Love Your Life, Not Theirs (2016) looks at the pervasive issue of financial comparison, with a focus on personal values, informed spending and sustainable money habits. It encourages an authentic lifestyle, advocating for financial stability through debt-avoidance and saving for the future, rather than through striving to keep up with others’ expectations.
Introduction: Get on top of your money habits and start living life for yourself.
Table of Contents
- Introduction: Get on top of your money habits and start living life for yourself.
- Comparing yourself to others is the quickest way to financial ruin
- Lose the debt and live your life
- Use a budget to take control of your money
- Save seriously and you’re set for life
- Intelligent spending leads to effective saving
- About the Author
What comes to mind when you hear the word habit? Fingernail biting or excessive drinking, perhaps? Sure, there are plenty of bad habits out there, but there are also good and healthy ones. Getting up early and having a healthy breakfast. Turning off the phone at dinner time.
Put simply, a habit is just anything that you do regularly or predictably. To be in charge of your life is to not only be aware of your habits, but control them – get rid of the bad, and develop the good.
This brings us to possibly the most significant habit you can work on – your approach to money. Take a moment to think about your money habits, and the good or bad effects they have on your life. Maybe you always prefer to use cash. Are you an impulsive purchaser, or do you carefully discuss everything with your partner?
Breaking bad money habits and instilling good ones can be tricky, especially since it’s often hard to even realize the damage that’s being done. In this summary, you’ll learn some of the most common problems people have when dealing with money, and how to address them.
Whatever your current financial situation or past mistakes, it’s never too late to start working on the life you want. This isn’t a one-off get-rich-quick scheme, but rather some key skills that you can incorporate into your everyday life that will greatly improve your attitude to money, and the habits that you build around it. Think of it this way: “Practice doesn’t make perfect; practice makes permanent.”
With that in mind, let’s get started with the first healthy money habit. And it’s not what you’d expect.
Comparing yourself to others is the quickest way to financial ruin
Imagine returning from a fantastic holiday only to find your joy dampened by a friend’s seemingly superior vacation posted on Instagram. Suddenly, you’re filled with an urge to plot your next trip. But why?
Comparing ourselves to others is embedded in our culture – the social media rectangle in our pocket gives us a constant stream into the highlights of others’ lives. But financially speaking, this is a game you can never win. They are showing their best selves – more than that, they are showing a version of themselves that doesn’t even exist. It’s no wonder you’re left asking, “Am I good enough?” or considering a better car or a nicer holiday.
Such comparisons, and the bad financial decisions that often follow, ultimately stem from your own insecurities. You’re not going to change what other people do or post on social media, but you can refocus on your own blessings – and let go of other people’s #blessed.
The first step is to acknowledge that maybe your idea of your friends’ holiday, or marriage, or social life, isn’t accurate. You have no idea what’s really going on, what doesn’t make it to your feed. So stop worrying.
Having nice things isn’t the same as wealth. Someone who has a nice car might in fact be in huge debt. The flipside of this is having wealth doesn’t mean you have nice stuff. The truly wealthy aren’t buying things they don’t need.
Change your mindset. Cheer for others instead of competing. Your friend went on a nice holiday? Good for her! Your cousin got a promotion? That’s great! Separate their achievements from your self-worth. Don’t compare yourself to your parents either; their longer lifespan and different circumstances make such comparisons unfair.
Reflect on the word “deserve,” and what it means to you. Avoid justifying luxuries with “I work so hard, I deserve this.” The truth is, you don’t deserve anything you can’t afford. Work diligently, but reward yourself wisely if saving is your goal.
At the end of the day, the ultimate cure for comparative living is to simply be content. Embrace who you are, and what you have. Your two best friends here are gratitude and humility. If you are happy with what you have, and think of yourself less often, your spending habits will flourish.
With that habit under your belt, it’s time to tackle one of the biggest obstacles to financial success: Debt.
Lose the debt and live your life
We’ve all been there. There’s something just out of our budget, that we really really need. Be it a new couch, a sleek new phone or a car, it’s tempting to take out a loan, initiate a downpayment and walk away with your coveted item – confident that you’ll pay it off later.
Welcome to debt, that formidable four-letter word. Whether it’s a car payment or a student loan, if you owe anyone anything, for any reason, you’re in debt. While it may seem like a convenient solution to an immediate need, it takes both a financial and emotional toll, affecting your work, spending habits and lifestyle.
Two misconceptions often trap people in debt. First is the idea that there is “good” debt and “bad” debt. Regardless of how you got into it, all debt affects your life in the same way. The second faulty assumption is the idea that debt isn’t really a big deal. In fact, a casual acceptance and reliance on debt can be very destructive.
If you’re in debt, don’t feel bad or guilty. Society normalizes debt, and it often starts working its way into your life at a young age, before financial maturity. But it’s never too late to do something about it. First off, you need to get rid of that credit card.
Despite widespread usage, the average household is burdened with about $15,000 in credit card debt. Just because something is normal, doesn’t mean it’s good. Don’t be fooled by “perks” such as frequent flier points; they often remain unclaimed, serving as lures to keep you in debt.
What about emergencies? While it’s comforting to have options, using a credit card for unexpected expenses isn’t ideal. Emergencies do happen, so set aside some cash for situations like this. Start saving today for that exact purpose, and an emergency won’t be followed by the stress of additional debt.
What if – like most people – you already have a huge student loan? It’s tough, but you need to pay that off as quickly as possible. Increase payments when you can. Treat it like an unwanted ex, who you need to kick out as soon as you can. The same goes for any other debt you’re already in. Start a “debt avalanche” – focus on paying off your largest debt, then when that’s done, put that same amount into the next biggest, and so on. It will disappear with a satisfying exponentiality.
Getting out and staying out of debt is one of the most important financial decisions you can make to take control of your life.
Use a budget to take control of your money
Imagine being on holiday with unlimited money, and the freedom to spend it on whatever you want. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Undeniably, spending money is fun – but the concept of budgeting dampens that joy.
Think of your budget like organizing a messy closet. Organizing your finances gives you clarity on what to allocate where, and what to eliminate. It’s part of the freedom and responsibility of growing up – just like keeping your living space tidy.
This doesn’t mean always denying your desires. Instead, recognize that sometimes your wants and desires can exceed your means. Ever wonder where all your money went? A budget can prevent that, but you need to be honest with yourself.
Learn to say no to unplanned purchases – whether it’s an enticing ice cream, a nice pair of shoes or an adorable onesie for your child. If this feels restrictive, then change your perspective. Instead of a budget being a set of limitations, think of it instead as a guide for what you can spend money on.
It’s not just a joyless rationing of money for bills and other necessities. It’s a plan to spend money in alignment with your goals. It’s about acting with intent and having control of your money.
So, how should you plan your budget?
Approach it as you would plan for a marathon. Everything needs to be mapped out in advance – training, rest and run days. You need to decide where you are allocating your money. Create a new budget before the start of each new month. The goal is to be proactive, not reactive.
Record your budget – on paper or digitally. Allocate an amount for giving, saving and spending. When these categories reach zero, then that’s it for the month. The spending category takes the most consideration. Realistically estimate essentials like food, rent, clothes and transportations, then with what’s left over take into account secondary priorities, like insurance, entertainment and other miscellaneous expenses. And of course, don’t forget debt repayment.
The beauty lies in the flexibility and freedom of choice. Saving for some golf clubs? Lower your grocery budget, and put a bit into savings. Hosting a dinner party? Allocate more to food. Your budget, money and life are in your hands..
In the next section, we’ll have a look at one of the budget’s trickiest components: Saving.
Save seriously and you’re set for life
Life is full of surprises. While good surprises are welcome, you need to anticipate and prepare for the bad. A car crash? Dental emergency? Global pandemic? Savings won’t prevent these, but they give you options when such events occur.
Priority number one: the emergency fund. If you don’t have one, start immediately. Begin with $1,000, which, in a crisis, can be the difference between immediate resolution or long-term debt. Eventually you’ll want to have three to six months’ worth of total expenses in savings. The weight this will take off your shoulders is priceless. Remember, it’s insurance, not investment, so keep it separate from other savings.
Next, start saving for predictable stage-of-life events – major future expenses. Here are a couple of the main ones:
Purchasing a car is a common goal. As we’ve learned, you want to avoid any kind of debt, including loans for a car. So instead of paying $500 a month on an expensive but depreciating vehicle, save $500 monthly until you can afford to buy a reasonably priced and practical one.
The next big life event to save for is retirement. It’s easy to neglect, because honestly, we all think we’ll stay young forever. With a strong, debt-free foundation, you should start putting 15% of your income into a high-interest, low-tax retirement fund. This can be complicated, so it’s best to consult an expert.
Another milestone is your kids’ college. To prevent burdening them with loans, start saving early. There are many other life events – weddings, expanding the family, saving for big trips. Whatever it is, start the saving habit as early as possible.
Perhaps the single most significant life purchase is buying a house. Due to the ever-increasing value of real estate, this is also an investment. Ideally, buy a house with 100 percent down payment. This may seem ambitious, but if you find ways to save early enough, it’s not impossible. If you do have to take out a mortgage, do your research. Ensure it’s benefiting you, not the bank. A good mortgage would be a fifteen-year loan, at least 10% downpayment, and the monthly installments no more than 25% of your income. If you’re paying too much your emergency savings and other milestones may suffer.
It all comes down to planning, understanding and a little bit of patience. Start saving smart today.
Intelligent spending leads to effective saving
Picture this – you’re in a kitchen store, considering two different sets of fancy pots and pans. How on earth can you decide which to get? You’re missing a better third option – not buying them at all, and saving that money. This is one of the most important financial habits you can cultivate – thinking before you spend.
Now, there’s no inherent harm in spending money. The problems come when you start spending like you’re rich. This is an easy trap to fall into – we are constantly bombarded with images of happy, wealthy people, so we’re sucked into a lifestyle we can’t afford. The line between need and want becomes increasingly blurred.
Take grocery shopping as an example. How do you stop this necessary activity from turning into a black hole in your pocket? Firstly, make a list, and stick to it. Decide what you’re buying while you’re still at home and you won’t be as tempted to make impulsive financial decisions. While making your list, also plan your meals for the week. Shopping less and buying in bulk will go a long way to staying within budget.
What about eating out? It’s not necessary to remove this luxury entirely from your life, but be smart. Don’t do it every night. Consider just getting water instead of a bottle of wine. If the portions are big, maybe you can share a meal. There are always ways to save.
But be careful not to “save” your way to an empty bank account. Even if something is $25 off, if you weren’t already going to buy it, then it is still an unnecessary expense. Beware of online shopping – turning the buying process into a simple click can remove you from the reality of your spending. Even little things like $0.99 phone apps add up.
It gets a bit complicated if you have kids. Remember, you are in charge of what you spend on them – don’t get sucked into buying them unnecessary things to make them happy. They will learn their money habits from you, so set a good example. This also counts for Christmases and birthdays. Your two-year-old doesn’t know how much the balloons cost – do you really need the fancy ones? You can budget for presents over the year, so you don’t have to go into debt every December.
Whatever you’re spending, remember: You are in control. Pay attention, be responsible, and save, save, save.
The habits you form around money can mean the difference between a life of comfort and financial security, or crippling debt and lifelong stress. It’s up to you to choose which habits you cultivate, and which you work to break.
It all starts by living your own life, for yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others and you’ll have fewer reasons to spend outside your means. This makes it easier to stay out of debt – a thing you should avoid at all costs, no pun intended.
When you start saving money, make a plan for it. Budget accordingly, and set something aside for emergencies, as well as key life events. Your future self will thank you.
Finally, spend responsibly. Avoid unnecessary temptations, plan ahead and don’t buy anything just because it’s on sale.
With your finances secure, you can get on with enjoying life. Your life.
About the Author
Money, Investments, Mindfulness, Happiness, Personal Development
“Love Your Life, Not Theirs: 7 Money Habits for Living the Life You Want” by Rachel Cruze is a personal finance book that provides practical advice and strategies for individuals looking to take control of their finances and live a life aligned with their values and goals. The book addresses the common pitfalls of comparison and consumerism that often lead people to make poor financial decisions and offers a step-by-step guide to building healthy money habits.
Rachel Cruze, a financial expert and daughter of renowned personal finance guru Dave Ramsey, shares her own personal experiences and provides relatable anecdotes throughout the book. She emphasizes the importance of avoiding the comparison trap and focusing on one’s own financial situation, regardless of what others may have or do. Cruze guides readers through seven key money habits that can transform their financial lives:
- Quit the comparisons: The book encourages readers to stop comparing themselves to others and to define their own financial goals and priorities. It emphasizes the significance of contentment and gratitude as the foundation for financial success.
- Steer clear of debt: Cruze highlights the detrimental impact of debt on one’s financial well-being and provides practical strategies for getting out of debt and staying debt-free. She emphasizes the importance of budgeting, saving, and living within one’s means.
- Make a plan for your money: The book advocates for the creation of a budget that aligns with one’s financial goals and values. Cruze guides readers through the process of budgeting, offering tips on tracking expenses, setting financial goals, and saving for the future.
- Save like you mean it: Cruze emphasizes the importance of saving money and building an emergency fund. She provides insights into different saving strategies and highlights the benefits of delayed gratification and smart spending.
- Think before you spend: The book encourages readers to think critically before making financial decisions. Cruze provides practical advice on distinguishing between needs and wants, avoiding impulsive purchases, and making intentional choices aligned with long-term goals.
- Give a little… until you can give a lot: Cruze emphasizes the significance of generosity and giving back. She shares the positive impact of charitable acts on personal fulfillment and encourages readers to incorporate giving into their financial plans, regardless of their income level.
- Lead a life you love: In the final chapter, Cruze reminds readers of the importance of aligning financial decisions with personal values and aspirations. She encourages readers to pursue a life they love, free from the burden of comparison and debt, and to focus on long-term happiness and fulfillment.
“Love Your Life, Not Theirs” offers a refreshing and practical approach to personal finance. Rachel Cruze’s writing style is engaging and relatable, making complex financial concepts accessible to readers of all backgrounds. The book’s emphasis on the dangers of comparison and the importance of contentment sets it apart from other personal finance guides.
Cruze’s seven money habits provide a clear roadmap for readers to take control of their finances. The step-by-step approach, supported by real-life examples and actionable tips, ensures that readers can implement the advice effectively. The book strikes a balance between motivational anecdotes and practical strategies, making it an engaging read while also providing tangible solutions to common financial challenges.
One of the book’s strengths is its focus on the psychological and emotional aspects of personal finance. Cruze recognizes that financial decisions are often driven by psychological factors such as societal pressure and the desire for status. By addressing these underlying issues, she helps readers develop a healthier relationship with money and make more intentional choices.
While the book primarily focuses on individual finance, it also emphasizes the importance of giving and generosity. This broader perspective adds depth to the content and encourages readers to consider the impact of their financial decisions on others.
However, some readers might find the book’s content familiar, especially if they are already well-versed in personal finance literature. The book also leans heavily on anecdotes, which, while relatable, may not resonate with every reader.
Overall, “Love Your Life, Not Theirs” is a valuable resource for individuals seeking to improve their financial well-being and find contentment in their personal lives. Rachel Cruze’s practical advice, combined with her personal experiences, makes this book an insightful and motivating read. Whether you are struggling with debt, wanting to save more, or simply seeking a fresh perspective on personal finance, this book offers guidance and inspiration to help you live the life you truly want.