“Success” is one of those wishy-washy words that most people think only means money, and lots of it. Maybe that’s a good enough definition; maybe not. It could also mean being better with what you have, having a greater reach in your community, and how many people you’ve empowered across the globe. That seems hard to grasp for most folks, so let’s go for something more practical and attainable. Let’s hit up some small successes first.
This post is part of a 14 part series on How to Be a Better Person. I’ve also super-duper fancied this group of posts up into an Amazon Kindle book. Check it out: Forget Perfect, Just Be Better: 101 Simple Ways to Grow in Relationships, at Work, in Life, and Through God.
1) Brown Bag Millionaire
Never mind how many pounds it made me gain, but I used to eat out for lunch every single weekday. No, nothing like a salad or a sandwich, either. We’re talking the full deal Mexican meal, twelve ounce pork chop, Chinese buffet, and whatever else crazy idea came across my coworkers’ minds. Can you imagine what fifteen-dollars per day looks like at the end of the year? That’s getting real close to $4,000. Four grand, can you believe that? Three times the raises I earned in corporate America went straight to my gut.
We get so used to pumping out money for things we’re convinced we need. I mean it’s food, right? We have to eat, right? Do we have to have a party each time? Moderation is a common theme when it comes to eating habits. There’s a reason we don’t eat German chocolate cake for dinner every day, as good as it sounds.
Just Be Better: Go about as caveman-esque as you can and bring a brown-bag lunch to work for a week. I’m talking about grabbing a loaf of wheat bread, jar of organic peanut butter, some raisins, and some cheapo crackers. Count up how much money you didn’t spend that week.
As a guide, I ate mostly healthy and hearty $1.23 lunches for three years while bootstrapping my personal business ventures. That comes to about $310 in lunches for one year, which is less than ten-percent of the $4k lunch-meal plan. I ate lunch for one year from what I used to pay in the $4k-lunch-meal plan taxes alone.
Regain control of your intake, and snag a few thousand for your wallet.
2) Cut It Out
My wife and I decided to go on a twenty-five-dollars-per-month allowance right after we got married. You want to talk about tough? What the hee-haw could I buy for twenty-five dollars? It took me four months to save up for some photo editing software. By then it was almost time for the new version to come out. But you know what happened? I started learning how to plan, spend, and best of all, not spend.
There’s a phenomenon called “lifestyle creep” that hits people hard whenever they get a bump up in the money they earn. I’ve read articles of people that earn millions per year but are broke because of their habits. Your tastes and habits can make you a millionaire pauper if you don’t have a good set of rules in place.
Just Be Better: Make a list of things you buy, but don’t need. This is the random DVD or CD at your local electronics store, the sale items at the clothing store, and the extra bag of fancy candies at the checkout lane. Cut one of the needless things, or wants, out for at least one month. Be fair to yourself and pick something you usually buy often. Now stop it cold turkey.
Your bank account is a bucket; plug the leaks.
I never used to drink coffee and I didn’t understand what the big deal was. Until I started my last few years in college and pulled multiple all-nighters. Wow. What a jolt to my immediate energy levels and mental powers. Coffee was like a mysterious super-power juice waiting to propel me to the next level. I was sold. Sold a bit too much, actually. That dog-gone Starbucks® place took a fair share of my hard earned Ramen® noodle dollars, I’m sorry to admit.
How often do we pick up something we think we need, when we could do the same at home for one-tenth the cost and almost the same amount of time? We get in the habit of convincing ourselves certain services save us time and convenience at the cost of a higher price. Well guess what, stop kidding yourself and start taking back your ability to manage time and money.
Just Be Better: Make your own coffee for three weeks. Don’t have the goodies? It’s sixteen bucks for a cheapo four-cup coffee machine, six dollars for twelve ounces of a decent coffee that will last three weeks, and ten dollars for a thermal container to keep it warm in. That’s thirty-two dollars in three weeks for coffee you control compared to eighty-dollars for coffee you get served.
And the “at home” option only gets cheaper with time since you already have the machine and thermal container. Think you don’t have time? Let it brew while you take a shower; problem solved.
Be your own barista. Tip well.
4) A Percentage of Riches
Remember when I talked about the little wants we pick up here and there? You know, the $5 here, the $2 there, and the occasional $10 over there. You’re punching holes in your bank bucket one unneeded thing at a time and you don’t even know it. It’s like sharing a bag of popcorn at the movies. You don’t notice how much is left until there’s nothing left. Watch out.
Humans aren’t capable of quantifying large groups of things. When we see a big group of people, numbers don’t pop into our minds anymore as we jump straight to a broad generalization of, “a lot of people.” It isn’t until the crowd is down to a manageable five or so people that we start thinking in numbers. The same goes for money and time. We think we have so much of it, until we don’t.
Just Be Better: Let’s flip this idea over and see how we can benefit from it. Put one percent of your next paycheck into a savings account. If the company you work for allows you to do it automatically, even better. You won’t miss it. Repeat often.
The details hide a lot. Pay yourself first and save for the future.
5) Just One Step
I remember the days of thinking about writing a book. I knew I wanted to do it. I knew I wanted to leave my mark on the world and share with those patient enough to wade through it. But where the heck would I begin? I didn’t know anything about writing a book. I was effectively paralyzed by being overwhelmed by my lack of knowledge.
This happens a lot more than people want to admit. Why don’t we go for that training class on something we’re passionate about? Why don’t we volunteer for things that will move us forward? Why don’t we take more chances and see what happens? Too often, we think too much and do too little. Now’s the time to reverse that thinking.
Just Be Better: Write down your biggest goal on a blank sheet of paper. Write at least fifteen ways to achieve that goal. It’s okay if some of them are silly or too hard to do. Just write. Next, write down the very next “fifteen minute” step you can take toward finishing the goal. The smallest little chunk of a step to move your forward. Now take that step today.
The hardest part of getting a train moving is getting it started.
6) Magic Money Rules
Wondering what to do with the thousands of dollars you’ve saved in lunches, coffee, and doodads you don’t need? It’s time to take it to the next level. The problem is, what’s the next level? Do you shove the money in the bank, rack up the measly fraction of a percent in interest that doesn’t beat the three percent inflation rise every year, and then wait? Wait for what?
One of the biggest problems about money saving, making, and expanding is awareness. Not enough people realize there’s magic involved in getting better control over the money they’re trading their time with. Success and growth are all about leverage – getting the most out of what we have. We have to find more ways to make everything we do mean so much more.
Just Be Better: Bust out your favorite search engine and look up the “magic of compound interest” and the “rule of 72.” Give it a day or so to sink in. Now see how these two ideas can work for you if you would put your extra $4,000 into something more financially useful. Now, make financial plans accordingly. Call a professional if you have to. If you don’t, the $300 service fee they charge will be lost in the money you don’t earn from the interest you could have earned in one year.
Get more bang for your buck by learning the basics of earning.
7) Financial Brushing
I cherished those long days when my family and I played Monopoly™ for hours on end. They used to think I was crazy for buying up as much property as I could. I mean heck, I would have almost no money in my hands, just a bunch of property cards. Fast forward a few hours and it all started to make sense. Landing on hotels every roll of the dice starts to hurt your bank reserves when you’re a guest and not an owner.
I normally blame it on society and the media, but most folks have a hard time delaying investment gratification for more than a year. A decade ago this average “investment holding period” was five years. Did you know the chance to lose money goes to almost zero percent after ten years in most stable, low-fee stock market index funds? Did you also know the average rate of return is anywhere from seven to eleven percent for those same funds, when properly distributed? Get that rate at your bank, I dare ya’.
Just Be Better: It’s time to brush up on your finances and start making your money work for you. Are you a beginner and a bit confused by the process? Check out my notes on Comfort Zone Investing. Are you advanced, instead? Check out my notes on The Intelligent Asset Allocator. I highly recommend both of those books, too, if you have the time. They’re worth the investment.
Stop being a guest and think of your dollars as employees. Now put them to work.
7 Quick Tips to Be A Better Person By Success & Frugality
- Brown Bag Millionaire
- Cut It Out
- A Percentage of Riches
- Just One Step
- Magic Money Rules
- Financial Brushing
Start keeping your money so you can do more in your journey to become a better person. You can only change a little at a time, might as well save a little change all the time. They go hand in hand. You’ll be well on your way to rocking it to the top. Here’s to good luck and a good trip. Have a great day!
Want to get the whole series in a convenient ebook?
Check it out: Forget Perfect, Just Be Better: 101 Simple Ways to Grow in Relationships, at Work, in Life, and Through God