7 [Financial] Habits That Have a High Rate of Return

by J. Money - Published November 19, 2018

money habits

Remember the other week when I posted that tweet about the 7 habits that have a high rate of return in life? Where I rocked almost all of them except for the “exercising 3x a week” one where I appropriately scored an F-?

Well, not any longer my friends!! That silly little tweet stirred something in me and I did something that day I haven’t done in over a year and a half:

I WENT RUNNING!!!!

And then I did it again, and again, and again – all throughout the last three weeks!

🏃🏃🏃🏃🏃🏃🏃🏃

It’s way too early to call it a habit yet, or even label me as a “runner” for that matter (hah), but WOW does it feel good finally *doing something* about it for once! I even discovered a trail down the street full of creeks and boulders and these cute little waterfalls!

Now my runs weren’t Forrest Gump impressive or anything (the first one lasted 3 minutes, and we’re now up to the 20’ish mark) but hey – I *started*. And more importantly than that – I haven’t given up!! ;)

Which brings me to the point of all this humble bragging: sometimes you have to hear things over and over again until it finally moves you to take action.

So with that in mind, I’m going to post those 7 habits again below in hopes they spark something inside of you too! The 7 habits that have a high rate of return in life, via James Clear (I swear I’m not obsessed with him… or am I?):

  • Sleep 8+ hours each day
  • Lift weights 3x week (I substituted this for “exercising” 3x a week)
  • Go for a walk each day
  • Save at least 10 percent of your income
  • Read every day
  • Drink more water and less of everything else
  • Leave your phone in another room while you work

BOOM. Solves so many areas in life with those!

Now unfortunately there was only *one* bullet dedicated there to finances which we all know is cuckoo, so the second point of today’s post is to share what a list focused on that might look like.

Here’s what I came up with:

The 7 *financial* habits that have a high rate of return in life

donald duck money gif

#1. Tracking your money every month

Whether you budget or prefer tracking your net worth, you have to know where your money’s going if you want to improve! And getting into the habit of doing this monthly can have a profound effect on not only your wealth, but your mindset as well. It’s amazing what a little paying attention can do over time!

#2. Grabbing those (FREE!) 401(k) matches

It still blows my mind that people leave thousands of dollars on the table every year just because they don’t think they can live without the 2% or 3% siphoned from their paychecks. EVEN IF YOU PUT MONEY IN YOUR 401(K) AND THEN CASHED IT OUT AFTER GETTING THE MATCHES AND WERE HIT WITH ALL THE PENALTIES, YOU’D *STILL* COME OUT AHEAD VS NOT PARTICIPATING AT ALL! Not that I’d ever – EVER – recommend that, of course, but financially speaking it just doesn’t make sense to not take advantage of this perk.

Jack up your contributions *at least* to what your company is matching, and even if you never do a thing again with it at least you’re doubling – or coming close to it, depending on the plan – your contributions. And it’s pre-tax so you’ll feel it even less! (If at all!)

#3. Paying off your credit card(s) in full

I don’t care if you put $10,000 on there or $1.00 on there, if you can pay it off every single month you will be a financial ROCK STAR and people will swoon all over you… Bonus points if you can hack the system too and score mad credit card rewards along the way! (But don’t you dare dance with the devil if you don’t trust yourself! Better to be DEBT-FREE with no rewards than DEBT-FULL with them! 💃😈)

#4. Automating your savings/investments

I won’t try to put a % here as we’re all in different stages with this stuff, but obviously the more you can manage to stash away the better. And more important than that is getting into the habit of *increasing* it over time so that snowball keeps compounding as it rolls! All the while keeping that wretched lifestyle inflation at bay!

#5. Setting aside “fun” money

I know this sounds the opposite of what I just said, but unfortunately we have these things called “emotions” as humans, and the last thing you want to do in your financial journey is burn out :) If you can set aside X amount of money to blow every month, it’ll not only help keep you sane throughout the years, but it’ll also make this stuff more FUN because who just wants to hoard it all the time and never be able to touch it?? You have to have a release valve with this stuff, and so long as you’re keeping it within reason you’re not going to get arrested by the money police. Enjoy your spoils a little!

#6. Experimenting, experimenting, experimenting!

This is my favorite of the bunch, just because there’s an ENDLESS supply of ways to get from A to a Million, and once you stumble across something that works it feels rewarding as hell. Whether it’s finding a good side hustle, dabbling in stocks or real estate, trying your hand at a “No Spend” month, rocking a new savings hack, or simply taking on a fun challenge. The more you experiment, the better chances of finding that game changer!

#7. Learning to be content with what you have

This is probably the hardest habit of them all, but also the most rewarding as you go. The less you “need” in life, the more options it opens up for you! In terms of both finances (savings) as well as lifestyle (freedom). There’s a reason so many money people are also minimalists: they realize owning more is not the answer to happiness – being content is! And the more you can get in the habit of remembering this, the quicker you’ll reach your FIRE goals.

So those are my 7 favorite financial habits! What I miss? Can you check off a number of these? Can you check off these – AND – the other 7 habits too?

You’d be a rare breed if so, but a rare breed I’d very much enjoy being friends with ;) Perhaps we could even be running buddies, if that’s a thing? Rundies?

‘Till next time…

forrest gump running gif

Jay loves talking about money, collecting coins, blasting hip-hop, and hanging out with his three beautiful boys. You can check out all of his online projects at jmoney.biz. Thanks for reading the blog!

{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dave @ Accidental FIRE November 19, 2018 at 5:42 am

Nice dude, keep up the running. It’ll become the best habit in your toolbox!

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2 J. Money November 19, 2018 at 6:44 am

Thanks man! Really really hoping it sticks this time!! :)

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3 SC | MissFunctional Money November 19, 2018 at 5:58 am

Excellent work on the running! I applaud you (but from afar — I know people who are running buddies who TALK WHILE THEY RUN. I cannot fathom this witchcraft. I cannot breathe when I jog, and don’t know if I can trust people who can simultaneously carry effortless conversation).

Great list, and #7 is especially fitting for this week, huh? Happy Thanksgiving :)

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4 J. Money November 19, 2018 at 6:53 am

Haha… that is true, isn’t it???

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5 Cathy November 19, 2018 at 6:21 am

Running is good but lifting weights is the best!! Thank you for the list, J. Money – sometimes it can feel as if progress in life is very slow – and then it helps to see a list that reminds me at least it’s going in the right direction :) Tom Hanks must have trained pretty hard for that film, no? …

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6 J. Money November 19, 2018 at 6:55 am

That’s what our community is here for – to remind us it’s all a journey! There’d be no finance blogs if it really was a get-rich-quick scheme :)

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7 Kate November 19, 2018 at 6:49 am

Number 1, tracking my money, was life changing for me. Seeing how my money was being spent (£8 on a pack of cigarettes!?! £10 on sushi and miso soup?!?!?!! And that was 4 years ago!!) changed a ton of my spending habits and seeing my net worth (much better shape than I’d assumed due to too many bank accounts and a complex “saving” system) encouraged me to make some investments that are really paying off now. Number 7, essentially practicing gratitude on a daily basis, has turned my cup from half empty to overflowing. Budgets really are sexy!

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8 J. Money November 19, 2018 at 7:03 am

Way to work it!!

“Keeping a simple system” would also go on the list if I kept adding to it… This stuff really doesn’t have to be that complicated!

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9 Cubert November 19, 2018 at 7:17 am

Good job, Boss! That’s how my running habit started. Slowly and with a lot of gasping for air. But when you’re dating a scholarship runner, you tend to push harder… I’d suggest reading “Born to Run” to give you more jet fuel for your running journey.

I love Clear’s list. I would add another bullet: Have eye contact conversations with your loved ones each day and share at least one “I love you”.

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10 J. Money November 19, 2018 at 7:25 am

Ahh yes!!! That’s especially good since it involves *other people* vs just yourself like the rest of that list… Good call.

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11 Millionaire Dojo November 19, 2018 at 7:22 am

Are these the 7 habits of highly flammable people? Get it? Cause FIRE – flammable… I’ll go home now.

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12 J. Money November 19, 2018 at 7:37 am

That would have been a much better title actually ;)

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13 Dustin November 19, 2018 at 8:27 am

Hey nice work! About 7 years ago I started running 3 minutes at a time. Now this upcoming spring I’ll be running my first 50 mile race. I discovered the key to consistent exercise: find something you enjoy doing and it is much easier to develop a consistent habit. For me that is running races, which keeps me training throughout the year.

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14 J. Money November 19, 2018 at 2:50 pm

50 miles – wow!! What a testament to perseverance right there. Can I be like you when I grow up? :)

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15 Fred Leamnson November 19, 2018 at 8:38 am

Congrats on the running, man. I can’t do it anymore but substitute bike, Yoga (hot vinyasa) and weights at least 3x a week, usually more. My wife and I have always worked out since we met (35 years ago, Yikes!).

Plus, we don’t have kids at home. That helps. Keep it up. It’s a game changer.

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16 J. Money November 19, 2018 at 2:54 pm

Thanks man! I’d love to diversify more as time goes on…. Found one of my old youtube videos I used to do the other day and tried that one out again which I forgot how awesome it was –> “The Scientific 7-Minute Workout” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6etLKswjq8 (music nsfw)

Hoping to do more stuff too for when it’s too nasty to run outside!

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17 Paul November 19, 2018 at 8:52 am

What always amazed me with running is that if you take a break, even a few days to a week it feels like you have never run before in your whole life. My wife and I ran the Marine Core Marathon in 2011 and I was doing consistently 10 – 18 miles at a time, at least 50 miles a week minimum. Now I run for a few minutes and my entire body itches like someone is stabbing me all over with needles… Also difference between 30 and 37 is I am scared now to push myself since too much too soon just = injury.

I’m really bad with fun money, I get into these zones where the only thing that matters is the end goal… great for speeding up the process, terrible if you also have a family when you are trying to actually achieve any significant financial milestone.

Automating everything is probably the single biggest thing I’ve done. Helped grow my 401k by 100K in contributions in the last 2 years. I don’t get a “free” match being self employed but I do get to set me match at 25% vs the typical 5%. I just hope my luck continues in my Self employment journey, I would love to never work for anyone else (other than clients obviously) ever again and obviously those numbers are not realistic working for someone else.

Anyway, I concur on the the credit card game, I’m currently playing a dangerous game of 0% intro for 12 months. The thing is, I had to open an additional card to get another 12 month period as my plan to zero out last year didn’t exactly work out. Life always gets in the way of planning… Anyway, I should be able to do it this year seeing as I’ve already replaced everything in my house at this point but who knows really. It was a chilling lesson that even a hardened, pragmatic, and unfeeling (in matter of money) miser like me can fall victim to the credit card game… I really want to get my basement in a livable condition, its almost finished, really all I need are doors and carpet, but damn it if I just need to stop and pay this card off first. Maybe one day… maybe…

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18 J. Money November 19, 2018 at 6:09 pm

At least you know yourself well, haha… AND you’re banking a $hit ton in your 401(k)! Most people I know with credit card debt ain’t got squat stashed away.

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19 Paul November 20, 2018 at 9:06 am

I took the interest free debt period to spread out the cost of 2 new HVAC units. Got a hell of a deal but $16k is still a lot of money to plop down on something that pays your back over 20 years or so.

Now I realize why I cant have a car payment either, I just mentally cant deal with debt, on paper a 2% loan seems like its interest free based on inflation, but in my mind all I can think of is that this company I’m indebted to now owns a portion of my life… it makes me feel like a trapped animal in a cage seething with anxiety, trying with everything I have to escape.

You know, if everyone stopped taking out loans prices on everything would decline. Cars, houses, college, everything…

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20 J. Money November 22, 2018 at 6:31 am

In most cases I’d agree w/ the “trapped” feeling, but when you’re picking up stuff that you actually need to improve your life (HVACs, cars, etc), these companies *are* actually helping you out ;) It’s not like any of us can build HVACs or cars ourselves, haha, so maybe thinking of it more along those lines would de-stress you a bit and help you feel more appreciative? I don’t know anyone who literally just throws away money for the pure sake of it, so usually when you do it’s because you want/need something in return. Most people just don’t know where to draw the line and mistake “wants” with “needs”, which is a whole other story.

Just a different way of thinking about it, anyways… I’ve been trying to do the same myself, and it definitely helps although not completely :)

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21 Stevo November 19, 2018 at 9:12 am

Nice! Been looking for motivation to start running again.. I’d been keeping up with it bc my work would pay for an entry into a local half-marathon in January every year, which would keep me running for at least ~4 months to train. HQ moved so they quit sponsoring the run :(

pro tip tho – my running sucks if i’m not listening to music, or at least a good podcast. it’s all in your head!

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22 J. Money November 19, 2018 at 6:11 pm

I’ll sponsor you to start running again – how does $1.00/run sound? ;)

(AND YES TO MUSIC!!! Pumps me up every time I feel like quitting… And also good for gauging how well or not I’m doing as I base it all on # of songs I listen to before stopping to take a break, haha…)

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23 Joe November 19, 2018 at 9:14 am

Great job. Keep exercising. Your list is great. These 7 habits will turn things around for lots of people if they follow them. The only thing I’d add is – make more money. This is especially important if your income is low. You gotta figure out how to increase your income.
Anyway, I’m taking a week off from exercising. The kid is out of school and I need a relaxing week. Happy Thanksgiving!

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24 J. Money November 19, 2018 at 6:12 pm

Enjoy the break!! And very true about earning more – it’ll definitely speed up the process, especially if you’ve got the foundation down! (Otherwise you’ll just end up spending more and evening out again, womp womp…)

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25 Robin November 19, 2018 at 9:37 am

Thanks for putting both list out there. Working on items from both. The Forest Gump clip reminded me of post on FB with caption to the effect “parents after dropping off kids with grandparents.” Every time I see that I smile – so thanks for making me smile this morning.

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26 J. Money November 19, 2018 at 6:13 pm

That is SO True, haha…

I actually yell out “FREEDOM!!!!!” the second I drive away from my kids’ drop off ;)

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27 Michael November 19, 2018 at 9:55 am

These are really great tips right here J$! Taking advantage of your 401k match (if you have one) is such an easy way to get money and paying off your credit cards in full is such an easy way to save money. It just shows you how simple lifestyle changes can impact your financial life.

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28 Bryan November 19, 2018 at 10:11 am

People often worry about owning or renting a home. They should first think about maintaining the primary home they own—their body. Without it, none of this matters.

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29 J. Money November 19, 2018 at 6:17 pm

Amen to that!

(And no shame in renting if that’s what people end up choosing too!! It gets such a bad rap!)

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30 Jen November 19, 2018 at 11:42 am

Congratulations on starting a new habit (running). I’ll be honest, I hated running for the first 5 months that I did it. But after that I started reaching new milestones (fewer painful shin splints, running longer before needing to stop, reaching a runner’s high, etc) and I haven’t stopped since. My husband even started running about a year and a half later and he just ran his first official half marathon earlier this month with me. If there are any running groups around you it may help you to stick with it and learn techniques for dealing with issues that come up. It wasn’t until I started running with a local group based out of our local run store that I learned how to actually make progress dealing with my shin splint issues (as well as a TON of other useful info). It also helps to know when it is 26 (or 90) degrees outside that you won’t be the only one suffering through the first mile until you warm up. Best of luck!

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31 J. Money November 19, 2018 at 6:22 pm

Haha thanks! I think that’s gonna be a major goal of mine to hit one day – running some sort of marathon or really any “official” run for that matter :) It feels like SUCH a different culture of people who do that to me, but even if I can fake it just once I’ll be pretty proud of myself, haha…

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32 Raina November 19, 2018 at 2:04 pm

Run J Money, run!!

That’s Awesome.

#7 has been a life changer for us. It’s not always easy when you pass the Target End caps (how do they know I always needed that?!?), but being grateful makes me feel rich and then I want less stuff.

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33 Eric @ Flip n Finances November 19, 2018 at 3:17 pm

My favorite line from this post: “Unfortunately we have these things called “emotions” as humans” haha

Yes, those darn emotions always getting the better of us. But the fun budget is definitely my favorite category for us :)

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34 J. Money November 19, 2018 at 6:23 pm

I’m glad you caught that!! I thought I was pretty clever with that one! :)

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35 Shaun November 19, 2018 at 3:51 pm

“EVEN IF YOU PUT MONEY IN YOUR 401(K) AND THEN CASHED IT OUT AFTER GETTING THE MATCHES AND WERE HIT WITH ALL THE PENALTIES, YOU’D *STILL* COME OUT AHEAD VS NOT PARTICIPATING AT ALL! ”

Can you explain this one? Cashing out early results in the cash being taxed as ordinary income at your current tax rate (or higher if it bumps you into the next bracket), PLUS a 10% penalty. I’ve never seen a match higher than 10%, so I’m not sure how what you say is possible.

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36 J. Money November 19, 2018 at 6:31 pm

The *matches* you get are usually 50% or 100% of what you put in, which is essentially *doubling* your money right off the bat. So even with all the taxes and penalties it’s not going to wipe out all your gains :) (Though it’s still not fun!)

I had a friend once do this who was trying to pay off his credit card debt, and when he found out our company matched 100% of *any amount* you put in up to the legal limit of $16.5k (a pretty rare perk!) he jacked it up as high as he could and then cashed it out once vested and knocked out his debt… Even after all the fees hit.

But yes, if you don’t get *any* matches then it def. wouldn’t work the same way, although in theory investing *anything* is always better than investing *nothing*, so in that regard you’d still technically come out ahead even though the fees would eat at your contributions ;)

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37 Deanna November 19, 2018 at 7:57 pm

Nice on the running! Dude, I cannot believe i’m just now discovering your writing. I know I was living under a rock for years . I love your style, wit & sensibilities.

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38 J. Money November 20, 2018 at 5:43 am

Haha… well I’m glad to have you here now :) we def. like to have fun!

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39 Jason Butler November 20, 2018 at 2:55 pm

I’m working on both sets of habits. The good thing is that I try to run at least once a week. The winter is always a struggle for me. I also need to learn to be content with what I have. It’s something that I truly struggle with.

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40 J. Money November 22, 2018 at 6:36 am

Try this video when you’re stuck inside!! It’s the only one I’ve continued to use over the years and really works you good in a short amount of time… Also has some great music (though NSFW):

The Scientific 7-Minute Workout –> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6etLKswjq8

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41 Jason Butler November 26, 2018 at 4:05 pm

Thanks. Will check it out shortly!

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42 Kris November 20, 2018 at 6:01 pm

Keep it up with the running J!! Next thing you know you’ll be running for an hour

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43 Liberty @ Love Liberty Shelter November 21, 2018 at 11:25 am

Love the list! So good to get back to basics. Now that it’s nearly the end of the year, I’m making a list of successes to help encourage and drive me on in our challenging tiny house journey toward FI . . . and your list reminds me of a couple things I WANT to include, so thank you for spurring me on to make this last month of 2018 count:)

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44 J. Money November 22, 2018 at 6:38 am

Excellent!!

I’m always so envious reading about your tiny house!! You’re so much braver than I!!!!

(And congrats on the baby too!! All kinds of adventures going on over there, haha…)

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45 Steveark December 3, 2018 at 8:58 am

Knee surgery and a blood disease ended my marathon hobby in 2012 but I kept running shorter distances three times a week with my wife and other friends. Saturday I turned 63 and since wife was out of town I decided to do a ten mile run by myself with no rest stops or walking instead of the normal Saturday 7 miler with lots of walking breaks. I think it had been almost seven years since I tried to run that far in a continuous stretch. I did it! And it was mostly fun except the last three miles were reminiscent of my marathon days where I had to mentally battle my worst enemy, me, to keep going. I don’t intend to do that very often because the knee and the blood aren’t great, so there is a safety issue with overdoing it. But the thing is I did more than I thought I could do, and I felt like I was 23 instead of 63 the rest of the day. We are slightly early retired and have more money than we need because we lived the way you now teach others, it was natural for us but I appreciate your modeling and teaching it to others who will find financial freedom because of your vision.

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46 J. Money December 3, 2018 at 12:07 pm

Very cool!!!! I hope I can even come close to doing 10 miles at some point in my life. You are good, sir! And I bet you totally waited for your wife and friends to be gone so they didn’t stop you from trying it, huh?? HUH??? ;)

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47 Robert Graham December 3, 2018 at 10:56 am

I like #5 for “fun money.”

I think it’s so easy to underrate taking care of yourself whether that means running or indulging in some simple pleasures that prevent you from serious binges and burnout.

“Set a low trajectory over the horizon — or gravity will fix it for you”

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48 J. Money December 3, 2018 at 12:07 pm

Haha, hadn’t heard that quote before. Good one :)

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