If You Can Afford to Spend It, You Can Afford to Save It.

by J. Money -

lonely piggy bank

What’s up party people! It’s Monday – get excited!!!

What’s that? Mondays are lame?

Okay, let’s try it again – It’s Monday, y’all!! Check out this awesome new savings idea I just heard, along with a raw and transparent history of someone’s real financial life who just laid it all out in an email for us to gawk at today! Get excited!!

Any better? :)

If so, continue reading… (if not, click here)

Hey J. Money,

I hope you’re doing well! I have been a reader since at least 2010 (WHOA where does time go?). I started out adulthood with a pretty rotten relationship with money. I came from a lower middle class family and never really learned at all how to handle money.

At 17, I was the first person in my family to go to college, and was highly encouraged by friends, family, and even my school’s financial aid office to finance my education with loans. Fast forward a few years, and I had $70,000+ in student loans and a bunch of credit card debt, which I ended up paying off through a probably shady consolidation agreement.

That was a few years ago, and I am still learning how to realistically manage my money. I am definitely guilty of lifestyle inflation. After being underpaid for years and really struggling to make ends meet, I’ve had about a 40% pay increase in the past few years, and almost no additional savings to show from it despite simultaneously reducing my cost of living. Throughout these years, I have been an on and off reader of Budgets are Sexy. It’s hard to read about personal finance, when you just want to buy cute things and pretend the future will take care of itself, ya know?

Anyway… I’ve gained a lot of tips from you and from some other blogs and would be in an even worse financial state if it weren’t for you guys. Lately, I’ve really been wanting to save more. I don’t have a healthy emergency fund and since I’m making a steady amount, very temporary belt-tightening can fund things I should be saving for (vacations, minor car repairs, etc). It’s hard to see the incentive to save when I am meeting my immediate needs and wants. (Btw, I know on many levels why saving is extremely important, it’s just hard to do.)

I have found a weird practice that has been helping me put A LOT into savings the past few months. I’m a big online shopper. I often go online, fill my cart, and then decide whether or not I can afford the cost of it. Sometimes I decide no and don’t make the purchase, and other times I decide yes.

What I have been doing differently is that, if I decide I can afford it, and I don’t really need the items, I immediately transfer that amount into my savings account instead of spending it.

Light bulb moment: if I can afford to spend it, I can afford to save it! WHOOOOA.

This has revolutionized my savings life. Before this, I would sometimes decide not to make unnecessary purchases, but the savings was intangible or never happened because I’d just end up spending that money on something else. By immediately transferring over the $70 I didn’t spend on throw pillows or $15 on takeout for lunch, I can see the immediate increase in my savings account.

It’s amazing! I feel like I finally “get” what I’ve been hearing and reading all these years from people who are natural savers. I am probably not the first person to think of this, but I am pretty proud of thinking of it for myself, haha.

Sorry for the long email, but I just wanted to share my small success with you, since your blog has had such a big impact on me. Thanks for doing what you do!

– Becky

Such a beautiful note, isn’t it? And not just cuz they said pretty things about me ;) Did you catch all the takeaways? (Don’t worry, I took notes)

  1. More money does not automatically mean more savings!! It doesn’t matter how much you make, it matters how much you’re spending. A $200,000 earner can be just as poor as a $20,000 one.
  2. Lifestyle inflation is the devil. The reason those $200k people are poor? They keep increasing their lifestyle as their income grows! You can’t build wealth that way. And who wants to keep *needing* to earn more to keep living?? (Now on the plus side, it should be much easier for a $200k earner to cut back than a $20k earner so the potential there is “yuge.”)
  3. Saving doesn’t count unless it’s actually saved. If you buy a Ferrari for $300,000 on sale from $400,000, you aren’t actually saving $100,000. All you did was spend $300,000.)
  4. It’s important to KNOW YOURSELF. See all those things Becky was self aware of in that note? Admitting to caving into lifestyle inflation? Knowing she needs to be better about saving? Or my favorite, saying it’s hard to read about finance when, “you just want to buy cute things and pretend the future will take care of itself,” haha… You have to be self aware enough in order to make good change. There’s no sense in lying to yourself about anything :)
  5. You have to keep experimenting until you find what works! This is why so many financial blogs exist – not because the information is any different (PS: it’s not), but because there are 1,001 ways to get something done (and even more sometimes for it to *sink in*). We all figure it out at different stages in life, but we have to keep on trying new things until it finally clicks.
  6. You don’t have to be natural savers or investors to become good at it. It might be more frustrating or take longer if you suck (for example, I COULD get better at singing in the shower, but it’s going to take me a lot longer to not make you cringe than my wife who sings much nicer naturally :)), but at the end of the day any of this stuff is do-able provided you want it bad enough.
  7. Which leads us to my most favorite saying with money – YOU HAVE TO WANT IT BAD ENOUGH to get it! Everyone wants a million dollars or to quit smoking or to shed 20 pounds and retire early in our youth. It’s not like you don’t know *how* to do that, it’s just some people want it more than others and make sure to place it high on the priority list. Probably after failing a few (hundred) times too. None of this is about learning how to be good with money, it’s about getting our selves *to take action* over and over and over again.  And the only way to get yourself to do that is to really REALLY want it enough!

Man I love emails like this so much… The rawness gets me every time, especially when people aren’t afraid to admit their failures so openly like that!

Becky may not have had an easy start with things, but she’s learning and adapting and you know she’s going to go far with that awareness she has with things. Hell – she was the first in her family to attend college! So she has the drive! Now it’s just time to redirect it all back towards that money like she’s working on, and I’m sure the next email we get will be even hotter.

After all, she’s already coining phrases :) I think I’m going to have to steal that one from you, B$. If you can afford to spend it, you can afford to save it!

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

{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

1 The Green Swan January 23, 2017 at 5:21 am

Becky definitely has the drive and a lot going for get it seems on the career and earnings side of the equation. What really helped me and what I recommend to others is to automate those savings and have them taken right out of your paycheck into a 401k. They’ll be invested before you know it and you won’t even miss it.

Good for Becky in turning the corner!

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2 J. Money January 23, 2017 at 7:12 am

Agreed. AND because it’s going into a retirement account vs, say, a savings account, you’ll be even LESS tempted to pull from it since it’s a) really annoying to do (can’t just xfer the money out so easily), and b) there are a slew of penalties you’ll get hit with too which would blow. So once $$$ goes in there it’s stashed for decades! :)

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3 Mrs. Mad Money Monster | @madmoneymonster January 23, 2017 at 6:22 am

Yes! Yes! Yes! I love the online shopping cart trick. I actually implemented something similar in my life when it comes to eating out – my biggest potential money suck. I often want to go out to eat for lunch or dinner. If I can resist and eat at my desk or at home, I’ll immediately transfer the amount of money I estimate I would’ve spent into my savings account. Woohoo! I don’t get to use this trick much these days, but there are still moments that I catch myself nearly falling into the eating our trap. On those days, my Acorns account gets a little boost. :) It’s awesome to hear other people are doing the exact same thing!

Mrs. Mad Money Monster

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4 J. Money January 23, 2017 at 7:10 am

Even better adding it to your Acorns account! It’ll be able to multiply even faster invested away :)

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5 Ty January 23, 2017 at 5:38 pm

@madmoneymonster – this is exactly what I do. I used to eat out at work every single day. now when I bring my lunch to work, I transfer $10 in Acorns. It’s AMAZING how fast that money adds up.

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6 Band of Savers January 23, 2017 at 7:35 am

Awesome story Becky, way to go. Next step – investing that savings so that it will grow for you and build upon itself. Can’t wait to hear the follow up story in a few years!

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7 Mustard Seed Money January 23, 2017 at 7:47 am

Love this. I received similar advice years ago and thankfully applied it. Promotions and bonuses don’t automatically mean lifestyle inflation. Great article.

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8 Apathy Ends January 23, 2017 at 7:48 am

Awesome Becky! Will add this to the “mental tricks to cut spending bucket!”

I like the – it’s not actually savings unless you actually save it lesson in here also J$, spending to save never really made sense to me. I really only count it if it is on stuff I would normally buy (food, household items)

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9 J. Money January 26, 2017 at 4:43 pm

Bingo.

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10 Full Time Finance January 23, 2017 at 8:03 am

Over the years I’ve noticed people tend to find a trick to get started. Once the ball gets rolling they tend to develop an ingrained nature of savings. It might be survivorship bias, or maybe the next step is saving when not purchasing at the grocery store. For me it was automated savings. For 401k then anything else work offered. As I progressed it became my own methods like auto account withdrawals. The key is just to start.

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11 J. Money January 26, 2017 at 4:44 pm

yup!!

401k was my gateway drug.

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12 Brian @ debt discipline January 23, 2017 at 8:09 am

Nicely done Becky. Love this little trick you are using to save. Finding what motivates you in your personal situation is always key.

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13 Kim January 23, 2017 at 9:14 am

Right on, Becky! Way to go.

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14 Amanda @centsiblyrich January 23, 2017 at 9:54 am

What a great savings hack! Kudos to Becky for finding a way!

“YOU HAVE TO WANT IT BAD ENOUGH to get it!” THIS! I couldn’t agree more, Jay. It’s that burning desire to have it that will inspire the action to get it.

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15 J. Money January 26, 2017 at 4:46 pm

It applies to *anything* in life too :)

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16 Lisa O January 23, 2017 at 10:11 am

Great job Becky! Nice read to put up on a Monday J$.

My favorite “If I can afford to spend it ~ I can afford to save it!”. That is my take away :)

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17 - N - January 23, 2017 at 10:14 am

What a beautifully simple way to put money into savings! With internet access to banking, it is even simpler. Great job, Becky!

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18 Mrs. BITA January 23, 2017 at 10:16 am

Yay for self awareness Becky. Without it you (and the rest of us) would be financially doomed, and probably in trouble in other areas of our lives as well. You understand yourself well. It was only a matter of time before you figured out a way to make personal finance work for you. Now comes the fun part – investing. You get to watch the money take on a life of its own and grow!

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19 Financial Panther January 23, 2017 at 10:29 am

This is a terrific way to think about saving! And man, you are exactly right, lifestyle inflation is the devil. It’s a thing I’ve had to fight for a long time and is a lot of the reason why I see so many high income folks who make so much money, yet basically are trapped. They get a higher income and then suddenly, things they didn’t need before suddenly become necessities.

Always interesting to me that someone could live like a student one year, then the next year they suddenly need a luxury apartment. Only thing that changed is the switch from student to worker!

If you can keep lifestyle inflation from happening early on in your career, it makes it so much easier later on.

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20 J. Money January 26, 2017 at 4:47 pm

“Always interesting to me that someone could live like a student one year, then the next year they suddenly need a luxury apartment. Only thing that changed is the switch from student to worker!”

Hah! Yes! never thought of it that way but so true, isn’t it?

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21 Mrs. Picky Pincher January 23, 2017 at 10:30 am

This is a great idea! It combats lifestyle inflation nicely and lets you prioritize your finances. :) It becomes addictive to see a savings account grow over time, and this is a great way to become a saver by choice if you’re naturally spendy.

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22 LegoPterodactyl January 23, 2017 at 10:30 am

That’s brilliant!!!

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23 J. Money January 26, 2017 at 4:48 pm

Just like your online name here! Haha…

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24 Joe January 23, 2017 at 10:32 am

Becky. Great job turning it around. It’s never too late, but you’re really fortunate to have done it in your 20s. Save more and it will really pay off later on. I think the problem with young people is that they don’t think about the future as much. Anyway, save more and someday you’ll be able to do anything you want on Monday. :)

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25 Miss Mazuma January 23, 2017 at 10:33 am

Go Becky!! Yes, knowing you and what triggers you is the first place to start in making better decisions. It’s funny how we can read for years about how other people are doing all the “right” things but it only takes a moment to translate it into what is right and what works for you. This one moment of “if I can afford to spend it, I can afford to save it” is going to snowball your efforts in a way you can’t imagine. Great job and keep it up – we want updates!!! :)

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26 J. Money January 26, 2017 at 4:51 pm

Same thing happened with me and investing in index funds :)

I’ve heard and read (and talked!) with $$$ bloggers for years, and then one day it just clicked! And now one of the best decisions I’ve made with my money, haha…

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27 Stefanie O'Connell January 23, 2017 at 10:33 am

I’ve actually been struggling with notion, because I’m not totally against lifestyle inflation. I think some sensible improvements are reasonable, but it is SUCH a slippery slope. So I’ve been thinking a lot about how to find the balance. Somewhat similar to this reader, I’ve toyed with a system of matching any new expenses with additional savings before upgrading. For example, if I’m going to start getting a massage once a month. I won’t consider myself able to ‘afford it’ until I can build both the cost of the massage and match that with an additional contribution to my savings, into my budget. TBD on how this method works out.

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28 J. Money January 26, 2017 at 4:52 pm

YES YES YES!!!

I love that idea so much!! And what’s even better is that if you ever end up nixing any of those luxury splurges, you’ll then have DOUBLE the amount to put towards something else! It’s magical!! :)

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29 Noonan January 23, 2017 at 11:13 am

What a fantastic email from Becky, who i think is really onto something. She’s high jacked the costly habit of impulse buying and rerouted it into a new direction as . . . impulse saving. Great idea!

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30 Primal Prosperity January 23, 2017 at 11:47 am

“More money does not automatically mean more savings!! It doesn’t matter how much you make, it matters how much you’re spending. A $200,000 earner can be just as poor as a $20,000 one”.

I can vouch for this first hand! My ex-husband made $200k in salary and he refused to save or invest. Since I couldn’t change his mind, I just went along with the spending. I won’t deny that I was in my 20’s and had a blast, but I finally figured out that I couldn’t live this way forever, nor did I want to. We had his and hers motorcycles (plus a third for off-roading), airplanes (yes, real ones, yes, multiple upgrades), and a room full of musical instruments… I’ll admit that one was my guilty pleasure, since I was playing drums with a ‘garage’ band at the time.

Anyway, the marriage didn’t last, and after I left him in my early 30’s, I lived much more simply and was able to aggressively save and find financial freedom. Additionally, I found emotional freedom and freedom from wanting ‘stuff’… which, like you said, is yuge! haha :)

So, I try to explain that to people… that the instant gratification certainly does fade and stuff generally doesn’t fulfill you for the long term.

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31 J. Money January 26, 2017 at 5:05 pm

Oh wow… we just learn more and more about you over the years, don’t we?

It is fascinating :)

And now – I want a blog post all about it!!!! haha… will you write one for us on the stark contrasts of your old life and new one? We could make it a “financial confessional”!!!

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32 Lars-Christian January 23, 2017 at 1:14 pm

I had heard about “micro saving” and saving to match spending, but I had never really heard about saving instead of spending framed this way. What a great approach, I really like it, and I have a feeling a lot of people could really do wonders for the savings accounts by taking advantage of this method.

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33 Mr Crazy Kicks January 23, 2017 at 3:01 pm

Congrats on the savings, Becky!

It’s incredible how fast money can get spent. I’m another supporter of the pay yourself first method. I was doing a decent job at saving, and felt really good when I set a few dollars aside. But my savings rate skyrocketed when I started using the automatic withdrawals. When the cash doesn’t show up in your checking account, you are much less likely to spend it :)

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34 Smart Provisions January 23, 2017 at 4:45 pm

Great job, Becky!

Looks like she has everything down and is on the right path to becoming financially independent! Hopefully there will be more updates to come!

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35 Kraken Fireball January 23, 2017 at 5:24 pm

This is some great stuff! A dollar earned doesn’t equal a dollar saved. All the takeaways were great. I especially like number 5 and 7. The constant experiments to see what I can and can’t to increase my savings has been a big challenge for me this past week. Thanks to number 7, wanting it badly enough, I have been motivated to keep at it.
Thanks for sharing your story Becky, and thanks for sharing her story with us J$!

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36 ESI Money January 23, 2017 at 7:25 pm

Mondays are my favorite days now that I’m retired!

Spent this afternoon grilling up three racks of ribs! ;)

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37 J. Money January 26, 2017 at 5:06 pm

When should I come over??? :)

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38 Anita January 23, 2017 at 7:57 pm

I too have recently *discovered* this idea! It was quite a revelation. For years I have been telling myself that seeing as I can’t afford big ticket items right now I may as well make myself happier in the short term by spending whatever amount of discretionary income I have. When it dawned on me that I could save most of that money instead – albeit in small amounts at a time – the thought actually terrified me. I felt like I was just pissing in the wind whenever I turned down some kind of instant gratification (eg picking up lunch, drinks after work, seeing a movie) in favour of the big picture. Tbh I didn’t even know if there was a big picture, putting 5 and 10 dollars into savings. Funny how the big picture suddenly looked a lot clearer when I saw my savings hit the thousand dollar mark for the first time. I realized I want to do a lot of things I had told myself I could never do: own my own home being the biggie. I still have times when I doubt what’s possible but I’m literally scared to give up now as I never want to go back to how I did things before!! Oh,and another spinoff is that I am now way better at managing my income overall, have trimmed the budget on everything and find myself being a lot more creative with the small amount of personal expenses I do still allow myself. I actually think I have more fun and get more stuff I want…because I am forced to think consciously about if I really want something or not. I’ve also gotten better at saying No to things, eg social events I don’t really want to attend, I’m learning how to put my own needs first. Again it also means I enjoy it more when I do want to go out, as I know I’ve chosen to and can afford it (instead of resenting it which was too often the case: not a great basis for one’s social life!) Anyway, thank-you for the continuing examples and motivation – much appreciated.

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39 J. Money January 26, 2017 at 5:10 pm

“Funny how the big picture suddenly looked a lot clearer when I saw my savings hit the thousand dollar mark for the first time.”

YES to all that. The first chunk of money makes all the difference in the world and really shows you what you’re capable of! I remember when my 401k hit $1,000 and how amazing I thought it was (who know never pulling from it meant it kept going UP??? :)) and then from there it was all about trying to hit $10,000 and then $100,000 and now one day $1,000,000.

But that first $1,000 was harder than any of it. takes us FOREVER to get to that point and then from there gets easier by the day :)

so keep on going! You got this!

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40 Go Finance Yourself! January 23, 2017 at 9:07 pm

Here’s hoping that this is the revelation Becky needs to get started on the path to a better relationship with money. We all have different “ah ha” moments that come at different times in our lives. In the end, you said it best. You have to want it. You have to want what you gain by saving money (financial freedom) more than those cute things that are in your shopping cart.

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41 Liz January 24, 2017 at 5:47 am

Great idea! Sounds almost like one of those financial apps, like Tip Yourself. I bet you could use that app to do this. If you decide to pass up fast food and instead eat at home, saving $6, just transfer it straight to your savings.

It really is amazing how much small amounts add up over a month, or a year. That’s why the Latte Factor caught on so much back in the day-$5 or $10 a day saved and invested, instead of spent, can be a powerful force for building wealth.

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42 J. Money January 26, 2017 at 5:11 pm

HAH! I was literally *just* emailing with the founder of Tip Yourself an hour ago.

So so true – she is a perfect candidate for it! I’m going to email her right after I leave this comment, thank you :)

Here’s my review of them I just did too over at Rockstar Finance for anyone interested:

http://rockstarfinance.com/tip-yourself-app-review/

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43 Jolene January 24, 2017 at 2:13 pm

This is similar to how the Duggars saved up so much money….besides real estate ventures….they bought used/discounted and saved the difference.

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44 Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life January 24, 2017 at 2:16 pm

Uncharacteristically I have been bitten by a “want want want” bug (probably in reaction to feeling poor again) so I definitely needed this reinforcing kick in the butt today! <3

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45 Fruclassity (Ruth) January 24, 2017 at 7:53 pm

I appreciate your outline of the take-aways, Jay. #5 is important: keep on experimenting until you find something that works. Just tonight, I read an excellent post on an excellent blog . . . and I knew it wasn’t for me. And that’s OK. As I learn what works for me, I learn what doesn’t work too. And some of it is good stuff. No wonder people get confused and overwhelmed by pf advice!

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46 J. Money January 26, 2017 at 5:13 pm

Haha… at least it’s all REAL PEOPLE talking about REAL LIFE things vs companies/experts saying the same boring bland stuff all the time… We need to hear all these crazy ideas over and over and over again until the good ones stick with us! At least I do :)

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47 ZJ Thorne January 26, 2017 at 9:39 pm

This is such a good approach! I’m glad Becky found something that works for her as she still figures out her money goals. Every epiphany is different.

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48 Amanda at Wealth Well Done February 8, 2017 at 11:13 am

This is great! I know that for me, the moment I turned the corner towards my dreams of becoming financially free is when I developed passion for it. I wanted it, but I wasn’t passionate about it. Finally one day, after witnessing a family friend living financially free, I realized that I wanted it and I want it bad. The passion consumed me and I feel like I am a new person. I see the big picture of where we are going. I realize that every purchase and decision that we make financially leads us to our future. So I better take the reigns and do what needs to be done now so that my future is free!

Thank you Becky for being open and honest. That is a great way of saving and I am going to have to try this. Keep up the good work and you will go far.

Thank you for sharing!

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49 J. Money February 9, 2017 at 11:08 am

“I realized that I wanted it and I want it bad. The passion consumed me and I feel like I am a new person. ”

YES YES YES!! You gotta want it bad enough to make drastic enough changes to live drastically better lives :) I’m glad you got your epiphany!

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