How to Spend Less and Still Live an Abundant Life

abundance berries blueberries close up

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The problem with frugality is that it seems to go hand in hand with a feeling of scarcity. When I was paying down my debt, it certainly felt like I was fighting for every last scrap. And even after my debt had been paid, I looked at my paltry bank account and still felt fear. After I had saved some more, I wondered, when would I ever feel like I have enough? What is the exact number?

I tried to answer this question by reading books. As if there was some set value that was scientifically proven to make anyone say “aha! I’ve made it!” But of course there’s not. There are billionaires who want more. There are people who have nothing who want for nothing.

I read a story on Quora about an elderly woman who was about to be shown her new room in a retirement center. The woman said she loved her new room. Confused, the attendant pointed out that she hadn’t even seen the room yet. But the woman said, I know I love it because she had already decided to love it. It didn’t really matter what the room looked like. As she reasoned, happiness was a choice. And she was choosing it before she knew about the circumstances.

I think its’ the same with abundance. You can’t pick a number and say, that’s when I’ll feel the abundance. Because you will find that you will reach that amount (hopefully you’ll reach that amount) and your feelings won’t change. You think the external circumstances affect how you feel inside. But it’s not the money that changes your feelings. It’s you. You make the feeling. You make the decision. Abundance comes from within. Feeling abundance is a choice that we make for ourselves every day, every minute.

Creating a Mindset

The book, The Secret was a best-selling self-help book based on the ‘law of attraction,’ which claims that thoughts can change the world directly.

So yes, to the extent that The Secret causes you to believe that if you imagine wining the lottery, you may actually win the lottery, The Secret, is total crap. Still, research and some common sense consistently show that your thoughts are incredibly powerful in changing your life.

Harvard research shows that, in certain instances, just thinking about doing something can give nearly the same benefits as doing the activity. And it should come as common sense that if you enter an interview thinking you’ll do great and that the interviewer wants you to succeed, that you’ll likely do better than if you think you’ll bomb the interview and that HR is out to get you.

In my previous post, I already discussed how the feeling of abundance is a choice. But what happens after you decide that you want to feel abundant? How do you actually get the feeling?

The nuts and bolts of feeling abundant even when you have to live frugally is to reframe how you view your life.


Be grateful for what you have.

When I think of abundance, I think of a bowl full of cherries, because I read an article about abundance that had a picture of a bowl of cherries. When you think of abundance, it’s probably about health, social connections, money and peace. And I hope you have all or a mix of those things. But even if you lack in some areas, it helps to focus on what you do have. Think about what blessings you have. Think about if you have shelter, food, a job. Think about your friends, your family, people who’ve been nice to you throughout your life.

I watched a documentary recently, Kindness is Contagious, and throughout the movie, people would describe a time when someone was kind to them. Some were truly amazing and miraculous and some were silly. But if we all thought about our lives, we could come up with a few anecdotes about people who were nice to us. Be grateful and focus on these things. It’s hard not to feel abundance when you frame your life as one filled with amazing blessings.

Reframe frugality as curation.



Too often, frugality is framed as denial. You can’t get a new pair of shoes because you don’t have the funds.

Well what if you thought of yourself, instead of a miserable frugal person, as a fancy museum curator. Pretend you work for the Louvre and there are no shortage of painters/shoes who want your attention. But you don’t have nearly enough space for all of those vying and you can only take the very best. You want to be right so you can wait to take your time until you have the right funds. It’s not that you’re broke, it’s that you’re picky.

Imagine you meet a guy with 7 Hyundais and another one with a Tesla. 7 Hyundais cost more than a Tesla. But do you think Hyundai guy is rich? No you think he’s weird. Why would one person own so many cars. This guy hasn’t properly curated his life. You don’t want to be like that. It’s quite a privilege to enter your home so you make sure everything is finely chosen.

Every day, you make the choice to live feeling deprived or feeling abundant. And though I don’t believe in The Secret, I believe that feeling abundant will lead to abundance, even if only in your head. But maybe that’s enough.

So now you’ve decided to feel abundant, you have the right mindset, but you still have all this STUFF and nothing to wear.

I’ve heard the criticisms over Marie Kondo and minimalism- that these concepts are only for the rich. While it’s true to some extent that most people can’t live on very little without some degree of privilege, it’s a straw man. Neither one of these clutter gurus say you have to live on very little. It’s more that you should get rid of whatever is unnecessary and whatever is actively bad for you.

So I had a letterman jacket in high school, but to my great shame, I never lettered in anything. I never wore it because it looked odd without the letter. It was very expensive and it represented to me all the failures of my high school life. It’s not like I could ever wear the jacket even if I had lettered. Who wears a letterman jacket outside of high school? And I couldn’t sell it because it had my name embroidered on it. And I kept the jacket in my closet, where I would look at it everyday and feel the shame. (It’s kinda funny how stupid your high school problems seem when you’re older but then again, the shame and fear are still very real.) I could hear the voices that said “you’re not good enough” every time I saw this jacket.

So one day, I just threw it away. I felt like a huge burden had been lifted off my shoulders and mind.

Part of me thought that having things that made me feel shameful were good for me. Maybe it would remind me of when I didn’t work hard enough and make me work harder in the future. But all it did was cast a shadow on my day, every day. It just sucked my energy and provided nothing good. It was better gone. I realize that now.

And I guess you could say, well you had a jacket so you could get rid of that jacket. What if that’s your only jacket? Well, I guess if you had very strong negative feelings towards your only jacket, you could try swapping it with someone else for their jacket. Or put money in a fund to get rid of this jacket. Or worse to worse, try to change your relationship with your jacket. And I realize that sounds pretty stupid to have a relationship with your products, but it makes it much easier to change the relationship because the jacket can’t talk back.

Or you could still just throw it out. If you cannot stand the jacket, it might be worth it to be cold. You have to weigh the options there but hate is a strong word.

Marie Kondo’s tagline is everything in your house should “spark joy.” To me, I’ve turned her tagline around.

If it sparks joy, or is useful, then keep it.
If it sparks hurt or fear, and is not very useful then get rid of it.

So what does this all have to do with abundance? Well, I’ve been most successful at decluttering my closet. I have all my work clothes in one closet. When I wear something, I move it from one side of the closet to the other side. So how do I get dressed in the morning?

I pick something at random from the side of the closet that hasn’t been worn.

I don’t worry about it being something I hate, something that doesn’t fit, something that needs to be mended. I got rid of that stuff or I had it fixed. Though my closet has far fewer clothes, every thing I have is a winner.

It seems that even when we have a lot of something, we can feel like there isn’t enough. We have too many bad things clogging up our perception of what good things we have. If I had three times as many clothes, I might not have anything to wear because I would have to go through all these clothes to find something I like. If I had all these toxic friends, it might make it hard for me to realize who’s a good one. If I have all this clutter, I might not be able to find the precious things.

So I guess my advice on abundance is this: you have to choose it, you have to reframe your mindset to focus on gratitude and only bringing good stuff in, and you make sure to get rid of anything bad that would rob you of your abundance.

What things can you get rid of to make your life feel more abundant?

Giving

Counterintuitively, giving is a key part of feeling abundant. I’m currently reading The Broken Ladder and it starts off by saying that feeling poor can have debilitating effects whether or not you’re actually poor. And of course the problem with this is that numerically there is a limit on the number of people who can be poor. (Technically, this could be a large percentage depending on how you define it, but if we’re assuming that some people have to fall under “rich” and some people have to be “poor”, I guess we’d understand probably the bottom third to be poor). Technically anyone can “feel” poor even if they’re the richest person in the world, because feelings don’t have to be tethered to facts.

The way we feel poor is to look at people who have more. Thus, to feel rich, we should look at people who have less. Obviously, that sounds really condescending. I mean, don’t criticize those with less. I mean, give to those with less.

There’s a wealth of research that shows giving activates a part of the brain that is typically associated with rewards (food, sex, drugs, money). Giving has also been linked with better health outcomes, promotes social connectivity, and increased feelings of gratitude. It also just changes your worldview from inward facing to outward facing, increasing our humility and empathy. Better health, more connections, a decrease in pride and an in crease in gratitude would all seem to help decrease your feelings of relative poverty and increase your feelings of abundance.

But while it’s important to give, it’s also crucial that we be able to receive (or getting, as in, the name of this blog =D). Continue reading

The Secret to Getting Up Early

I come from an early morning family. Sleeping in on a weekend meant waking at 7am. On a typical weekday, I had to leave the house at 6:05am to get to school but I loved sleep so much that I slept until about 5:55 and spent every morning running down the driveway.

Surprisingly, it turns out that I’m a morning person. I can lay in bed languidly killing time, and when I finally look at my watch, sometimes it still says 5:40.

Though I find WAKING pretty easy, it makes no difference for productivity if you don’t actually get out of bed. I can see 5:40 on my watch and then stay in bed until 7:30. This is where I find the most difficulty. Sleep is wonderful. It’s hard to think of a reason to leave the beauty of sleep for what lies ahead of me in the day. I find, unsurprisingly, when my sleep life is better than my waking life, that I have a lot of trouble getting out of bed.

Continue reading

On Minimalism and Remembering What Really Matters

on minimalism and what really matters

What Happens When Stuff Takes Over Your Life

Outside the customs area of Detroit Metropolitan Airport, I saw a swarm of activity around a couple with a small child. It appears that they had left their passports on the plane (or at least that was the best case scenario). I have no idea what happens if you show up at U.S. Customs without your papers. I can only assume it’s not good. Maybe not terrible but definitely a huge hassle.

And I thought, ok this couple has a small child and traveling with a small child is difficult. But there are two of them and they could have tag-teamed with one person remembering the child and the other person remembering the passports. I’m sure they remembered the diaper bag and their luggage after all. But the most important things by a long margin are 1) remembering the baby and 2) remembering the passports. Third would be remembering money or a phone, but those things could be remedied after customs.

And I thought, they were probably distracted by the luggage. If they had only brought the baby and the passports, then there wouldn’t be a problem. The more things you have to remember, the more likely you are to forget something. Unfortunately for them, they forgot the most important thing. Really the only important thing. They were too distracted with things that could easily be replaced that they forgot the things that couldn’t be replaced.

How Minimalism Reminds You of What Really Matters

It reminded me of minimalism. If we stop and think about our lives, we can name a few things that are the most critical and the rest is nice, but it can be replaced. It’s the stuff that you run back into your burning house for (usually people, but certain items or documents make the cut as well). The rest of it is just stuff.

There’s nothing at all wrong with stuff. But we each have a different amount of stuff we can handle before we start to forget the most important thing. For me, it’s a pretty low number because I’m disorganized and easily overwhelmed. But I’m sure your house could be filled with stuff and it doesn’t bug you, you can still find everything and you are still properly prioritizing your life. And we should be wary even if we have very few things, that those few things aren’t distracting us from what really matters. Because there are travelers with tons of luggage who still get everything together and there are backpackers who can’t keep it all straight. As long as you have your passport and your baby, it doesn’t matter how much other stuff you have.

Why It’s Still Ok To Own Stuff

Minimalism isn’t about how much stuff you have but rather, recognizing the amount of stuff that we can handle without forgetting what’s most important. If we have too much stuff for us to handle and care for, or the stuff we have takes too much of our attention, then we may need to check ourselves.

What are your thoughts on minimalism?

The Two Cheap Products and 1 Free Action that Saved My Hair (and peek into my All-Natural Beauty Routine)

I’m a little obsessed with hair. I have naturally thick black hair, which I have dyed, at times, red, brown, purple, green, and blonde. Needless to say, my hair has been through the ringer.

My hair has been really dry and broken ever since bleaching it. I have read tons of blogs and magazine articles that advocated keratin treatments but no matter how many treatments I tried, my hair was brittle and dry. But after much trial and error, four things (3 products and 1 action) helped me fix my hair and they were, surprisingly, not the most expensive ones I tried.

1. Castor Oil
I learned from Reddit that hair needs a balance of moisture and protein. Only using keratin treatments made my hair drier and more brittle. There were a number of oils recommended for optimal moisture content but castor oil was the cheapest and most readily available. Once a week my hair soaked up a ton of castor oil and my hair steadily improved. After a few weeks, my hair didn’t look or feel as parched. It still wasn’t that soft yet though, which led to:

2. Mielle Organics White Peony Leave-in Conditioner

This product was invaluable for protecting my hair from the change in weather, from the sun and wind when I ride my bike or walk outside and just kept my hair safe and manageable while it was still healing with the castor oil.

4. Wearing my hair down

Even after my hair got much softer. I noticed that it was bent at the ends. I did some research online and discovered it might have to do with my hair elastics. Whenever I take a hair elastic out, it always takes a fair amount of hair with it. So I decided to wear my hair down for a few days and sure enough, the kinks in my hair disappeared.

Now this isn’t necessarily a forever situation – I will probably need to get hair elastics in the future. But for now I’m using more gentle barettes, hair claws or just leaving it down. I even wear it down when I go running – but it stays out of my face with a headband. It also gives my scalp a rest.

My Mostly Natural Beauty Routine

I’m one of those annoying people who will scrutinize ingredient labels on all my personal care products and eventually leave the store empty handed because nothing will match my expectations. Either that or if I find something with good ingredients, I’ll see the extravagant cost and just vow to buy the top two ingredients in their most natural form.

Now I’m not exactly a hippie. This is not my complete beauty routine – though it does represent a lot of it. I mean, I’m a blonde Asian, and my hair wasn’t bleached by any kind of natural process. But that doesn’t mean I should add to my toxic load. For me, it just makes sense to have the simplest products that I know will work without all sorts of other ingredients I don’t want. It’s also easier on the wallet. Plus, non-natural products can sometimes be filled with tons of ingredients, like silicones, that appear to make your hair healthier but are really wreaking havoc in the long run by creating a barrier to your skin and hair that prevents better ingredients from getting through.

So without further adieu, I’ve searched and found the following to be good, effective products, none costs more than $20 and they’ll last you a long time.

Skin

I don’t wash my face. I read a blogger write once that her face improved so much after she stopped washing it. So I stopped washing it and had the same result. I don’t work in a mine or some really filthy area so it’s fine. At the end of the day, I remove my makeup with coconut oil ($11) and take a cotton pad soaked in witch hazel ($2.5) and tea tree oil ($14) and remove any sweat or dirt from my face. For moisturizing my face, I alternate between Radha Argan Oil ($14) and Rosehip oil ($14).

I’ll do a weekly mask with Aztec Healing Clay ($9). I also like to do a little mini peel ($5) in the office when my skin needs a little pick me up. I know sheet masks are quite fashionable right now, so I bought a bulk order of cotton masks off eBay and I put some cocktail of oils and aloe vera gel ($9) and just zone out.

For the rest of my skin, I use grapeseed oil ($8) to keep it soft and moisturized. I will often just squirt some oil directly onto me and add it to my baths. In the summer, I use monoi oil ($15) on my legs to keep bugs away. It works as well as other bug repellants, doesn’t make me smell weird and also keeps my legs silky.

After taking some time in a sensory deprivation chamber, I’ve started paying more attention to keeping my hands in tip top condition (having little cuts on your hands and then going into a massive saltwater chamber is a new kind of pain). I’ve relied on old favorite, Burt’s Bees cuticle cream ($6). For a somewhat greasy hand lotion, I use lanolin oil. I just started this and more research may need to follow.

I find that I don’t really need deodorant but sometimes I like to use Schmidt’s rose deodorant ($10) because it smells good.

Hair

The fact that saved my hair was learning that my hair needs both moisture and protein in balance. And no matter how “moisturizing” a hair conditioner can say it is, it can actually be a major source of protein; thus, an oil may be the better way to go to get moisture without additional protein. A good, inexpensive oil that can really penetrate into your hair is castor oil ($9). Once or twice a week, or just when my hair is looking parched, I’ll pour castor oil into my hair (my hair just sucks it up) and let it sit for as long as I can stand – sometimes overnight. Then I wash it out with conditioner. Castor oil can also be applied to your lashes to make them grow or used in oil cleansing.

My hair can get really dry throughout the day, just being out in the sun or in the dry air of my office. I started using a leave-in conditioner from Mielle Organics ($13) and it makes my hair much more presentable throughout the day.  This is one of the only products on here with more than one ingredient but the ingredient list looked pretty good to me and it’s available at CVS.

Lips

The best beauty secret I have is pure lanolin($8)  for your lips. It’s super hydrating and I think makes them plump up over time. I also use a scrub made of kosher salt and olive oil to exfoliate.

What natural beauty products do you use?

This is the Secret to Being Healthy, Frugal and Happy

man wearing blue suit jacket beside woman with gray suit jacket

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It dawned on me recently that I had lost ten pounds and was keeping it off. My legs had never been so toned, my skin was glowing and I was BM-ing like a rock star.

And it wasn’t because I had amazing willpower. It wasn’t because I was forcing myself to eat iceberg lettuce or dragging myself to the gym. What was surprising about my transformation was not so much the transformation itself. I was rally surprised because I hadn’t been tormenting myself with terrible diets or 6am wake up calls. I hadn’t spent thousands on a skin care regimen. What was shocking about my transformation was how little sacrifice I had made.

My Simple Diet and Exercise Regiment

This is exactly what I do for eat and exercise:

Meal plan: I eat one meal a day, usually. I don’t have any restrictions on that meal. I can eat carbs, sugar, starches, dairy, whatever I fancy.

Exercise plan: I bike to work most days and go for a long run or bike ride on the weekends. This amounts to half an hour to an hour of cardio every day. Every now and then I lift weights or do body weight strength training exercises. And I foam roll and stretch every day.

The Secret?

So am I saying you should do these same things and will get the same results? NO!!! The secret to losing weight and getting toned aren’t what I do.

The secret is: I love this diet and exercise program.

I don’t eat this way or exercise this way in order to change the way I look. If these activities made me fatter, I would probably reduce them, but I would still try to find a way to keep doing what I’m doing. I look forward to them.

I mean, I generally have excellent self-control, just not for diets. I have only ever been on 2 diets and I quit both early. Gained back the weight. And you know why? Because people aren’t great at making themselves miserable. People hate telling themselves they can’t have what they want. And you know what? That’s ok!

It’s ok if you want to be happy. The secret isn’t to learn how to deal with misery. The secret is to find a way to get to your goal that you frickin’ are addicted to.

How You Can Use the Secret To Live a Healthier, Wealthier, Happier Life

So if you love binge eating, as I do, and hate restricting yourself from certain foods, maybe intermittent fasting is for you. Maybe it’s working out so much that you can eat as much as you like. Maybe it’s savoring your food. Maybe it’s going for a walk after you eat.

If there’s a healthy food you love, focus on incorporating more of those into your diet rather than what you “can’t” eat. So if you love apples, eat an apple before your biggest meal. If you love radishes, roast them, saute them, eat them raw with salt and pepper. Make the healthy thing you love the appetizer and it turns out, you’ll end up eating a delicious craveable healthy food and there will just be less room for the unhealthy.

The secret to being frugal is not to deny yourself everything but to concentrate spending on the things that you love. As an obvious first step, stop paying for stuff you hate. Stop paying for the gym if you hate going to the gym. Get rid of anything that’s only ok or that you just do on autopilot.

How to Focus on Happiness

And then focus your attention on things that you love. Focus on travel and then it becomes easier to stop shopping. Focus on seeing loved ones and you start bringing your lunch to work. Focus on getting your company off the ground and you will gladly cut cable.

Whatever it is, the secret to being happy and being healthy is to make it consistent. And to make it consistent, think about adding more pleasure instead of adding more pain.

The problem is not with you. It’s not that you lack willpower. It’s that you shouldn’t use willpower for everything.

What craveable healthy or frugal habits can you incorporate into your life?