Thomas Jackson

Treat money with respect. Don’t crumple it. Think of it as an ally and a force for good, not evil.

Your beliefs can affect your finances.

If you don’t believe it, check out the experiences of personal finance bloggers who started with nothing (or very little) and now have hundreds of thousands of dollars in investable assets.

Here’s how they did it on unremarkable salaries. The keys are consistency, self awareness and a little optimism. Or a lot of optimism.

Look on the sunny side

Mindset is everything, says Maggie Banks, 39, who runs a personal finance blog in Anchorage, Alaska, that details her path to financial independence.

When the couple started getting serious about financial goals in June 2015, they were making far less than $100,000 combined. They had $59,000 in investments and $90,000 left on their mortgage.

At the end of December, Banks and her husband had $324,000 and a zero mortgage balance.

Banks recommends optimism as a strategy to get yourself over the hump of those beginning low-balance days.

“The numbers don’t work out when you don’t make very much and aren’t saving very much,” Banks said. “When your balance is low, you have to just put in what you can to get to the point where you see a benefit of your savings.”

Don’t make the mistake of comparing yourself and your progress to others. “Finances are hard and personal,” Banks said. “That’s why it’s called personal finance.

“When I compare myself to myself last year, I know I can be better,” she added. “When I try to compare myself to others, it feels impossible.”

Just like in sports, your metric should be your own personal record.


Melanie Lockert addressed her debt anxiety and then set about paying down $80,000.

Source: Melanie Lockert

For a long time, though, she viewed money and her own finances through a negative lens. “I thought I would never be rich, I’d never make a lot of money and so I didn’t really care for it,” she said.

Then, Lockert, 35, changed her mindset. “It’s my No. 1 money mantra, treating money with respect,” she said. Instead of thinking of finance as this threatening enemy, she asked herself how she could get her money to work for her and help her in the future.

First was paying off her student debt. She stopped believing this was good debt that she had to live with for years. “I stopped resigning myself to thinking that everyone else is in debt and realized I had to do different things to get different results,” she said.

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Next, she began equating purchases with the work hours needed to buy them. “Happy hour might cost me two hours of work,” she said.

It was a “click” moment.

“That’s one of the most important things,” she said. “Using money to have experiences, live the life you want and to spend on your values.”

You’ve got this

Think about what you can do, not what you can’t, says Amy Blacklock, 51. She’s on track for financial independence well before age 60, though she started far later than the standard recommendation.

Amy Blacklock, 51, recommends focusing on what’s possible, not on what isn’t.

Source: Amy Blacklock

Blacklock and her husband, who live in metro Detroit, assumed they would need to work until their mid-60s. Then they discovered the FIRE movement (financial independence/retire early), which transformed their view of their spending and values.

Visualize your progress — whether days you met a goal or all the deposits you make — with a thermometer chart or spreadsheet. “Then you can look back and see five months ago you were at zero,” Blacklock said. “Now you’re at $25, which is better than zero.”

And stop saying “can’t.” Reaching $100,000 may seem like an impossible goal. Instead, choose a far, far smaller number, like saving $5 a week. “If it’s only $5 a month, that is OK,” Blacklock said. “You have to start somewhere.”

Disrupt the status quo

Like practically everyone, Jessica Byrne, 26, who lives near Albany, New York, used to buy lunch with coworkers, go to bars with her friends and stop by Starbucks for a raspberry mocha.

Jessica Byrne, 26, realized bringing lunch for a small savings of $5 a day would mean $18,000 in 10 years.

Jessica Byrne

Then she realized two things. Worrying what other people would think if she deviated from the so-called norm — whether by bringing lunch to work or drinking water at a bar — had been holding her back.

Second, if she saved just $5 a day she’d accumulate over $18,000 in 10 years.

Byrne starting sharing restaurant entrees with her boyfriend (savings: $15 to $20), making homemade lattes (savings: about $2.50 a day) and bringing lunch to work (savings: about $50 a week). Lunch alone saved her about $1,000 in one year.

These changes freed up her budget so she could spend money on things that turned out to be far more valuable: flights home to see family, hosting out-of-town friends and travel.

Perfection is not the goal

Whenever Pauline Yan, 42, doesn’t hit her savings goal, she reminds herself that saving $300 out of $400 is better than saving nothing at all.

Pauline Yan, 42, says managing your money starts with scouting your feelings.

Source: Pauline Yan

“At least I saved some of it,” said Yan, who lives in Toronto.

A former runner, she compares the better-than-nothing stance to something runners sometimes say: “‘I had a terrible run today,’ but at least you got the run in instead of sitting on the couch,” Yan said.

Yan believes in the power of a tiny habit that can builds up over time. You could, for instance, buy a jar of peanuts at the grocery store and keep it at work for a snack, she says. Over a few weeks, the savings of $1 to $3 is meaningful.

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