Every year at Christmas, my cousin, Tony, and his family come to Los Angeles to see his wife’s family who live about 20 minutes from where I live. It’s become family tradition that we all get together with our kids and my mom for a holiday brunch.
This year, I took notice of how completely changed he was. He was in control, in charge and on fire. A man.
Over the course of the last year I’ve watched my cousin make huge changes in his life. Knowing his history with money and spending, I watched with a slightly skeptical eye as he blogged about his turnaround with his finances.
I’m a Life Coach, so in years past he’d text me, “Should I quit my job and commit to my non-profit?” Being the kind of coach who believes that the client has the answers while the coach has the questions, I’d ask some prompting questions, such as, “what would it take to get there?” and, more importantly, “what does your wife think?”
Suddenly, my cousin knew exactly what it would take to live his passion every single day and he had a really clear path laid out to get there. He had become a research machine about all things financial, and he was blogging about it. His fire and sense of self was intriguing so I started to look deeper, and I realized that my younger, usually financially irresponsible cousin was inspiring me to give myself the makeover he’d given himself.
It was December 27th, and it seemed a logical time to start making changes. I sought his counsel, sent him my financial blueprint (a very intimate act), and read every blog he’d written. I took copious notes and followed every instruction. This guy was on to something HUGE and I wanted in on it too.
With Tony’s guidance, in the space of one month, I have:
- Gone to the cash-only envelope system. I have spent probably $1500 less on useless stuff this month because I use cash in envelopes and a budget. I am not exaggerating here. I used to put everything on a credit card so that I could get miles. I’d pay it off every month, but the bill was huge and I was always mystified by it. When my cousin explained to me that people who use cash spend an average of 30% less than people who use credit cards, and that I could buy a plane ticket with that savings, I immediately switched. Done. My system is not at all perfect and my envelopes are a mess, but Tony also explained that it would take about three months to get it right and not to quit. As I usually walk away from things that don’t work the first time, this is a huge change for me, but I’m a coach and know he’s right.
- Returned my leased Prius ($400/month) and bought a used Nissan ($200/month). I now own my car (well, the bank does) and cut my payments in half. Because I have a ridiculously high credit score I got a seriously low-interest rate and negotiated a great price on the car. I also have something to sell if and when I want to. I have lost my xm radio, bluetooth, leather seats, backup camera and GPS. My inner princess had a really hard time with all of that, but whenever I get into my car I know that I have made a sound financial decision and really, nothing beats that feeling. (Plus, my dad sent me his old hands-free system an old xm system, and my iPhone is just fine for navigation, so while it’s not all built in and pretty, you pay for that stuff and there are much better places that $200/month can be spent. I do still look for the backup camera every time I reverse, but I’ll get used to that.)
- Bundled my internet, phone and cable into one bill to save $60/month
- Become a Light and Heat Patroller. Each night I turn my heat down to 62 and every day I patrol the house and turn out lights I’m not using. This is a HUGE change for me (just ask my mother and my boyfriend). I’m even getting my seven-year-old in on the fun too! I actually sleep better in the cold (who knew? My mother, that’s who).
- Cleaned out my closet and drawers, gave about 20 pounds of clothes away and have a full laundry basket of clothes, accessories and shoes ready to sell on eBay (next month’s big task).
So unrecognizable are these habits for me, it’s like I have become an alien who walks around trying to figure out more new and different ways to save money. I have so inspired my mother (who has always lived this way) that when I told her I was giving up my cleaning lady to save money, she offered to pay for me to keep her (and then some) as a way of contributing and investing in my work that she truly believes in. She doesn’t want me taking extra time each week to clean the house, so she’s insisting I keep the cleaning lady, on her dime (the point being, when people see you being responsible about something, they often want to help).
This has come at a really important time in my life. I am a single mom, starting a new business and have gone from living a pretty luxurious life with my ex-husband five years ago to having to support myself in manners which I’m wholly unaccustomed. I don’t have wiggle room each month, so while it feels like a game, the necessity is very real.
While Tony is doing this financial makeover with a good salary still coming in with a goal in mind to end that and live his passion, I’m doing it living off of savings with very little coming in while living my passion. This can be done by anyone in any circumstance; in fact it should.
The most important part by far is that I am now feeling that sense of control, that sense of being in charge and on fire that I saw in my cousin less than a month ago and that I continue to read in his blogs every week, and I am not about to stop now.