What Price Would You Pay to Have it All?

Having Balance in LifeThe car, the house, the wardrobe. The exotic vacations, the gorgeous jewelry, the memberships to exclusive clubs.

These are just some of the riches society says you can have if you work hard enough; the rewards for years of blood, sweat, and tears spent to fulfill your career and success aspirations. If you believe it, you can achieve it. If you work your tail off, the world’s awash with luxuries and possibilities.

The thing is, I’m not “buying” it anymore

If you re-read those lists above, you might notice that they’re filled with material objects. And sure, those things are nice and would certainly allow for some pretty epic life experiences. But what about your interpersonal relationships? What about having love and compassion in your life? What about your sense of self and your dreams that entail much more than what you own?

As I work through my latest phase of personal development, I’m beginning to see ever more clearly that life is wrought with trade-offs. Some of them, such as working hard to keep up with materialistic desires in lieu of cultivating a more balanced life, I’ve certainly fallen victim to in the past. Now as I move forward, I’m taking a much different approach because I’m learning that having all of these things comes at a price I’m just not willing to pay for the rest of my life.

Having it All (as Society Defines it) is Detrimentally Stressful

We’ve all heard stories of the person who “had it all,” yet was profoundly sad or lonely or miserable (maybe all of the above!). We’ve also watched as recent opinions have flown regarding the debate about working mothers and the sacrifices they make to balance a family, be successful at work, and somehow keep their sanity. As society begins to dictate more and more that we are defined by our external success, it can be difficult to remember that the price of these achievements can often be the source of unbearable stress, confusion, and conflict.

If you’re constantly working to the point that you’re not spending quality time with your family/friends, that you’re missing the little joys in day-to-day living, and you’re literally watching your life pass you by, are you really living?

Having it All Comes with a High Price Tag

The more I hone my ability to decide what I truly want out of life and then take action to make it a reality, the more I realize that what I crave most is a full, balanced life. Yes, I do need money to pay my bills and travel because it’s a passion of mine, but I don’t need to be obsessed with climbing the corporate ladder or bringing in obscene amounts of money.

What I need is to focus on building myself from the inside out…and money can’t buy that. Money can’t buy me love, it can’t buy me friends, and it can’t buy my dreams. If I set my sights too much on money and achievement, the prices I pay might include the deterioration of my health and physical body, a lack of genuine interaction with other people, and the opportunity to miss out on the things in life that truly matter (such as good times spent with people, lazy days aimed at recharging the batteries, and relishing in the joy that is a day where there’s absolutely nothing planned).

Therefore, moving forward, I’ll be more focused on a balanced approach to wellness. My time will be spent on a variety of tasks and responsibilities that will nurture my mind, body, and soul–not just the vague, empty notion that I want “it all” in the terms society dictates.

The funny thing is, I have a feeling that I indeed will end up having it all–it’s just going to be in a way that works for what I want and the person I want to be. After all, why try to keep up with the Jones when they’re unhappy, miserable people under all that glitz and glamor?

What does “Having it All” mean to you?

Why Boundaries are Crucial for Your Emotional and Financial Stability

The Importance of Setting BoundariesOne of the large pieces of personal growth I’m currently working through is learning how to set appropriate, healthy boundaries in my life. As I’ve been processing all of the crazy the past 5-6 weeks brought along with them, I’m making a lot of great changes that are having a tremendous, positive impact on my well-being.

While these things are aimed at managing my stress in the best way possible (yoga, meditation, etc), there is still a need to address any underlying issues that might have contributed to my epic meltdown over Memorial Day weekend.

This is where boundaries come into play.

A Boundary Inventory

Over the course of some very intensive talk therapy sessions, I’ve become aware of my tendency to internalize the stress, fear, anger, and other negative emotions of others–at the cost of my own stress levels. Rather than holding firm with my boundaries and voicing my concern if someone is “dumping” on me, blaming me for something that I had no contribution to, or being a bit too nosy about what’s going on in my life, I tended to clam up and just sort of sit there or share too much, talk too much, and make myself much too vulnerable.

Eventually, the lack of response on my part meant that all of that negativity was being internalized. As a truly happy, positive person, this created a lot of internal confusion and stress for me. I became someone who would seek to work out the issues and problems of others at the expense of what I needed to be working on myself. It’s a pattern that has most likely grown out of my (quite rocky) upbringing, and it’s incredibly refreshing and liberating to finally be stopping it cold in its tracks.

The good thing is that I have made progress in setting boundaries in certain parts of my life, such as at work and with my finances. I have learned the power of ‘No,’ as I mentioned in my post about how I learned to say no, slow down, and stop buying. I’ve also learned to celebrate my worth as a freelancing professional who’s currently chasing down my dream to be my own boss in a successful way. None of these would have been possible if I didn’t have the confidence and strong sense of self that has helped me navigate all of the various challenges in my life with grace and dignity.

Setting Personal Boundaries

As I take stock of what I’ve already accomplished and where I’d like to end up on this journey, I now understand that the last step in having a full repertoire of boundaries at my disposal is to establish (and maintain) personal boundaries. While this isn’t necessarily “easy” work to do, the feeling of freedom I’m already experiencing is quite motivating.

There are a few steps I’m taking to ensure these new boundaries will be realistically identified, maintained, upheld, and augmented as necessary (these are like a budget; not a “set it and forget it” entity–they require maintenance and attention!):

Completing Personal Inventories

This is the hardest part of the process–to finally deal with all of the things that I’ve been through in my life in a complete manner. Fully processing every aspect of the various experiences; including the who, what, where, when, and why (or perhaps coming to terms with the idea that I may never understand why).

Processing Emotions

With the inventories come the emotions. It’s a painful ride of emotion that I’m facing head-on without the crutch of any maladaptive coping mechanisms. The great thing here is with each memory or experience I’ve already processed, I’m becoming stronger and more ready to face the next set. From accepting my unhealthy childhood (perhaps fodder for another post in the future–not sure I want to share this here) to processing what’s gone on in the past year, I’m making great strides nearly every day.

Creating Lists

The lists seem to be never-ending but they are invaluable. While at first I felt a bit silly and definitely self-conscious about these assignments, I’ve begun to look forward to writing more as time goes on.

The first lists for the boundaries work included lists of what types of things I’m not comfortable with when people around me are doing them (criticizing, judging others, etc.), types of things I’d like people to stop doing to me (being rude, ignoring me, etc), and types of things that I will no longer allow people to say to me without standing up for myself (ie. an ex BF from my past who harassed me for weeks when he found out I had begun dating someone else months later).

Other lists have included what my expectations of others are, an assessment of how available I make myself for the needs of others (and what it costs me), and a list of how I feel while around certain people in my life. With each new list, I’m identifying the patterns I will change, the people I need to cut ties with, and what I need to become the whole, healthy version of myself.

Taking Action

As with any new change I’m putting into place, the importance of taking action is paramount. I already know that there might be objections to this new, stronger Jen that some people won’t be prepared for, but I’m ready to cross that bridge because I’m resolved to being consistent, staying patient, remaining calm, being responsible for my own emotional reactions instead of those of other people, and identifying when compromise is an effective choice without “giving in” or “going against” my own beliefs or what I need to stay balanced.

Boundaries and Finances

I mentioned above that I’m solid when it comes to setting boundaries in my financial life. Gone are the days of lending money to people, spending more than I earn, and trying to maintain a facade of success with material objects due to societal influences.

If you find yourself struggling to maintain boundaries in your own financial life, you might want to consider completing your own inventory or lists. As you work through the various stressors that are keeping you from reaching your financial dreams, be sure to accompany each with a tangible, realistic course of action that will help you change your situation.

Once you have your lists and know what your plan is, don’t waste even a second putting it into place. Today is the day that you can take the first step to achieving your goals. While you might find great support from others, remember that you and you alone are the only one that can do the work to ensure these changes are permanent and having last effect on how you manage your money. Believe in yourself and your ability to succeed.

Should you find that your finances are in check, consider other areas of your life where your boundaries might need a refresher. From work to friendship to fitness, there are always ways to improve the person you are today in order to become the best version of yourself tomorrow.

Moving Forward

After reviewing all of the progress I’ve made over the years with my ability to manage money well, I’m excited to realize that the potential for my latest phase of change is literally bursting at this point. I’m not worried about making all of these healthy changes because I’ve done it before, and I know just how sweet the future will be as these things work themselves out.

The best part? Positive, happy rewards are already coming my way–the change is already happening!  :)

How do you maintain your own boundaries in life?

 

 

Life Lessons from Paying off $14K in Credit Card Debt in Less than a Year

Life Lessons from Paying Off Debt--Keep it RealI’ve talked a lot about my efforts to live a more fiscally responsible life, from the bad habits I’ve kicked to the curb and how I manage a bare-bones budget when I need to cut back and/or save more to the steps I took to clear my debt quickly and how I saved my down payment fund for my house. I’ve also highlighted excuses that derail efforts to save and lies people tell themselves about money.

In all of these posts, there is a great deal of financial information swimming about, but there is also a wealth of knowledge about life lessons that I’ve picked up along the way.

After re-reading a few of these posts, I began to think about the lessons I learned while I was working my tail off to erase 6 years of bad spending habits. It’s been almost 5 years since the day that I made my final credit card debt payment, and I realized that I’ve learned a hell of a lot through the crazy experience of working so hard to pay it off quickly and the subsequent years that have followed.

Accepting Responsibility is the First Step

If there’s something you need to change or a mistake you need to make amends for, nobody can take the first step but you. Holding yourself responsible for your actions (and their ramifications) can be insanely difficult, but it’s a must-do when it comes to paying off debt, healing broken relationships, etc. In order to move forward, you must accept your personal accountability in the situation.

For me, this meant totaling up all of my debts, setting a budget that I’d stick to, and making a plan for how I’d get rid of the mountain of debt in front of me. I started to track every penny coming in and going out, and I learned how to say no when it came to mindless spending–to myself and to others. Gone were the days of ‘charge it and forget it.’

You Can Always Do More

In the initial phases of my debt payoff, I worked with what I had. But when I quickly realized that cutting back would only get me so far and that I could pay off the debt even faster if I earned more, I set out to do just that. In the height of my payoff frenzy, I was working 6-7 jobs at once. As long as they didn’t conflict with my morals or values, I turned down no opportunities to make money that came my way.

Working so much was hard. In fact, it was one of the hardest phases of my life in terms of keeping balanced. But it was a short-term sacrifice with one hell of a reward at the end: Debt freedom. To me, the ability to see a $0 balance on my credit cards was enough to motivate me to keep going, going, going.

Small Sacrifices Do Add Up

Once I began to cut back, I noticed that it became easier to turn down shopping trips, dinners out, and expensive bar tabs. With each month that rolled by where I managed to save more to throw at my debt, I realized that even the small sacrifices I was making (such as packing a lunch rather than going out) were making a large impact on my bottom line.

If you have meager means and a boatload of debt to tackle, don’t be discouraged. No matter if you pay your debt off in one year or ten years, the point is to keep moving forward towards that $0 goal. Chipping away little by little will get you there–no grand gestures or lump sums required!

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

There were tough, rocky moments at many points during the year it took me to pay of my credit card debt. As I mentioned above, working so much and playing so little was not easy–it was far from what I had been accustomed to, and it left me discouraged at times. Luckily, those moments of frustration and doubt were fleeting.

The important thing to remember is that even if you have the resolve of an iron statue, there will still be times, people, places, and memories that tempt you to derail your progress. When I got to these decision-making moments, I had an easier time staying the course of my debt payoff because I had already prepared for temptation–I had various plans for what I could do to avoid being tempted to fall back into my old, nasty habits. Set yourself up for success from the beginning by having contingency plans!

Sometimes You Have to Find Your Rock Bottom

When you’ve reached your rock bottom, you’ll know it. Mine was being penniless and nearly homeless. The silver lining of rock bottom is that the only place to go is up. For me, having such a scary yet clarifying wake up call was exactly what I needed to kick my ass into gear. Had I not found myself in a financial abyss of such magnitude, I might still be making the same mistakes that dug myself into the hole in the first place.

You are Stronger than You Think

At the end of the day, we all know that change is difficult, even if it’s planned and welcomed. Life throws us lemons, knocks us down, and dictates that we get right back up again. When you’re up against the proverbial wall, don’t give up. There’s always hope; there’s always a way to fulfill your goals and dreams. You’re stronger than you think–you just have to remind yourself of that fact from time to time.  :)

 

What life lessons have you learned from paying off debt or making financial changes?

 

 

To Marry for Money: Gold Digger or Financial Genius?

Would You Marry for Money?I’m going to cut to the chase on this one: While I would never advocate marrying someone just because of his/her money, I absolutely believe in the idea of marrying someone who knows what fiscal responsibility is and who is able to communicate clearly about his/her financial situation. Someone who understands that money is a tool to live the life you’ve always dreamed of rather than a means for instant gratification or a crutch to limp along on.

Essentially, I’m an advocate of marrying for money management by choosing a life partner who has the same ideals and values as you do when it comes to money. I’m a firm believer that those who enter any sort of long-term commitment with a blind eye towards the finances are setting themselves up for a greater likelihood of future stress, arguments, and the eventual demise of the relationship (after all, money problems are the number one reason most couples end up splitting).

Of course, for a hopeless romantic such as myself, love must absolutely go hand-in-hand with your financially savvy beau. For the purpose of argument, this is not an either-or type of scenario–I do believe it’s possible to find both love and sound financial management when it comes to deciding who to marry.

A History of Societal Norms that Celebrate Gold Diggers

In the past, it was common practice for a man to be the sole breadwinner of the family. He worked while she stayed at home to cook, clean, and raise the children. As antiquated as these societal norms might seem in our booming, she-can-do-anything 21st century world now, the notion of the man as the earner is rooted in centuries of history spanning thousands of cultures.

Up until a few decades ago, marriage was more of a financial transaction than a love-ridden quest for the sweet life. When two people created their union, it was built upon a foundation of producing and supporting a family. If love was anywhere in the equation, it was a fleeting bonus.

While this certainly sounds depressing, a quick trip through even the past 40 years or so leads you right back to an era where primping and dressing was simply a way to attract the most desirable mates who brought along their hefty checkbooks. As unfair and sexist as it seems, the most attractive women often “landed” the most eligible, wealthy men. One could go as far as to reason that beauty became nothing more than a tool to attract money.

The Current Portrayal of a Gold Digger

If you’re a fan of reality shows, you might have noticed an undercurrent where women are painted as money-hungry, clueless vultures who line up in hordes to snag the latest and greatest (read: financially stable and handsome) bachelor.Where do these TV-produced relationships end up? Typically, they are a on a one-way ride to Splitsville and along the way, they have some ugly, paparazzi-filled arguments and blow outs to eek out any last chance at fame and fortune along the way.

If there’s anything we can learn from these shows, it’s that a manufactured relationship, no matter the money, glitz, and glamor associated with it, won’t usually stand the test of time because it lacks the fundamental human needs of intimacy, love, and trust.

The next time you see that Stepford Wife or Real Houswife-esque neighbor of yours, take a closer look to determine whether or not true happiness exists for that person. Chances are, under the Mercedes SUV, skim latte, and Lululemon-clad exterior exists a woman who doesn’t know when her husband will be home next, who can’t remember the last time she had a date night with him, and who is desperate for a real, meaningful expression of love.

Marrying for Money–The Correct Way

On the surface, marrying for money sounds (and is) terrible. But what about marrying someone who’s good with their money and who can communicate his/her ideas, desires, and preferences? Why is it that when love comes a knockin,’ people are so much more likely to overlook financial red flags? Why can’t we have our cake and eat it too when it comes to falling in love and still being able to manage our finances successfully?

It’s absolutely possible to do this, but you have to be aware from the beginning. Along with those initial butterflies of a romantic date gone so well, make note of any red flags when it comes to that person’s money situation. As your courtship continues, your communication should evolve. Does that person spend more than they earn? Are their bills paid? Do they invest in their future? Are they able to share a long-term plan with you? Is there an emergency fund in the picture?

If you’re not able to figure these things out or are responding “No” more than “Yes,” consider what your future might be like if that person isn’t able to make lasting changes before both of you commit to a life together. As much as you might love that person, are you prepared to spend your life managing one financial disaster after the next?

Don’t be blinded by love–bring your head out of the clouds long enough to make a rational analysis of your potential future with this person. If things aren’t perfect now, no worries. But if that person isn’t willing to make the necessary financial changes now, don’t bank on them being able to do it in the future (pun intended!). Unfortunately, when it comes to marriage and money, love doesn’t always conquer all.

What are your thoughts on marrying for money?

 

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