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Technology is super cool. Just this morning, I was able to see one friend’s baby taking her first steps, share in another friend’s view of the sunrise in Jamaica, and celebrate my cousin’s anniversary, all without even getting out of bed. But to mangle Newton’s laws, for every benefit technology gives us, there is an equal and opposite detriment. We can see everything on social media, it seems, especially those things we don’t have. And that can make us pretty cranky. Dave Ramsey’s daughter and best-selling author Rachel Cruze has written a somewhat unexpected book dealing with all these comparisons, Love Your Life Not Theirs: 7 Money Habits for Living the Life You Want. You’d think that being the daughter of Dave Ramsey means living a posh life free from ever having to worry about such pedestrian things as budgeting, saving for retirement, or paying cash for cars. But that’s actually the opposite of her experience, and she outlines all of it in her new book.
So, what are those 7 money habits?
1. Quit the Comparisons
She starts out by getting our focus off of Instagram and on our own lives. Everyone is different, and that includes our financial situations. It doesn’t make sense to expect the community college grad with the grocery store job to drive the same car or live in the same house as the CEO of Google. And the most important point she makes is that’s okay!! Someone else’s success doesn’t negate or minimize our own, just the same as someone else’s failure doesn’t make us look better by default. We need to judge ourselves based on our own lives and our own circumstances.
2. Steer Clear of Debt
Debt, at its most basic level, is an obligation. Obligations are things you have to do. If you fill your life up with stuff you have to do, soon there isn’t any room left for stuff you want to do. In order to start steering your life in the direction you want it to go, you need to get rid of all the “have to’s” chaining it to the dock. Some debt can arguably considered “necessary,” but it can never be considered “good.” Case in point, the last recession we had. Many families lost their homes to foreclosure due to circumstances they couldn’t control. Were those mortgages necessary for them to live in their houses? Absolutely. Were they good for the families that suddenly had no place to live because of them? Nope. Debt allows other people to dictate what happens with your money. Keep away from it.
3. Make a Plan for Your Money
Budgets aren’t chains. They’re plans. If you’re trying to lose weight, and the entirety of your plan is “I’m going to lose weight,” you’ll most likely fail. It’s a great goal, but there’s no “how” involved in that plan. Likewise, if your goal is to buy a house, retire comfortably, and give generously to people and causes that matter to you, you need a better plan than “I’m going to be good with money.” Rachel reminds us that no one is telling us what to put in our budgets. We’re the masters of them, so when we write a budget, we’re actually giving ourselves permission to spend X amount on X categories, with the idea that we have goals bigger than this month that we want to reach. Want to go on vacation? No problem! Just put it in the budget. Want to try every restaurant you see on Food Network? You can do that! Just put it in the budget. Never made a budget before? Rachel shows you how.
4. Talk About Money (Even When It’s Hard)
Money is such a taboo concept in our society, but it really shouldn’t be. Especially if you’re in a relationship, you need to be talking about money with your partner. Money allows us to do all the things on our bucket list, why wouldn’t we want to share how we plan to accomplish those dreams with the person that’s closest to us? Rachel walks her readers through what money in a relationship should like like at each stage in that relationship, and how to accommodate individual spending vs. combined goals.
5. Save Like You Mean It
You know those people that somehow have tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of dollars in a savings account? Captain Obvious here to tell you that they got that by saving it. There’s no magical formula that says you have to do this mystical dance around some specific mushroom in the middle of a spooky forest before money can appear in your savings account. Actually, there is a magical formula: Save your money + Don’t spend it = You’ll have it saved. Rachel explains how to set up an emergency fund, reasons why you might need to use one, and how following these other habits (especially steering clear of debt) can hit the turbo button on your ability to save.
6. Think Before You Spend
The biggest issue a lot of us face is defining needs vs. wants. We need a phone. We want a brand-new iPhone. With perfectly serviceable phones available for around $30, that’s about a thousand-dollar difference between need and want! Just like making a plan for where your money goes every month is important, making a plan for how it’s used is also important. Rachel gives tips on how to shop grocery stores, decorate your house, and eat out on a budget. She also talks about being more mindful of what we’re clicking on certain shopping sites named after rivers, as well as a huge pitfall for many Millennials: buying stuff “for” your children. Have you ever thought maybe we buy the fancy toys, clothes, and accessories for our kids because it makes us look better as parents rather than being actually better for your 18-month old? How do you even know that your toddler prefers the single-origin, organic, farm-to-table mushy carrots instead of the Walmart brand?
7. Give a Little… Until You Can Give a Lot
Giving is important. Especially when you think “I can’t even pay my light bill this month, how am I supposed to give something to someone else?” Giving changes your mindset and reminds you that you’re not alone in this world. It pulls you out of the funk of always, only thinking about your own situation, and forces you to be more empathetic, more caring, and more aware of what other people are doing. This isn’t a guilt trip chapter, however. Rachel simply wants to effect a heart change. Give a dollar. Give an hour. Just give something until it becomes a part of who you are.
About Rachel Cruze: Rachel is a seasoned communicator and presenter, helping Americans learn the proper ways to handle money and stay out of debt. Today she serves as a Ramsey Personality, using her knowledge and experiences from growing up as Dave Ramsey’s daughter to educate others. She co-authored the #1 New York Times bestselling book Smart Money Smart Kids: Raising the Next Generation to Win with Money with her dad. Rachel has been speaking to audiences as large as ten thousand since the age of fifteen. Since joining Ramsey Solutions in 2010, Rachel has traveled the country speaking at colleges, churches, and conferences to educate people on the dangers of debt and how to budget their money and save for the future. You can follow Rachel on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube, and online at rachelcruze.com.
Buy/Borrow/Pass: Buy. Rachel writes with an engaging, easy-to-read style. Love Your Life Not Theirs: 7 Money Habits for Living the Life You Want is an easy read, and it shouldn’t take most readers more than a week or two to finish the book. The habits inside, however, should last a lifetime, and there are a few chapters with specific, actionable advice that can be referenced at different stages of life.