ll be more likely to stick to your financial guns when the reason is at the forefront of your mind.

Sell Your Stuff

Granted, this money making scheme is best employed when you’re moving or about to travel, but certainly there are some things sitting around your house, gathering dust. If you’ve upgraded to a flat screen, maybe someone wants your old tv? And if you’ve got a laptop, do you really need a netbook? Craigslist awaits, my friends.

Drastic measures To be utilized only when you are really broke or need to save an huge amount of money

Move Back in with Your Parents

Twin beds, dial-up internet and casseroles every night for dinner. But it’s (probably) rent free. I’m sure you’ll save everyone’s sanity by helping around the house, not bringing boys home from the bar as 2 am and setting some parameters before you move in, right?

Teach ESL in Asia/The Middle East

Drastic? Yes. Effective? Definitely. After the first six months when I spent all my money on Ikea furniture and t-shirts with terrible Engrish, I saved $1,000 a month. Really! With no effort and no impact on my swanky quality of life.

It should be noted that this doesn’t hold true for ESL in all Asian countries – I’d hazard the guess that you’d have the most luck in Japan, Taiwan, Korea and Hong Kong. Correct me if I’m wrong!

Take Part in Medical Studies

My goodness but this is drastic, no? I’ve never done these myself but I have several friends who financed large chunks of college with medical studies – and they still have all their limbs and appear to be fertile! Of course, if you’re going to do these exercise caution, do heaps of research and start small.

P.S. I would be remiss in my role as pseudo-financial advisor is I didn’t make the point that you really shouldn’t buy trips/cars/houses that you can’t afford (I’m looking at you, America’s housing crisis). I know that those shoes are calling your name, but if the choice is between groceries and green cute boots, be a grown up. A human can’t live on patent leather alone.

How do you save up for big ticket items? What’s your relationship with money like?

P.S. How I paid off $50,000 of school debt 5 years ahead of time + How I traveled for 10 months on $5,000

photo by toa heftiba // cc

5 Easy(ish) Ways To Stop Being A Pessimist

Do you want to stop bring a pessimist? Do you want better self-care and more happiness? These 5 things will help you get closer to your goal!

Is it possible to stop being a pessimist?

Which is to say: Is it possible to re-wire your brain? To change your personality? To alter the way you navigate life?

The short answer is: sort of.

Science tells us that we all come with a built-in ‘emotional set point‘ – some of us are just naturally happy and some of us are just naturally …. less happy.

But! We can move the needle! We can make ourselves happier or at least less pessimistic. Today, reader Gene tells us how he’s moved away from his pessimistic tendencies.