“I wanted to lead in the dance with my finances, not the other way around.” ~Janine Rudder
Since January of this year, I’ve been saving 50% of my after tax income from my primary job and its been surprisingly very satisfying. Full disclosure, I have a few other income streams – teaching Pilates, private coaching practice, and income from my rental property. However, the revenue from all of those sources combined is only a quarter of what I earn from my 40 hour per week job, so it doesn’t yet cover my essentials (housing, food, transportation, etc.). One of my goals for 2019 was to drastically shift my relationship with money. I wanted to lead in the dance with my finances, not the other way around.
I was at a point where I needed something major to occur. For virtually all of my adult life I’ve been a responsible steward of my finances. I saved a respectable (15-20%) amount of my earnings, own a home and invest in it, and have very little consumer and no educational debt. Most financial experts would consider my situation a win and relative to the average American, I was in excellent financial shape. However, my personal life goals transcend average. I started to follow people (entrepreneurs, bloggers and YouTubers) who had taken an exceptional path and were able to obtain the autonomy to choose the landscape of their life.
This is when I realized that in order to achieve exceptional results I had to be exceptional. I had to face the reality that independence is possible, and ask myself if I’m willing to do what it takes to attain it. The answer was yes; so, I decided to totally disrupt my mindset and practices around money. Here are the four most transformative lessons I’ve learned thus far on the journey.
1. Financial Abundance is Akin to Freedom
Freedom is probably my most prominent core value. My pursuit of it shows up in every aspect of my life. As an adult, I got my first major taste of freedom with money when I paid off all of my student loans. Not only did I free up room in my budget, but I also freed up space in my world of possibilities when I eliminated the debt hanging over my head.
That euphoric feeling is returning and the vision I hold for my future is expanding now that I’ve amassed, and have at my disposal, several months’ worth of living expenses. I feel more like a leader in my own life and less at the mercy of circumstance. I’ve allowed myself to start imagining and planning for a future completely designed and orchestrated by my desires and aspirations.
2. I Don’t Need New Clothes to Look and Feel Well Put Together
It took the past 10 months of keeping my new clothing purchases at a minimum to learn that it’s the compulsion to buy that’s at the heart of my shopping. The endorphins, not actually necessity, drive my spending on clothing. During the past year I’ve cut my shopping costs by roughly 80%. During that time I’ve attended several weddings, graduations, weekend trips, parties, and date nights mostly wearing clothing, shoes and accessories from previous years. I’m the sort of person who views my wardrobe choices as a way to express my creative point of view and communicate who I am without speaking. In the last 10 months, I’ve been able to do this in a way that feels authentic and gratifying wearing my own “vintage” looks 90% of the time.
To be totally transparent, there have been many instances when my closet evoked feelings of boredom, stress, and even agitation. On a few such occasions I’d indulge myself by visiting one of my favorite consignment stores because my ultimate goal is to save 50% of my take home pay not to stop buying clothes altogether. I had found a creative way to meet my savings rate and satisfy my craving for something “new.”
3. Knowing My Financial Priorities is Essential
This may seem like stating the obvious in a post about becoming the leader of your finances. However, what I’m actually getting at is aligning how you spend money with your values. Over the past ten months, while cutting the grocery and eating out budgets, I increased my travel fund and prioritized spending on live music, Caribbean themed parties, theater and personal development. I did not want to create a false choice between financial responsibility and fun. Nope, not willing to sacrifice enjoying life for, well, anything! Like Paula Pant says – “You can afford anything, just not everything.”
Automatically putting away 50% of my income forced me to get right to the heart of how I want to spend my time, and therefore, my money. Hmmm, do I really want to drop $50 bucks on bottomless mimosas at brunch, (no!!!). But, I will definitely buy tickets to that play with great reviews in one of my favorite neighborhoods.
4. I Really Didn’t Know Where My Money Was Going
Recently, at a moment when remaining on budget seemed especially difficult, I said to my husband “All I need is (X) amount of additional dollars to do everything I want to do this month, which is only about 30% of what I’m saving every month.” Immediately after I uttered the words I realized how meticulous this process has made me about knowing exactly where my money is going. I said next “Where was all of this money going before?”
That wake up call moment jolted me into the reality that during all of those years of being a “responsible steward of my finances”, I still spent my “disposable” income with reckless abandon. Before you think I’m being too hard on myself, I define reckless as random, without thought, purpose or intention. I now view money for what it really is – a way to “buy” the freedom to leave the unfulfilling job, the time to figure out what you really want to create in life, or the opportunity to just stay at home with your child in their most formative years. Since shifting to more intentional practices around money I have so much more respect for its potential and for my ability to lead in that area of my life.
Janine Rudder is a coach and Co-Owner at Manifestara LLC - https://manifestara.com/