Money Management
Energy Ogre Review – How To Save $800+ A Year On Your Electricity Bill
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I have partnered with Energy Ogre in this Energy Ogre review. All opinions are 100% my own. You can use Energy Ogre promo code MSOC to receive a free month of Energy Ogre service (the 13th month free). Do you want to save money on your electricity bill? If you live in Texas, then this […]

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Should You Start A Blog In 2021? 8 Things You Need To Know
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Should you start a blog in 2021? Is blogging worth it in 2021? Here's what I think when it comes to these important questions.
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7 Income-Producing Assets You Need To Know About
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They say that millionaires have 7 streams of income. And most of them are boring. Common examples of income-generating assets include your classics like real estate (rental income, depreciation benefits, equity appreciation) and dividend stocks (dividend income is taxed favorably), which I love.

But every so often, there's one in there that sounds as exciting as going to Vegas and always betting on black.

Today, I want to talk about those obscure investments. Those weird, you only hear about them in the movies, oddball investments that can produce cash flow. I don't want the obscure ones that don't produce cash (invest in whiskey, art, or some other collectible … that just makes you eccentric), these have to produce a stream of income.

Maybe the stock market has you spooked. Maybe you simply have enough in equities.

Maybe you want income but all the income-producing assets you know of are boring (or you have enough) – who really cares about certificates of deposit, Treasury bonds, and dividend stocks. If you wanted them, you would've gotten them by now (or you have and want even more diversification).

Today, you'll read about some truly interesting assets that you've probably never heard of before:

I will reference different websites and companies in this list as examples. I haven't used a single one of them. These are not endorsements.

1. Crowdfunded real estate

Crowdfunded real estate is a relatively new phenomenon. It's when you can invest in a little piece of real estate as part of a “crowd” of investors. This lets you diversify your real estate holdings without the work of buying and selling properties.

You have some companies, like RealtyMogul, that curate deals and offer you a piece of the investment. There are others, like Fundrise, that run funds that do the investing and you can buy shares of those funds. In both cases, you diversify your risk across several investments and can generate passive cash flow in the process (as well as equity appreciation).

If you aren't an accredited investor, here is a list of real estate investing sites for non-accredited investors.

2. Peer-to-peer lending

Peer-to-peer lending is older than crowdfunded real estate investing but follows the same principles. You act as a bank, lending money to borrowers, but are able to diversify your loans across a variety of different borrowers with varying levels of risk. By funding loans with $10 and $20, you can deploy thousands of dollars across hundred of borrowers that, hopefully, are not correlated.

3. Mineral rights

Mineral rights are exactly that—the rights to extra minerals from the earth for a specific plot of land. They may be called mineral rights, mineral interests, or mineral estate, but the term is clear. It gives the owner the right to mine and extract minerals from the land.

When you own the mineral rights, you own any valuable minerals trapped in the land.

This is lucrative because when you own the mineral rights, you own any valuable minerals trapped in the land. The most valuable minerals are oil and gas, gold, copper, diamonds, and coal. In the United States, most of the value is in finding oil and gas.

When you own a mineral right, you can reach an agreement with a miner or extractor to receive a royalty based on production. For example, it's not uncommon for the Lessee (the miner) to pay the Lessor (owner) 1/8th value of what is produced.

If you want to buy mineral rights, do your homework!

4. Structured settlements

Structured settlements are an interesting asset.

Let's say you slip and fall in a store. You sue the store, because they were negligent, and you reach a settlement with the store. They offer to pay you $5,000 a year for 20 years. You see this a lot whenever there is a settlement on a massive scale with multiple claimants. The responsible party has to do this or they might go bankrupt. If they go bankrupt, no one gets paid.

Structured settlements are fine, except sometimes the person getting the money needs the whole sum. Or they don't want to wait. That's when an investor can offer to buy it from them. At this point, it's really an annuity to the investor.

This area has a bad reputation because sometimes the parties involved don't behave honorably. They might take advantage of someone in a bad situation and offer a lowball amount for a settlement. Whatever the case may be, the instrument itself is aboveboard.

Continue reading on Wallet Hacks ...

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The Right Amount of Emergency Money to Keep in Cash
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No matter if you call it, an emergency fund or a cash reserve, the idea is that we all need extra money set aside to stay safe from the unexpected. Not having enough cash on hand to pay for an emergency is why many people get into financial trouble. Having a safety net protects your finances and also gives you peace of mind. 

Life happens, and it usually costs money!

But knowing the right amount of emergency cash to keep can be confusing. Today, I'll answer several questions to help you figure out how much your emergency fund should be, the best place to put it, and whether you should invest it. 

Why have an emergency fund?

An emergency fund is a cash account earmarked to pay for the inevitable and unforeseen emergencies in life. Your car won't start. Your computer crashes. Your refrigerator quits. You get sick. You lose your job or business income. Life happens, and it usually costs money!

When you have an unexpected large expense or your income dries up, you need a cash cushion to fall back on to stay healthy and safe. Otherwise, you'll have to make serious sacrifices or rack up debt on a credit card.

I compare an emergency fund to a moat surrounding a fort or castle to protect it from invaders. An emergency fund helps you stay safe from harmful problems that could invade your financial house. 

In general, it's best to keep emergency savings in an FDIC-insured bank account.

Since emergencies happen in a split second, you need cash in an account you can tap immediately. In general, it's best to keep emergency savings in an FDIC-insured bank account. Emergencies can't wait for a CD or bond to mature or for you to sell a valuable asset or a home to raise needed cash.

What if my savings account doesn't pay much or any interest?

I know that keeping a lot of money in a low or no-interest savings account can seem counterintuitive or feel frustrating. A podcast listener named Tena J. says:

I have a 401(k), and $30,000 in savings not making any interest. I know that I need to put this money somewhere to invest for retirement. What's your advice?

Thanks for your question, Tena. I recommend that you think about your emergency savings and your retirement investments as two separate buckets of money with different purposes. 

Even though we tend to use the terms saving and investing interchangeably, they're not the same. The difference has to do with taking a financial risk. You need an emergency savings account that is kept safe and entirely free from risk so it's there when you need it. But the purpose of investing is to put your money at some level of risk in exchange for future growth. Remember that there's always a tradeoff between financial risk and return. Investing money means you could get relatively high returns, but that you could also lose some or all of it.

Even though savings accounts currently pay very little interest, that's the price of keeping money completely safe.

If your emergency money is invested rather than saved, it's subject to volatility, which means the value could plummet when you need it. Having cash in a bank savings or money market deposit account means that it's safe no matter what happens in the markets, but you won't earn much. And that's okay! Even though savings accounts currently pay very little interest, that's the price of keeping money completely safe. Again, remember the purpose of those funds isn't to grow but to be your safety net.

Make sure you always have enough cash on hand to protect yourself from an emergency. I recommend that you maintain a minimum of three to six months' worth of your living expenses in your bank account at all times. 

Tena, I like that you're also thinking about retirement but make it a separate goal. It's better to make regular contributions to your 401(k) and max it out when possible than to empty your savings. Tapping a retirement account for a potential emergency isn't always possible, and if you do take an early withdrawal before age 59.5, you must pay taxes plus a 10% penalty.

I recommend that you maintain a minimum of three to six months' worth of your living expenses in your bank account at all times.

To calculate the right amount of emergency savings, tally up your living expenses. They are just the basics—like housing, groceries, medicine, transportation, and existing loan payments—not necessarily a full replacement of your income. 

For instance, if you could get by on $3,000 per month if you lost all your income, then always keep a minimum of $9,000 ($3,000 x 3 months) in reserve. But having a six-month reserve or more is even better since finding a job could take that long.

When you have extra money or more than a healthy minimum cash reserve, you might consider investing amounts above that threshold. But it's critical to evaluate the cash reserve you need based on various factors, such as the number of breadwinners in your family, your job stability, marketability, ongoing expenses, and financial goals.

RELATED: 3 Emergency Fund Mistakes to Avoid

Should you invest emergency money?

Vivian W. asks another question about investing emergency money. She says:

I'm 28 years old and currently save about $20,000 per year. I live with my retired mother, who is 66 and didn't save enough for her retirement. We both have $113,000 in high-yield savings and a CD but want to invest part of it. However, I'm not sure how much cash we should keep in the bank for emergencies. Also, should I be maxing out my Roth IRA every year?

Thanks for your question, Vivian. As I previously mentioned, my recommendation to keep a range of at least three to six months' worth of your living expenses in savings. You could consider investing the excess. Your cash reserve is like having an insurance policy for you and your mother's safety. 

Vivian, everyone should be investing for their retirement, in addition to maintaining a healthy emergency fund. A good rule of thumb is to invest at least 10% to 15% of your gross income in a workplace retirement account or IRA. The maximum annual IRA contribution for 2020 and 2021 is $6,000, or $7,000 if you're over age 50. Since you can save $20,000 per year, I would definitely max out your Roth IRA every year.

Should you buy a home with emergency money?

Another common question is whether you should use emergency savings as a down payment on a home. Ann C. says:

I'm 21 years old and will graduate from college in May with a full-time job that starts in 2022 in a large city where I've never lived. I have enough savings to make a $20,000 down payment on a home. It seems like spending $1,000 or more per month on rent would be a waste and make it harder to save for a home. Do you think I should own or rent?

Ann, thanks for your question and congratulations on your upcoming graduation, relocation, and new job. That's a lot to celebrate!

If spending $20,000 on a home would leave you with no cash, you can't afford to become a homeowner yet. Buying a home is not an emergency. You always need to maintain a healthy cash reserve no matter whether you own or rent.

Buying a home is not an emergency. You always need to maintain a healthy cash reserve no matter whether you own or rent.

Additionally, becoming a homeowner comes with lots of additional expenses on top of your mortgage payment, such as insurance, property taxes, homeowners association fees, furnishings, repairs, and maintenance. Don't get me wrong—I'm a big proponent of being a homeowner and investing in real estate when you can afford it. 

Ann, since you've never lived in the city where you're going for your new job, I'd recommend renting for several reasons. One is that you need time to get to know a new city and see where you want to be relative to your office. Renting gives you time to understand what the traffic is like, whether public transportation is an option for commuting, where you like to spend time when you're not working, and the state of the real estate market.

I don't recommend buying a home unless you're sure you will live in it for at least three to five years. If you start your new job and don't like it, you might need to sell a home that you just bought to relocate to another part of town or a new city. That may not be a problem, but it's a bit risky. 

I've made several cross-country relocations to big cities and have always rented first to get to know the new landscape and my employer. That gives you plenty of time to figure out the parts of town you like and fit your budget. 

Renting gives you more mobility and freedom when you're in an uncertain situation. Also, in many big cities, it's less expensive to rent than buy a comparable property when considering the total costs of ownership. So, take the time to evaluate your options carefully.

RELATED: 8 Steps to Buying a Home You Can Afford

Should you keep emergency money at home?

You might wonder if keeping some amount of your cash reserve at home is wise. There's nothing wrong with keeping a small percentage of your emergency money in a safe place at home. It could be helpful in a situation such as a natural disaster when there are widespread power outages. 

Typical homeowners or renters insurance doesn't cover cash.

However, be aware that typical homeowners or renters insurance doesn't cover cash. So, if your money gets stolen, lost, or destroyed in a fire or storm, you don't have any recourse.

How to build your emergency fund

If you haven't started an emergency fund, accumulating several months' worth of living expenses can seem daunting. Depending on your income and financial situation, it could take years to achieve. That's okay—just get started by taking small steps every month. 

Your emergency savings should be a moving target that you reevaluate every year.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it's that we never know what's around the corner. Your emergency savings should be a moving target that you reevaluate every year. 

The first step is to accurately figure your monthly living expenses. As I mentioned, they include housing, utilities, insurance, food, loan payments, transportation, etc. Add up all your current financial needs and obligations for yourself, your family, and third parties that you couldn't or wouldn't want to cut if your income was significantly reduced.

The second step is to estimate how long you could potentially need your emergency money. I recommend saving no less than three months' worth of living expenses. But your unique situation might call for considerably more. Here are some tips to help you determine how much you should set aside:

  • Consider your income stability. Do you or a spouse work in an industry with volatile consumer demand or one that's already seen massive declines? If so, this should prompt you to consider saving more than six months of living expenses. 
     
  • Factor in any potential large expenses. If you might have additional costs to cover, such as a child's college or a new car, add 10% to your calculated monthly expenses. 
     
  • Don't count on selling stuff. When times get tough, it can be challenging to sell possessions quickly to raise cash. So even if you have a valuable collection of jewelry, cars, or artwork, don't consider it your emergency fund. You need still need cash in the bank to fall back on.

If you're not a disciplined saver, try automating your emergency savings. Ask your employer to split your paycheck between your regular checking and your emergency savings account. If you get a paper check or are self-employed, set up an automatic monthly or weekly transfer from your checking into your emergency fund. 

Ask your employer to split your paycheck between your regular checking and your emergency savings account.

An emergency fund is one of the most critical financial "must-haves." It should be large enough to get you through a crisis, easily accessible, and in cash to ensure its safety and liquidity, no matter what's happening in the financial markets.

So, there's no time to spare in getting started. Once you have a safety net in place, you'll have a fantastic sense of security and peace that no matter what happens in your financial life, you're prepared to tackle it.

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80+ Best Side Jobs For 2021 – Learn How To Make More Money
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What can I do as a side job? Here's a list of 80 possible side hustle ideas for 2021. With these side jobs, you can make extra money!
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Live Right, Save Money, Be Happy
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Here are some of the tried-and-true methods, along with benefits unique to each approach.

See dentists and doctors regularly

No one likes medical surprises in the form of emergency dental or medical attention. Working adults who neglect doctor and dentist visits are taking serious risks.

Living right and staying healthy means getting the medical attention you need, and getting it routinely. Especially after the age of 50, it's smart to have a full medical exam once per year. There's a reason medical coverage typically reimburses in full for annual check-ups and twice-yearly dental exams. Carriers would much rather pay for a relatively inexpensive wellness exam or check-up than fork over a sizable sum of money for long-term treatment regimens that could have been avoided with preventive care.

Buy life insurance

Purchasing life insurance does two very important things. First, it allows you to provide for your family's financial needs after you're gone. Second, if you get permanent coverage, like a standard whole life policy, you can sell it if you ever need money in an emergency, or for any reason at all.

There's genuine peace of mind that comes with knowing your loved ones are protected from financial stress after you pass away. And if you face unexpected bills and need a ready source of funds, you can simply go online and get several estimates on the sale price of your whole life policy.

The process is fast and simple. Plus, when you sell your life insurance policy, the only amount of the proceeds that are taxable are those that exceed the tax basis (the total amount of premiums you've paid to date). Selling can be a very wise move, too—often, when one spouse passes away, when there's a dire need to pay unexpected medical or other kinds of bills, or the premiums become too high.

Learn how to relax

Stress has the potential to cause medical problems, but it also can make you miserable. The good news is that there are effective ways to beat stress and minimize its effects. Learning to meditate or taking part in guided relaxation sessions are two popular strategies. Regular exercise, stretching, and yoga are other choices that many people find satisfying for keeping stress at bay.

Get enough sleep

When you get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night, it's much easier to wake up refreshed and feeling good every morning. Having the inner calm and physical relaxation that comes with regular, restful sleep means being able to take on the day with a positive outlook and a body that's ready to withstand 16 hours of activity. When you realize that sleep is part of your lifestyle, it's easier to make a commitment to get the amount you need.

Know what PMA stands for and learn to have one

There's an entire industry based on the concept of PMA, or positive mental attitude. Classic books about winning friends, influencing people, and simply thinking in order to grow rich point to the immense power of the human mind.

Of course, maintaining a positive attitude is easier said than done. It takes effort, patience, and persistence. But once you decide to cultivate a PMA, you're already finished with the first step of the journey. The upside is that there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of books and no-cost online videos about how to create a positive outlook and attitude. The rewards are measurable and real and include things like being able to sleep more soundly, handle life's challenges more adeptly, and find solutions in the face of adversity.

Eliminate the negative

As the classic tune from the 1940s suggests, it helps to eliminate the negative and accentuate the positive. Those timeless words of wisdom contain some potent advice. One way to make your life better is to say goodbye to destructive, negative forces, habits, and ways of thinking.

What does that mean for everyday people who seek self-improvement? It means they have plenty to gain from banishing harmful behaviors like smoking, drinking too much alcohol, taking part in dangerous sports like cliff diving, base jumping, and amateur race driving.

That's not to say there's anything wrong or with those activities when you do them in moderation and with appropriate safety measures in place. But they carry enough risk to make insurance carriers raise rates or flat out deny coverage to participants. So, if you have the desire to purchase an insurance policy that pays a death benefit to someone when you pass away, steer clear of extreme sports and risky hobbies.

Take the time to plan

Planning, both long- and short-range, gives you options and advance warning about financial and other types of problems. Consider making written, detailed plans about buying a first home, your career path, educational goals, relationship goals, whether you want to have a family or not, long-term care insurance, etc. Planning makes things real and attainable. A lifestyle that incorporates planning is a sustainable, rewarding one.

Continue readingLive Right, Save Money, Be Happy
How To Invest In REIT – Are REITs good investments?
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Are REITs good investments? How much money do you need to invest in REITs? How do I start investing in REITs? These are all questions that will be answered today.
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How To Invest in Real Estate Through Publicly Traded REITs
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This guest contribution is by Ben Reynolds and Samuel Smith of Sure Dividend. You may remember Ben from his other guest posts – How I Became A Successful Dividend Growth Investor and Reaching Early Retirement Through Dividend Growth Investing. REITs are a topic that come up often with Making Sense of Cents readers, so I’m […]

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How To Invest in Real Estate Through Publicly Traded REITs
By admin | |

This guest contribution is by Ben Reynolds and Samuel Smith of Sure Dividend. You may remember Ben from his other guest posts – How I Became A Successful Dividend Growth Investor and Reaching Early Retirement Through Dividend Growth Investing. REITs are a topic that come up often with Making Sense of Cents readers, so I’m […]

The post How To Invest in Real Estate Through Publicly Traded REITs appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Continue readingHow To Invest in Real Estate Through Publicly Traded REITs
7 Ways to Make Frugality a Joyful Choice, Not a Burden
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Frugality is quite popular these days, but it’s hardly a novel concept. Frugality kept many families going during wartime and the Great Depression, and it has the power to improve our homes and lives today.

While circumstances can force us into frugality, and that’s not much fun, you can also enjoy life while being frugal. Here are some great ways to make a thrifty lifestyle a joyful choice and not a burden.

First, clarify your why

Why do you want to be a frugal person? What benefits will a frugal lifestyle bring that you can’t find any other way? To make your frugality a joyful choice, you need to have a solid reason for it.

Most of us don’t live frugally for the sheer fun of it—at least not at first. You probably have a reason to be frugal. Perhaps you’re saving for a downpayment on a home, paying off student loan debt, or reducing your budget to enjoy greater career freedom.

You must have a reason for being frugal that is greater than your desire to spend money.

Clarify why you're planning to be more frugal. (You might have several reasons). Every time you struggle with forgoing a purchase to save money, remind yourself of the purpose behind it. You must have a reason for being frugal that is greater than your desire to spend money.

Your reasons are likely things that will add to your happiness one day. Buying a home, becoming debt-free, or cutting back on work hours may significantly improve your life, so those goals are worth the effort to be frugal.

7 strategies to make frugal living more enjoyable

1. Try a frugality challenge

Join a no-spend challenge where you only spend money on essentials for a month to see how much money you might save. This kind of thing isn’t meant to be a long-term change in habits, although some people might continue after the challenge is over.

The point of a frugality challenge or no-spend month (or year) is to reset your baseline. Change the default of how much money you spend each month. You may struggle at first, but it gets easier the longer you avoid spending.

When the month of extreme frugality is over, don’t automatically resume spending at your former levels.

When the month of extreme frugality is over, don’t automatically resume spending at your former levels. Take some time to evaluate how you felt, what triggers tempted you, and what things you discovered you don’t really need or want anymore.

It’s OK if you start spending a bit more again, but be mindful about what you purchase. It’s like the Konmari method of decluttering your house, except with your finances: Let go of what is no longer serving you, and joyfully spend on the things that matter.

2. Focus on gratitude

Gratitude can make you a happier person. When you think about what you’re grateful for, it’s pretty hard to dwell on what you don’t have. Research has shown people who regularly express gratitude often feel more positive emotions, savor good experiences, and improve their health.

It’s much easier to save your money when you focus on your blessings. Writing a list of things you’re grateful for daily can help you feel more content and less likely to crave the temporary high of buying something new.

You can still have so much without spending a lot.

Frugality doesn’t take away things you enjoy. Yes, it often means shopping around to get a lower price or doing without something you didn’t need. But you can still have so much without spending a lot.

Examples of things that might be on your gratitude list:

  • Running water
  • Internet service
  • Virtual connectivity to friends and family across the globe
  • Food and drink
  • Modern conveniences (electricity, dishwashers, lawnmowers, etc.)
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Nature

3. Notice the benefits of frugality

The longer you follow a frugal lifestyle, the more benefits you’ll observe. As you forgo spending on things that perhaps were luxuries, pay attention to the benefits you experience, whether expected or unexpected. Some of the common benefits you might see include:

  • Feelings of joy for the small things
  • Preferring homemade meals to dining out
  • Appreciation for what you have
  • No more temptation to buy to impress people
  • Learning a new skill
  • Adopting other, healthier habits

The more you appreciate the benefits of your frugality, the easier it will become to keep following frugal principles.

4. Make bargain-hunting a game

When you need or want something, look for low- or no-cost ways to get it. Buy Nothing groups, Facebook Marketplace, local garage sales, or thrift stores may have the item you’re seeking for much less (or even free).

Frugality often means spending a little more time researching the item you need before rushing out and buying it. But you usually don’t need something instantly and can afford to wait a few days, weeks, or months. That time can save you a great deal of money. Plus, you get to enjoy the satisfaction of snagging a great deal.

5. Enjoy learning to DIY

If you’re just starting with frugal living, you may find yourself trying to fix something you usually would have replaced. Do-it-yourself tasks are an opportunity to learn.

Look at frugality as a part of your identity rather than a difficult phase.

When you choose to repair or reuse something rather than replacing it with a new one, think about how cool it is to learn something new. My husband loves YouTube for teaching him a ton of valuable skills, such as how to replace car brakes. Yes, this takes more of his time in a hands-on way, but he enjoys the challenge, saves money, and guess what? Now he knows how to do the same job in the future, saving us money for years to come.6. Make frugality your identity, not a phase

Look at frugality as a part of your identity rather than a difficult phase. Habits expert James Clear writes about this in his bestselling book Atomic Habits: “To change your behavior for good, you need to start believing new things about yourself. You need to build identity-based habits.”

For instance, rather than stating your goal as “I want to save $200 this month,” try identifying yourself as someone who is joyfully frugal. Reframing your identity by saying, “I’m a frugal person” can be more effective than thinking, “I can’t wait until I can start spending money again.” All those little spending decisions are more manageable when you view everything as a means of honoring your values rather than temporarily denying yourself something.

7. Cultivate an abundance mindset

Consider how you talk about money in your day-to-day life. Try to pay attention to what you think and say about money throughout a typical week.

You’re making an intentional choice to prioritize what matters.

If you often say things like “I can’t afford that,” you’re negatively framing your frugality. But if you say something like “I choose not to spend money on that,” you put the power in your hands. You’re making an intentional choice to prioritize what matters.

There’s a subtle yet essential difference in these perspectives. If you have a scarcity mindset where you don’t have enough and you always want more, it won’t get you anywhere. But if you cultivate an abundance mindset, you’ll see opportunities for the future and believe in your ability to realize those opportunities.

Frugality is fun … for real!

Honestly, frugality is a fantastic lifestyle that brings me endless joy every day. It’s exciting to look for ways to save money without sacrificing any of the things you love to do. I hope you’ll start finding the joy in frugality too.

Continue reading7 Ways to Make Frugality a Joyful Choice, Not a Burden
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