5 Savings Strategies from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

by Kate Wilson

It’s time to cut back and save some money, but how do you go about deciding what you can and can’t afford?

One helpful way to form a budget is to look at Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This is a psychological theory that describes human desires in pyramid form. The most basic needs are on the bottom while the less crucial needs are on top.

While initially a theory for understanding human behavior, this approach also makes an effective budgeting strategy because it clarifies the things you really need. Below are five strategies formed from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs that will help you differentiate your needs from wants and work towards a better budget:

1. Organize Your Expenses Into Categories

Think about all the things you spend money on: food, gas, Netflix, Starbucks, etc. To understand which expenses are more important, organize the main ones into categories based on the hierarchy of needs.

For example:

• Physiological: Mortgage or rent, groceries, practical, non-luxury clothing

• Safety: Health and home insurance, electricity and water, house maintenance

• Love/Belonging: Charity, time with friends and family, gifts for others

• Esteem: Fitness classes or gym membership, nice clothing, nonessential home furnishings

• Self-actualization: Internet or television, personal vacations, hobbies or interests

The more organized you are, the easier it is to ask yourself, “Do I really need this?” and prevent yourself from spending money on less important things.

2. Focus More on What You Need

Always start with the physiological. As human beings, we need food, water and shelter to survive. These things demand our immediate attention and should be our first priorities above anything else, even transportation.

While many of us depend on our cars – on average spending over 600 hours in our cars each year – cars are actually a luxury. We don’t need them to survive like we need food and a roof over our heads, so take care of mortgage or rent and groceries before anything else.

3. Secure Yourself in One Tier Before Spending on Another

Budgeting with the hierarchy does not allow you to pick and choose from each level at random. Even if you fulfill your physiological and safety needs, you can’t jump to self-actualization. Items in that category are often more expensive and less necessary in everyday life.

Slowly work your way up as you save money or progress in your career. After you’ve covered expenses on a lower tier for a long period of time, then you can factor luxury items into your budget like dinners out or fancier clothes.

4. Bend the Rules Only if a Purchase Applies to Your Basic Needs

We’re often tempted to spend outside our budget and give into impulse purchases, but before you spend money on another pumpkin spice latte, ask yourself, “Does this expense apply to my basic needs?” You could probably start your day with a home-brewed cup of store-brand coffee instead.

Exceptions to this rule often include using the Internet to generate income or repaying debts. Such items contribute to lower tiers like safety and physiological needs, so it’s OK to skip some levels in these cases.

5. Save Rather Than Spend

Maybe one day you’ll reach a place where all your needs are covered, and you have the option to spend extra money on a want. But instead of buying that flat-screen television you’ve had your eye on for the last few months, consider putting that money in the bank.

No one ever said saving was easy – 50% of Americans have less than one month of savings in their emergency fund. To prevent yourself from touching those savings, think of how you felt during that time you were just starting out, lost a job or had to pay a large, necessary expense. Savings will cushion the blow if something like that ever happens again.

As always, budgeting and saving is highly personal and only you can decide what is most essential to your life. Maslow’s hierarchy can be a great tool for making you think deep when it comes to what you need versus what you want.

Today’s post is from a fellow-Pittsburgh freelance writer: Kate Wilson.

How did it end? The soccer drama.

If you’ve been following over the past few months, you know that we had a little one in soccer.  You also know that it’s been an emotional journey.  (You can catch up in posts 1 & 2.)  Well, our soccer season is over, so I wanted to let you know how the whole thing ended.

Progress.

The season ended on a triumphant note.  No, they didn’t jump on the field and start playing with the other kids.  No, they didn’t score a goal or even dribble a ball besides that first day.  But there was interest.

In the next to last practice, kiddo was playing around on the playground as usual.  (I had given up trying to make them play, but we were still going because I had to provide the opportunity for growth, even if they decided not to take advantage of it.) All of a sudden, they ran over to the chain link fence that separated them from the other kids who were actually, you know, playing soccer, and they watched.  Intently.  For a span of minutes.  Minutes that felt like golden hours.  There was an acknowledgement that something was going on.  Something to pay attention to.  And for the first time all season, the tears I held back weren’t of frustration born out of inadequacy, but of joy.  A barrier was starting to come down.

The last practice was even better.  As soon as we got there, little one ran onto the field and joined the other kids in the huddle.  Sure, they were happily shouting the entire time while the coach was trying to talk, but they were with the other kids.  Participating.  Not in an appropriate manner, but still…participation!

It didn’t last long.  The huddle broke, and my child ran off to the playground as per usual.  The rest of that final practice was a bit anti-climatic as all we did was  run and play on the slide.  But I didn’t care.  Nothing could have taken away my elation after such a seemingly small, but relatively huge event.

What I Learned About Being a Mother

After my first post, I was bound and determined to have my child either sit with me or play soccer.  Doing anything else was not going to be an option.  This wasn’t out of some suppressed desire to become Mia Hamm myself, but because my kiddo isn’t so great at conformity.  I’m the last person to want everyone to conform to fit a certain mold, but the capability of recognizing and working within some sort of structure is a skill that we all need in order to be functional in society.  Or pass Kindergarten when the time comes.

The responses, on the blog and in real life, caused me to switch course.  I started allowing them to do what they wanted to do, but we were going to at least go to every soccer practice.  There had to be an opportunity to learn, even if it wasn’t being utilized.  It seemed like a fruitless effort, until those last two practices.

I don’t know that I definitively learned anything about the “right” thing to do as a mother in these hard situations.  I did learn to recognize that while there are some times where you have to stick to your guns, regardless of the size of the tantrum, there are sometimes where you have to compromise, or even cave.  Some battles are not worth fighting, and still others are won not by confrontation, but by gentle, consistent encouragement.

Knowing which approach to apply to which battle is still a mystery that largely eludes me.  But I’m figuring it out.

Appreicating the Coaches

In the interest of full disclosure, my kiddo received free enrollment from Jump Start Sports in exchange for me writing about the experience.  My opinions are honest regardless, quite obviously.

I really can’t say enough good things about them. Their programs were affordable.  And if my kid had jumped on the field day one and started kicking the ball around with the other children, trying to score goals and defend, they would have been doing their job.  But I feel like the fact that my little one was inclined to do the exact opposite, yet the coaches continuously acknowledged and encouraged them, speaks volumes.  And they did it while respecting my parenting methods, whatever they were on any given week.

Ultimately, for my child and their individual needs and goals, I feel like we got here in the last few practices:

girls playing soccer

An Insider’s Look into the Scholarship Selection Process

scholarship

Today Savvy Working Gal and I are exchanging posts.  She’s a great blogging friend, and has a lot of experience on the other side of the scholarship selection process.  I’m so, so excited to have her amazing post here for you all.  After you’ve read her words here, head over to her blog to check out what I wrote today!

I have been a member of my professional organization’s scholarship committee for the past 4 years. Today I’d like to share the process we use to select a scholarship recipient and provide a few insider tips:

We don’t receive many applications:

I am not sure why this is. We award two scholarships: one to a 4-year college student and one to a 2-year student. When there is extra money in our budget (which there is almost every year) we are authorized to award an additional 2-year scholarship if we have two equally qualified candidates.

We also submit the 4-year scholarship recipient’s application to our National Foundation for consideration in their scholarship program. Two of our recent scholarship recipients have gone on to receive an additional scholarship from this foundation.

For the past several years, we’ve received no more than ten applications for each category; once sloppily filled-out and ineligible applicants have been rejected, usually only 3-5 applications remain. The scholarships awarded have ranged from $500 to $2000. That may not seem like a lot, but with the cost of tuition these days every penny counts. My advice to you is to apply for every scholarship you are eligible for. The competition may not be as strong as you think.

Only apply if you are eligible:

Our scholarships have specific requirements pertaining to accumulated credits and college year status. Each year we receive applications that do not appear as if they meet these requirements. One of our committee member’s takes the time to contact questionable applicants to verify eligibility. They are never eligible. You are wasting both our and your own time applying for scholarships in which you do not meet the requirements. Stop doing this.

What is our selection process?

Our committee consists of three members – an odd number is required to prevent a tie. Each committee member reads every application. We then grade them from one to five (five being the highest) in various categories on a ranking spreadsheet. Upon completion these grades are transferred to a master sheet which sums up all the grades and presents them as a weighted average. The weighted average by category is as follows:

  • Grades: 20%
  • Extracurricular Activities: 10%
  • Financial need: 30%
  • Essay: 30%
  • Intangibles: 10%

Intangibles can be anything we want them to be. I was initially instructed this is a gut feel or something special we see in an applicant.

Once the master spreadsheet has been completed we have a committee meeting. Each applicant and their corresponding score are discussed in detail. We talk about what we like or disliked on an application and why we scored them as we did. Sometimes the master ranking sheet stays as is and other times a committee member points out something the rest of us did not see and the scores are changed. We then vote on whether the top scorer should be awarded the scholarship. If the majority agrees the scholarship is awarded. We do have the option of not awarding a scholarship if we feel we do not have a worthy recipient. Unfortunately, this has occurred.

Here are some of the items we discuss:

Is the application filled out in its entirety and is it signed. You would not believe the number of applications we receive where entire sections are left blank.

Grades:

Transcripts are not required to be submitted with the application, but you will be asked to provide them if you are awarded the scholarship. If you do not provide corresponding documentation your scholarship award will not be granted. I won’t sugar coat it – good grades do make a difference.

Extracurricular Activities:

This is the category most often skipped. Please write something here. You will not receive our scholarship if you leave this question blank. If you think back on your life you probably can come up with something. Have you volunteered at your church? Worked at a food bank in high school? Participated in sports? We once had an applicant write she works full-time, goes to school and takes care of her disabled child. She currently does not have time for extracurricular activities, but when she was younger she did XYZ. She was awarded our scholarship.

Financial need:

Again make sure you fill this one out. Also, total the column and check your addition. It is common for intangible scores to be lowered when sloppiness and addition errors are found in this category. Our current application asks for a financial aid transcript if available. In prior years, I don’t recall ever receiving one and we have never asked for verification, but that doesn’t mean other scholarship committees do not. If we have two like applicants, the one with the greater financial need is usually awarded the scholarship.

Essay:

The best advice I can give you is to be a real person. Our committee chair despises essays where the applicant writes their goal is to be a CFO or a partner in ten years. (Many really do say in ten years.) Honesty and a personal story count for more than lofty goals. Provide an original story and you will stand out from the crowd. Our committee chair also has a real aversion to essays that are not typed with double spacing. She added a requirement before I joined the committee stating hand written essays will not be read. Make sure your essay is easy to read by typing and double spacing your submission.

Both of the scholarship recipients who went on to receive the National Foundation’s scholarship had outstanding essays. One wrote about being a member of a non-profit group and her plans to use her degree to help the recipients of this group’s services improve their financial lives and to help them start and maintain their own businesses. The other recipient wrote about the mistakes she had made in her life: dropping out after her freshman year, what she learned from this and what she was doing to turn her life around. We were happy to receive a letter from her this past year informing us she had graduated and been hired by a prestigious company in Chicago. She went on to thank us for awarding her the scholarship stating it had been a life changing event.

Thank the organization for their scholarship:

A hand written thank you note sent to an organization that has given you a scholarship goes a long way. We read them at our promotional events and include them in our newsletters – your name is included. Keep us informed of your education and career progression. We want to see you succeed and are more than happy to help mentor you when we can.

5 Things You Didn’t Know Your Health Insurance Covered

With the exception of residents of a few states, you now have to have health insurance.  If you’re paying for it anyways, make sure you’re getting the most for your money.  Here are five things you didn’t know your health insurance covered.  Plans and coverages vary, but it’s worth investigating to find out.

1. Diapers for your child who is 3+.

diapers that suck

Having a child over age three who is not potty trained can be taxing, both emotionally and fiscally.  If your child has a disability or learning delay, you could get your diapers for free.  Medicaid covers it, and if your child falls into one of those categories odds are you already have some version of medicaid.  When I say disability I of course mean things along the lines of children with Autism or Down’s Syndrome, but “learning delays” is a much broader term.  Perhaps your child has delays with fine or gross motor skills, or they aren’t talking or communicating at a level that is “normal” yet.  Both of these things can lead to serious problems with getting your kiddo on the potty every time.  Talk to your doctor at your child’s three year check up, and ask them to write a prescription.  Even if you don’t have medicaid, some private insurers offer this same benefit.

2.  Gym Memberships.

gym membership

Your health insurer wants you to be healthy.  Healthy people don’t file as many claims.  And the less claims insurers have to pay out, the more money they can keep in their pockets.  As a result, many insurers cover gym memberships in one way or another.  Some work with specific gyms to give you a discount or even a free membership, while others will offer your a set amount in reimbursement.  Call your insurer to see what their policy is.  It just might be worth switching gyms!

3.  Massages.

massage

Are you in desperate need of a massage?  Well, you may be able to get that covered, too.  Especially if you have chronic back pain, were in an accident, or see a chiropractor/physical therapist regularly.  Even if you weren’t, talk to your physician about your pain.  If you can get a prescription from any of these medical specialists, insurers will often cover it.

4.  Hot Tubs.

not a medical expense

This, for example, would NOT be a qualified medical expense.

WHAAAAAAAT?!?!  I know.  Here’s the thing:  you have to have an actual medical need for it.  Like injury.  Spine problems.  Etc.  But if you do, asking your doctor if s/he thinks hot tub therapy would help certainly doesn’t hurt.  If they do think it would be beneficial to your situation, make sure they write a script.  From there, call your insurance company.  If you’ve got the Rx, and your policy doesn’t specifically state that a hot tub isn’t covered, it should be a qualifying piece of medical equipment, which 9 times out of 10 is covered.  If it’s not, and you still really want that hot tub and can afford it, take the prescription with you when you go buy it.  That will eliminate the sales tax.  And if insurance doesn’t pay for it, it’s tax deductible as a medical expense.  So is the electric you’ll use to run it.  Be very careful here, though. If you’re throwing hot tub parties or your family is using it, you could run into some serious trouble if you get audited.  If you want more details, here’s a great article and an interesting forum on the topic.

5.  Hypoallergenic Formula.

baby drinking bottle

If your child needs a prescription formula such as Alimentium or Nurtamigen (these are just examples…there are others out there, too,) it may be covered.  Usually these coverages are in the form of reimbursement, and usually your health insurance company will give you the run around, even if it’s clearly stated in your policy.  Stay strong.  This stuff is expensive, so save your receipts and don’t give up the fight.  You pay for that benefit, and you deserve to have them fulfill their end of the bargain.  If you live in one of the following states, there is legislation dictating that your insurer cover these prescription formulas, regardless of if they want to or not:  New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Oregon, Texas, Minnesota, Arizona, South Dakota, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.  Get more details about each state’s specific legislation here.  Knowing your rights within the law can be a powerful tool to speeding up the process.  (Another option for families not in those states who don’t have coverage is to look into your local Women, Infants, and Children program.)

The Millionaire in the Next Cubicle

In the personal finance blogosphere, we talk a lot about side hustles, freelancing, and turning those things into a self-sustaining business so we can escape the 9-5.  That’s great.  Truly it is.  I make a bit of side income doing it myself.

But for the vast majority of us, working that 9-5 is how we are going to support our families throughout our careers.  Just because we are working for someone else doesn’t mean we can’t achieve financial independence.

This is why I was so excited when Chip Mendez contacted me about reviewing his new book, “The Millionaire in the Next Cubicle.”  It’s chock full of amazing information to help anyone who works for “the man” reach financial independence.  A lot of that involves leveraging employer benefits that you simply don’t have access to when you’re self-employed, including 401k matching and lower insurance rates across the board.

While this book does cover the basics, there was definitely some higher level content in there that I was hearing for the first time.  Here are a few of my lightbulb moments:

Not taking advantage of my employer’s ESPP

In 2008, I worked for a company that offered an ESPP (or employee stock purchase plan.)  I didn’t take part in it.  In my young, naive eyes it was a way to build the company’s value, and get employees to feel more invested in a workplace environment I wasn’t digging.

It was 2008, and some of my coworkers had been there for decades.  So obviously the break room was constantly full of doom and gloom conversations about the decline of their investment.  And yet they were still using the ESPP.  I’d always walk out with this internal monologue:

Suckers!

I was such an idiot!  I had no clue what I was talking about, and as a result missed out on a whole lot of money that I would have been getting at a discount.  An ESPP works like this:  the company offers to let employees buy stocks in the company they work for at a discount.  You can buy up to a predetermined percentage of your income.  (The example Chip uses is 10%, so if you make $50k you could buy up to $5,000.)  At the end of the purchase period, you have the option to sell or hold.  If you want to sell, but the selling price has sunk lower than what you purchased it for, in most cases the company will retroactively adjust you buying price so that you are guaranteed to make short term profit. In short, if you decide to sell at the end of the buying period, your company is guaranteeing you money.

If you buy at the bottom of the recession in 2008 and hold, like my coworkers did, you’d be sitting on a nice little nest egg, especially since you bought the stock at a discount price.

If you’re an idiot like I was, you look up the stock’s growth over the past six  years after reading Chip’s book and cry a little bit.

I’m seriously considering Long Term Disability Insurance

I’ve heard of long-term disability insurance in the past.  I’ve purchased short-term disability insurance.  Short-term makes sense.  What if there’s a car accident?  Or I get really sick?  Or a number of other little freak occurrences that I could envision happening?

Perhaps it’s a natural fear of death that keeps me from contemplating ever becoming unable to do my job for the rest of my life.  I don’t think I’d be alone in that.  It’s something that’s really hard to wrap your head around.  But then I read this statistic in “The Millionaire in the Next Cubicle”:

“…a person age thirty-five is six times more likely to become disabled than die before he or she reaches age sixty-five.”

I’m not thirty-five yet.  But that’s still an incredibly alarming statistic.  And the scarier thing is that I know quite a few young people who have been put into this situation themselves, being forced to live off of social security and Medicare for the rest of their lives.  The lucky ones have a spouse that can help support them, if you want to consider that lucky, but I know many others who are forced to make it through the rest of their lives on their own due to a disability that only occurred in adulthood.

Why did I not take this more seriously before?  I’ve seen it happen to others.  I have life insurance.  But apparently in a few years I’ll be six times more likely to need long-term disability insurance than that term life insurance policy that expires before I’m 65 anyways.  (I’d be really interested to see statistics for a younger age bracket, solely for the reason that I fall into it.)

I’ll be calling Aflac in the very near future.

Who Should Read and How to Use

There were definitely a ton of other great things in this book.  I read another statistic that confirmed my greatest suspicion:  only 15% of financial problems can be attributed to poor money management.  That’s still a big number, but shows that sometimes life happens, and we have to be careful how we judge others when they’re going through a bad financial time.  We don’t know what happened to put them there.

The beginning of the book covers setting career goals and making sure they align with your values as a human being.  It was really an awesome exercise.  (Heads up to my readership:  Some of you are religious, but I know a majority of you are not.  In this section of the book he references his devotion to Christ and Christianity because it falls within his value system.  He uses it as an example.  All of our values are obviously going to be different.  You don’t have to be Christian to enjoy this book.  After this section, he doesn’t reference it again that I noticed.  It would be 100% fine if he did, but if religion’s not your cup of tea, don’t think the whole thing is going to be about Jesus because it’s not.  It’s about finances.)

Other items covered include: building a financial plan, budgeting, working on cash-flow, investing, shielding those investments from taxes as much as possible, estate planning, and being a smart consumer in general.

All of it pertains to anyone who works for a company in their day-to-day job, from beginners who have no idea how to make a budget all the way to those with more experience who think they’ve already got a firm hold on things.  I highly, highly recommend it.  While I got a lot out of it from my first read, this isn’t a one and done book.  It’s one you’re going to want to keep on your shelf for reference as you work on different areas of your finances, and as your money situation changes over the course of your career.  You can find it on Amazon for either a physical copy or the Kindle version.

 

*I have been compensated for my time reading and reviewing this book.  Regardless, all opinions are 100% honest and my own.  As always, I do not promote things to my readers that I would not use myself, and in this case I will be using it over and over again.*

 

 

 

 

How to Reduce a Family’s Auto Insurance Rates

The post, outlining great ways to save on your car insurance, is sponsored.

Most families want to save money wherever they can in the household budget. Fortunately, there are several ways to save money on auto insurance. For instance, some insurance companies offer discounts on auto insurance for teenagers who earn excellent grades in school. Teens who maintain a certain grade point average can help lower the overall rate a family pays. Check out some other ways that a family may be able to lower the rate paid for auto insurance.

Get a Newer Car

A family that drives an older car may want to think about getting a newer vehicle. A late model car has features such as air bags, anti-lock brakes and a rear-view camera that serve to make the car safer to drive. A car with these sorts of safety features may help the family qualify for a lower rate of auto insurance.

Practice Defensive Driving

People who practice defensive driving know that it’s possible to avoid some types of accidents. That’s why it’s important for every member of a family to practice defensive driving. A defensive driver waits a few extra seconds after the light turns green at a busy intersection. It’s always a possibility that another driver will rush through the intersection as his or her light is turning red. If every driver in a family has a driving record that is devoid of accidents, they are likely to qualify for a lower rate of auto insurance.

Prepare New Teenage Drivers

It’s possible for a family to qualify for a lower rate of auto insurance by ensuring that their teenagers are well-prepared, safe drivers. For instance, parents may want to have their teenagers take driving lessons from a reputable driving school. This shows an insurance agency that the teenager has received excellent instruction on the rules of the road. Also, parents can make sure that a teenager receives plenty of guided practice so that they know how to drive in a variety of weather conditions. Preparing a teenager for the road can reduce the chances that he or she will get in a fender bender or another type of accident. If you’re a parent who is interested in checking out auto insurance rates for the family, you may want to visit your local Nationwide insurance agent.

The #Pittsburgh Promise: Free College Money, Free Event.

pittsburgh promise

I live in a wonderful city.  I live in a cultured city.  I live in a city with some of the best views on earth.  I live in a city with numerous colleges and universities.  However, I also live in a city where the median income is $38,029.

That’s not a shabby number if you’re a single person, at least in our local economy.  And since it’s a median income, half of our residents make more than that.  However, if you’re in the other half that is making less, and you have an entire family to support, that salary isn’t going to go incredibly far, especially when you’re sending your kids to college in one of the country’s more expensive regions for  higher education.

These are kids who have a lot of potential.  Kids who hold a lot of promise.  Talented kids across all spectrums, but all of that doesn’t matter if there’s no opportunity.  Or more importantly, no perceived opportunity.

That’s a major reason I started this blog.  I know a lot of low-income individuals and families who are smart, talented, and full of so much potential.  There are opportunities for them.  They just aren’t aware of them.  Being low-income is often the most important factor in getting financial aid and scholarships, which can result in you getting a college degree without spending a penny of your own money.

But if your kids go to Pittsburgh Public Schools like mine do, there’s yet another opportunity for them:  The Pittsburgh Promise.  Regardless of your income, large or small, Pittsburgh Public schools awards students who graduate with up to $40,000 for their college education.  $40,000.  It’s a huge financial relief.

face paint

However, there are still many people who don’t know about this program.  In order to raise awareness, there will be a free, community event this Saturday, October 18, 2014.  It will be at the finish line of the Walk for One Promise, so you’ll be able to cheer on people like Mayor Bill Peduto, superintendent Dr. Lane, the president of Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, and many others as they finish up the race that raises money for the Pittsburgh Promise.  Aside from cheering everyone on, there will be a TON of amazing free stuff, like:

  • Free hamburgers, hot dogs, veggie dogs, and walking tacos.
  • TWO bouncy houses; one for the little ones and one for teens.
  • A balloon artist.
  • Face-painting.
  • Music from DJ Selecta of WYEP.
  • High school band performances from Brashear, Westinghouse, and Allderdice. 
  • Games & Activities.

Where:  Sci Tech Academy in Oakland, 107 Thackeray Ave. Pittsburgh, PA 15260
When: Saturday, October 18 from 1:30 PM

You can download the informational flyer here.

If you’re in Pittsburgh, please come join us for a day of free fun, community, and spreading awareness!  Whether you’re local or not, please help spread the word about this post and event using the social media buttons below.  So many people sell themselves short on their dreams because they think it’s unrealistic.  If we can work together to spread the word, we can help people realize that their dreams, their degree, and the life they want to achieve is completely within grasp.

And we can do it over a hamburger.

burger

 

 

 *This post, promoting a cause I fully love and support regardless of funding, has been compensated by the Pittsburgh Promise*

Buddhism and Finances Part 2

buddhism and finances

Last week we started exploring how Buddhism’s 8 Fold Path could help us on our way to resolving financial difficulties.  This post picks up where we left off.  To catch up on what you missed, click here.

4. Right Speech

While the term is “right speech,” a better term may be “right communication.”  This includes talking, of course, but in our modern day world of tweets and blogs and email, it includes the written word more than ever.  Right speech means using our communication to help and lift up as opposed to lying, gossiping, purposefully using ambiguous language, or otherwise tearing others down with our words.

Especially for my readers who are bloggers, how often do we see someone’s financial experiences and judge?  And then voice that judgement in a less than kind way?  How often do we tear each other down, whether directly or behind someone’s back?  Honestly, in the personal finance sphere I don’t see this happen a lot, but it does occur.  Referring back to the inaction of “Right Action,” there may be an immense amount of wisdom in that phrase our mother’s taught us: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

That’s not to say you should remain silent at all times.  As a wordsmith, find ways to express yourself that build others up.  A lot of times the people we see are doing good things; use your words let them know!

5. Right Livelihood

We could all use a buck in this world.  Many are willing to make their money doing whatever, as long as it pays well.  Buddhism says you should only pursue endeavors which will not harm the world.  Other categories include “neutral” and “helping.”

My apologies as I get on my high horse here.  Right after I talked about “Right Speech.”  I know that everyone has a different moral compass and different opinions on what is “good” and “bad.”  These examples just include what I consider to be good and…not so good morally.  You don’t have to agree with me.  Please just take them for what they are: examples.

I know a lot of people who have worked for fracking companies.  Some of them have left because of the huge moral dilemma it put them in, as they saw laws being broken and the environment being sold for a quick buck today rather than a healthy planet for generations.  Some of them didn’t care less, and are still there today.  Either way, they made mad bank when they were working for them.  My opinion:  I’m really proud of the people who left.

What we do at our 9-5 isn’t the only way we make money.  A lot of people have money in investments.  A lot of people have no idea what their investments are in.  Some of them are in companies that don’t really have the best ethical practices, making our planet a worse place not only for the environment, but for other human beings.  Again, my opinion:  a better option seems to be socially responsible investing, which can either make your livelihood (or future livelihood) neutral by removing all companies that participate in what you consider to be unethical practices, or helpful, by purposefully investing in companies (not usually charities) who are trying to do good across a whole spectrum of causes.

6. Right Effort

Right Effort is exerting yourself to cultivate wholesome habits, and making a concerted effort to rid yourself of the not-so-wholesome ones.  While Right Action is all about interacting with the world around you, Right Effort is more of a mental game.

Personal finance is, above all else, a mental game.  The steps to financial freedom are relatively simple:  pay off any debts (or don’t take them on,) live within your means, if you want to earn more, take steps to do so, and save, save, save.  As simple as that is, we’re emotional beings.  We want things.  We don’t always make the most mathematically sounds decisions.  But when we put in the effort to stop the bad habits, like eating out or racking up debt on consumer goods, we can overcome those emotions and do what will be better for us and our families in the long run.  When we put in the effort to start positive habits, like socking money away for saving and believing that we’re worth enough to negotiate over our salaries regardless of our gender, we will see even more positive results in our financial well-being, causes stress and suffering to ebb.

7.  Right Mindfulness

This is perhaps the hardest one for me to conquer.  I’m a worrier, and have trouble staying planted firmly in the present, which is what Right Mindfulness is all about.  Savoring every second that you have here and now, largely because of the impermanence of it all as we discussed in Right View.  If you know something good is not going to be here forever, love it as hard as you can today.

When we’re trying to overcome financial hardship, we may worry, or we may become workaholics, stressing over our workload even when we’re physically removed from it. Working to pay off debt or get your financial house in order is a good thing, but when it causes us to not be able to enjoy the relationships and experiences that are happening today, we have to ask ourselves:  what are we working for?  When tomorrow comes and you’ve reached your goal, there will be another one waiting on the horizon.  If we don’t train ourselves to enjoy the journey and be grateful for what we have today, we may disallow ourselves from escaping that stress and suffering.

8.  Right Concentration

This one is usually associated with meditation, or a mental culture.  The idea is to cultivate your mind to only have wholesome, positive thoughts.  Many people meditate to “center” themselves.  I’ll take the analogy from here since I don’t know that the more in-depth four Jhanas of Right Concentration apply directly to our money, though they undoubtedly apply to our lives.

With money, as all things in life, we need balance.  We should work hard, but no to obsession.  We should save, but no so that we become misers. We should enjoy the moment, but not so frivolously that we endanger our ability to provide for ourselves and those we love in the future.  When it comes to your finances, center yourself.

All eight folds are meant to work in tandem, not as steps or independent of each other.  Even the meditation of Right Concentration can be used to center our whole selves, helping us achieve that Right Mindfulness, Right Intention, and all of the other folds.

Being a Whole Person: The Mom Con Giveaway

MomConBloggerImage

I love my kids.  Really I do.  They changed my life, the orientation of my focus.  They challenge me to be a better person.  They light up my life in ways I could have never imagined.

But they drain me, too.  I get lost in my own crankiness, sleep deprivation, and piles of laundry.  When I’m feeling down about the endless toils of motherhood, I’m not the greatest mom, wife or human being.  To help combat this feeling of drowning in a sea of everyone else’s needs, I try to make time to take care of me.  I still have hopes and dreams for myself.  I still have individual goals.  I still have talents that don’t involve filling sippy cups and changing diapers.  I do those things because I love my kids.  But sometimes I need to get myself together and love me, too.

Apparently I’m not the only one.  On November 14th and 15th, there will be a conference here in Pittsburgh specifically for people like me.  It’s called The Mom Con, and while the bond that unites those attending will be motherhood, the purpose is for all of us to get out and nurture those talents, those goals, those aspirations.

There will be a ton of top-notch speakers, including Helen Hanna Casey (president of Howard Hanna Real Estate,) Tedx veteran Britt Reints, and a slew of Pittsburgh area bloggers and network founders that I hold in high esteem.  While many of the talks with focus on the obstacles working mothers face, others will be applicable to those who stay-at-home, too.  Finding happiness, reducing stress and anxiety…there will even be a financial speaker to nurture your PF nerdiness.

While the talks and lunch and swag on Saturday will be amazing, Friday night will be a blast, too!  Drinks, appetizers and networking will be just some of the things happening at the kick-off party on the 14th.  Both events will be happening at the Pittsburgh Marriott North.

I’m really happy to be able to giveaway a ticket to the Saturday event to one of my lucky readers.  If you want to join us for a day of bonding and inspiration, use the rafflecopter below to secure your entries!  Best of luck!!!

(Please note that if you win you will be added to The Mom Con mailing list. This is to ensure you have all the most up to date information on what will be happening the day of.  It’s not spammy.  I signed up months ago and have received one email.)

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My Debt Story (or Lack Thereof)

It happened in the wee hours of the morning at an Eat’n’Park, the restaurant all Pittsburgh teenagers find themselves at one point or another.  I was going through a phase where I didn’t carry a purse.  They were a pain to tote around, and I had heard something about them making you more susceptible to getting held-up.  I thought everything I learned in those years was doctrine.

We sat down and started looking at the menu.  I reached into my hoodie pocket to see how much money I had.  Bad news:  I had nothing. {Read the rest of this post on Red Debted Stepchild…}

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