Last week, I had a reporter from WCCO, a major news station in the Twin Cities contact me about a potential interview. The reporter’s name was Cristiane Cordero, and she wanted to interview me about the strategies I’ve used to save around $300,000 in six years.
Cristiane – a millenial herself – felt bugged that the millennial generation often gets stereotyped as being lazy, entitled, and unmotivated. She wanted to do a TV interview highlighting the fact that there’s a large subculture of millennial’s who are fiercely motivated to be responsible with their money and achieve financial independence. She wanted to shine a light into this subculture of “younger” people who are accumulating the financial fire-power to try to make the world a better place. We were introduced through a mutual friend. After talking on the phone, she said, “I’d love to interview you.” I said, “Come on over, I’d love to tell you about the life I am trying to achieve.”
Cristiane arrived at my house on Friday with a camera crew, and we had a great time talking about the money issues that impact normal, every-day people. We also discussed how my wife and I have escaped a lot of the financial problems that have become common in the millennial generation. Here’s a few soundbites from our 40 minute conversation:
After the interview, once I had time to think through our conversation, I realized there was more I wanted to say. So the below narrative is not only how I answered her questions, but also what I wish I would have said.
Cristiane began the interview by asking: “What help me escape the rock-bottom point my life had hit 16 years ago after I was arrested for using drugs in college?”
My response: “I first had to accept ownership that I was responsible for putting myself in the position to hit rock bottom. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to move past my mistakes, until I took responsibility for them. My past life was a mess because I created that mess. If I wanted my life to change, I was going to have to be the one to clean up that mess.
In a financial sense, my wife and I also had to clean up our rough financial reality when we got married. I didn’t have a lot of money, and she had $20K of debt in student and car loans. Together we made the decision to pay off that debt years before the final payment was due.
But once we accepted our reality, and took ownership over the challenges we faced, we were able to make a plan to climb out of our mess together. Destroying harmful vices, and paying off debt, is a lot like learning how to work out at a gym after being a couch potato for years. Changing your reality is hard. Positivity hurts after being submersed in negativity for a long time. But you have to realize that embracing the pain, and overcoming it is the best thing for you in the long run. You, and your God, are the only ones who can change your life.
Don’t worry about being perfect. Start by just putting one foot in front of the other. You can’t get better until you start practicing new ideas to get better. Gain strength just like you’re returning to the gym and working out. Then once you start accomplishing little goals, gain confidence and set bigger goals, and create opportunities for yourself to prove that you can do the big things right in life.
Christiane then asked me: “How do you know when you’ll reach your financial goals? Do you need a certain house? Or a car? Or do you need to reach a financial number like being a millionaire?”
I responded: “Don’t make the mistake of pursuing things with your money, because you’ll find the pleasure found in things is fleeting. I’ve heard people say they wasted their entire lives chasing a job title, or social status, that made them feel empty when they finally achieved it. No matter what tangible accomplishment you strive for, the human brain is wired to always want more. You may never find sustained happiness if you chase a thing.
Instead of things, or bigger numbers in your bank account, chase personal growth opportunities and adventures, that can make you feel like deeper, happier, and more fulfilled person. Chase the dream your soul craves to live. The journey to become the person you dream of being is an adventure that will never end. The journey to achieve your deepest dreams – not the destination in those dreams – is an infinite source of inspiration that creates happiness along your way. The money you possess becomes insignificant, because money doesn’t create purpose or happiness. Money is just the resource that can fund your journey to find your purpose and happiness.
Christiane asked me: “What advice would you give to someone who wanted to start saving more money?”
After taking some time to think about it, I replied: “I start by examining my spending habits on a macro and micro level. On a macro level, I’m very aware of keeping my house, vehicles, and hobbies (my big 3 expenses) as low as I possibly can. I’m worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, but I discipline my ego from wanting to buy bigger, more expensive things that don’t lead to happiness.
I choose to drive a car that is 15 years old and has 220,000 miles on it. I live in a duplex and rent out half of it, rather than upgrade to a 4,000 square foot mini-mansion. My hobbies are based around mostly free experiences like: hiking, biking, fishing, working out, hanging with friends, etc, rather than spending my nights at expensive concerts, wearing expensive clothes, and dining on expensive meals and cocktails.
On a micro-level, we cook most of our meals at home. We brew our own coffee for .05 cents a cup rather than pay $3 at a coffee shop. We buy most of our “stuff” used on craigslist, ebay, or at local garage sales.
The art of saving money is all about maximizing efficiency with your every-day micro and macro financial decisions. Most of the times you can avoid spending money, simply by choosing to use what you have a little bit longer.
Here’s a few more tips I wish I would have added to inspire people to save more money so that they can self-fund their biggest dreams:
#2 Rather than always buying new, try to become more efficient with what you have. (For example: My one-car garage was feeling tight last weekend. But instead of buying a bigger house for $30K more, I bought hooks for $3 and hung up the things that were getting in my way. It’s easiest to save money when you are more efficient with what you have, rather than always needing to buy more.
#3 Be more grateful for the things you do have, rather than comparing and longing for the things you don’t have. I believe the easiest way to trick your brain to avoid spending more, is by simply taking 20 minutes a day to sit back and affirm to yourself how grateful you are to have the life you have. I try to remember to be grateful for every little thing I have, and the result is that I rarely long for more because I’m already content with what I have.
#4 Use your dreams to motivate you to say no to spending, and say yes to saving. Saving does not mean your restricting yourself. Healthy saving means that you’re accumulating the resources you’ll need to accomplish your biggest dreams. Use your dreams to rebel against all the things that are trying to take your money away from you.
Ultimately, I tried to tell Cristiane: I believe money management is the greatest skill to help you grow from the person you used to be, into the person you want to be. That’s why I save every dollar I can: I am determined to become the person I am supposed to be, and I use my money to help me accomplish this goal.
Ultimately, I think this is the journey of life we’re all after: Life is about evolving from the human being you used to be, and becoming the human being the world needs you to be.
Explore the articles around this blog to learn how to become an investor and make money from the money you save. Here’s a few good places to start:
Thanks for the interview Cristiane and WCCO…. I hope we can do it again and talk more in the future.
Please share your thoughts in the comment section below so that you can inspire someone reading this after you! (Anonymous comments are fine.)
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