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GratitudeIt’s Thanksgiving, and we’re supposed to be thankful and think about all the reasons we’re better off than most people and all of that fluff.

That’s nice and all, but gratitude is more than a moral obligation. Over the past few years, I’ve made a habit of practicing gratitude, and it serves a number of useful, practical purposes. It’s made me happier. It’s helped me bounce back from setbacks better. It’s even benefited my finances. In honor of Thanksgiving, I thought I’d share a couple of essays I’ve written on gratitude and how you can harness it to make your life better. Enjoy, turkey-filled friends!

Why Gratitude Makes You a Happier Person (Lifehacker): “Stop pitying yourself, people have it worse, you should be grateful.” You’ve probably heard this before, and it’s some of the most cliché, unhelpful advice around. When gratitude is inspired by guilt, obligation, or shame, that’s not gratitude at all. True gratitude is a practical tool that serves a number of purposes beyond the after school special fluff of being thankful for what you have. [Keep reading…]

How a Bit of Gratitude Helped Improve My Spending Habits (Lifehacker): Money seems like it has everything to do with logic and little to do with feelings. But our emotions can have a pretty big impact on how we deal with our finances. Gratitude, for example, can affect spending (and even investing) in a big way. Here’s a first-hand account of how it changed my own financial habits for the better. [Keep reading…]


Original graphic by: Gerd Altmann


empowering conversationsIn a past life, I was a technical writer. Which made me, technically, a writer. But it wasn’t any kind of writing I was familiar with.

During my job interview, my soon-to-be boss asked, “are you confident you can write a manual on how to build one of those?”

I followed his pointed finger across the room and looked at some complicated doohickey–it looked like a giant lava lamp from the future. It was, I later discovered, some kind of gas sampling tool.

“Yes,” I answered, lying through my scared teeth.   [click to continue…]


Beat lifestyle inflationYou work hard, dammit. And you’re tired of not being able to spend your money the way you want. You treat yourself with an expensive pair of shoes you’ve had your eye on. I deserve this, you tell yourself, plopping down your credit card. Later that week, your friends want to get drinks. You could use a drink, and how much will you spend, anyway, a measly ten bucks? You join them, and then you think about joining them for an upcoming weekend vacation. Oh, and your apartment isn’t big enough for all of the stuff you’ve been buying, so you start shopping around for a bigger place. Suddenly, your monthly expenses have become a giant, expensive elephant in the room.

This is lifestyle inflation in action. It’s a nasty little habit that creeps up on you. You think everything is fine, so you spend a little here and there, and then one day–BAM–you realize you’ve got way more cash going out than you do coming in.

Lifestyle deflation comes down to changing your spending habits. All of them. And that’s a tall order. It’s why so many people keep living above their means even though they know it’s financial suicide: because it’s too overwhelming to take on an entire elephant of lifestyle inflation. A better idea? Start small and follow the old cliché:

“When eating an elephant take one bite at a time.”

As unfair as that metaphor is to elephants, there’s a lot of truth packed into it. Habits need four things to be effective, according to a study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine:

  • Consistency (Routine)
  • Environment (Cues)
  • Affective judgments (Rewards)
  • Low behavioral complexity (It needs to be easy!)

The habit loop covers the first three. Cue, routine, reward is a great way to swap bad habits for good ones. But in order for the habit loop to be successful, it helps to start with a habit that’s simple. “Change my financial situation” is a behemoth of a goal. You’ll probably get overwhelmed by it and give up. On the other hand, “cut back on my restaurant habit by $50 a month” is totally doable. It’ll give you the motivation to keep going.

If lifestyle inflation is out of hand, here’s a plan to go about deflating your lifestyle, one bite at a time.  [click to continue…]


What people get wrong about povertyWe can all pretty much agree that poverty is a bad thing. 

But beyond that, we disagree on just about everything else, from how poverty works to how we can fix it.  Despite how much our opinions differ, they usually have one thing in common: they’re oversimplified. In reality, poverty is much more complex than most of us think, and there are a lot of inaccurate assumptions about it. Based on my own research, conversations, and past notions, I wanted to round up some of the most common myths about poverty. It’s a little intimidating to write a post like this, but I wanted to take an objective look about all the opinions I’ve come across (and held myself).

Some of these myths have a touch of truth to them, but for the most part, they’re huge generalizations, and the statistics, should you dig into them, show how inaccurate they are.   [click to continue…]


how to start investingRecently, a friend of mine (and reader of this blog, so a good friend 😀 ) asked me a question. “So do you have an actual investing portfolio?” It’s sounds so grown up. So fancy. So complicated.

“I do,” I said. “And you have a 401k at work, so you’ve got one, too!”

“Oh yeah, that’s true,” she said, and I realized that a lot of people don’t consider themselves investors, even though they are! Which is pretty awesome when you think about it. A lot of us talk about how scary investing is without even realizing we’re already doing it.

And if you’re not doing it? Hey, don’t worry. It’s so easy to get started, a lot of people don’t even know they already have. Just take what I call the “no brainer” first step.  [click to continue…]