I’ll be the first person to tell you that you should save money. If we go shopping together, I’ll probably try to talk you out of buying a few items with phrases such as “Yeah but do you REALLY need it?” or “Don’t you already have a pair of black winter boots?”

I do this in pretty much every aspect of my life. Growing up with a scarcity mindset has caused much of this. You know, the whole idea that there just isn’t enough to go around.

It wasn’t really anyone’s fault—a lot of people think like this. Myself definitely included.

But lately, I’ve been trying to quit. You know why? Because it doesn’t make me happy. Sometimes, opting to spend less is the wrong choice.

Some examples:

The Opportunity Cost Outweighs the Minor Expenditure

You spend 45 minutes debating on whether or not you should buy a $1 headband. Poor decision.

I literally did this a few weeks ago. My rationale was that I didn’t want to waste something if I wasn’t really going to use it, and I also couldn’t decide on a color. For all the time I wasted standing inside of Forever 21, I could have just bought a couple of them and gone and earned back that money somewhere else—my time is worth much more than $1/45mins!

You End Up Buying Really Crappy Things

Poor quality items and services will eventually eat up your time and cause you more hassle in the long run.

In the race to save a buck, it can get awfully easy to skimp on quality. Just buy that lamp that costs $10 less, and the cheap plastic might melt on you after about a year of use. Worth it? Probably not if you have to buy a new lamp every year.

You waste money and resources in the long term because you don’t just lose the lamp—you also lose the time it takes to dispose of the old one and go buy a new one.

You Don’t Buy the Things You Truly Want

Of course, I’m all for saving money when you’ll be just as happy taking part in a free event versus a paid event, or using a cotton t-shirt for a casual gym workout instead of buying the newest Nike shirt with sweat-wicking technology (because I prefer the feel of cotton while working out, and that’s fine by me).

Sometimes I’m most comfortable using things I feel like I can’t break or ruin. (That’s part of the reason why I got a used car with a couple of scratches and dents already on the thing—so there’d be less of a flinch factor as I’m driving my car.)

When spending money pays off substantially

I used to throw money into my interests like website creation—I bought my domain name, and hosting for my personal website (this one). At the time, I was a student without a regular income, so it was hard to front the money.

This simple experience of being able to play around with a website and all of the nuances that go along with setting one up has paid huge dividends in my professional life. I’ve been hired in freelance capacities to help small businesses work on their websites, and it’s been an asset in my day job where I can manipulate HTML and CSS to update our marketing materials as needed.

Essentially, I’ve made my initial investment back…and many times over.

Another way I’ve spent money and have seen an even larger return on investment is through purchasing books—I’ve made a rule for myself that if I have interest in a book and it’s available for Kindle, I will allow myself to buy it without thought if it’s under $20. This is a heuristic that has paid off for me because I spend little to no time debating with myself about whether or not it’s worth it (therefore not losing the opportunity cost of my time).

I expect that the most I would ever spend on books in any given year is about $500 max. That’s a very small investment given the insights I’ve gotten by reading them. I read several personal finance books one year and that has led me to be extremely automated in the way I handle my finances, allowing me to save, invest, and spend pretty much guilt-free.

The key for me is to identify what I believe to be good investments (hint: these usually involve learning or paying to experience a process) so that I’m not wasting my time trying to decide whether it’s right for me.

Secondly, I sometimes need to force myself to spend the money when my logical mind is telling me it’s a good idea. Emotionally, sometimes I’m too conflicted.

So there’s today’s lesson. Spend more money on yourself. The likelihood of it paying off (as long as you have reasonably good judgment) is huge.

This is just a quick reminder to myself and anyone else out there who is reading this to eat healthy. The food you put into your body probably has the single largest effect on how long you live, and the quality of your life.

morning_oatmeal

Pictured above is the oatmeal I make every weekend morning (when I have the time to sit down and make myself a proper breakfast). This batch includes old fashioned oatmeal (cooked for about 15mins on the stove), cinnamon, fresh blueberries, and apple chunks.

From the reading I’ve done, and even my own body’s reaction to food–if I eat too much I feel terrible. Limiting your caloric intake is apparently conducive to fighting off cancers, and other plagues to your body.

fresh_salad

Sometimes I’ll do a quick salad like in the above picture. I threw in tomatoes, green leaf lettuce, blueberries, apples, avocados, and carrots. I dressed it with some lemon juice to keep the fruit from browning, and for some added taste. I find that if I go too long without eating something fresh, I’ll often feel sluggish.

I’m no saint when it comes to eating healthy food. I’ll admit, I love my chocolate and pastries are a godsend. For me, the main thing has always been to eat as much healthy fresh food as possible so that I’m satiated when the temptation for delicious sweets comes along. As you can see below, I had to literally stock up on fresh stuff at work so that I didn’t stuff my face with cookies later.

colorful_produce

I’m pretty proud of myself on this selection of produce…today I ate the whole rainbow (red cherry tomatoes, an orange, a yellow banana, green avocado, and purple grapes). I was missing blue, so I came home and ate some blueberries and my rainbow was complete. :)

Lake Fenwick

The picture above is from Lake Fenwick. We spent an afternoon at this lake, just enjoying the autumn scenery. The day was perfect because the sky was clear, and the air was crisp, so a bit of hiking didn’t feel uncomfortably warm. The views were breathtaking.

If you ask me what I like to do, I would definitely say that long walks in nature are on the top of my list. Being in nature is so different from spending time at the mall–the former rejuvenates your thoughts and your soul, while the latter only serves to take away from your willpower and makes you tired.

I really think we’re meant to be out in nature much more often than we are. In 2014, I’m going to make it a point to be outdoors more because I can tell that it makes a difference in lowering my stress levels.

What are your thoughts? Do you feel happier after a walk in nature?

aerial_yogaConfidence is so important in the workplace. Without it, your work will be questioned, and so will your competency.

1. Practice Your Craft

This goes without saying, but we really need to get this out of the way. When I was much younger, I believed that if you were a confident person you’d be instantly taken seriously. Not true. People can see right through a cocky exterior if the message you’re sending doesn’t seem credible. If you’re spewing crap, sooner or later someone will catch on.

So, the solution to that is to constantly be practicing and working on refining your craft, whatever it may be. Lately, I’ve been practicing my writing skills (in the form of communication to partners, and just writing at every chance I can).

In the research I’ve done, writing is actually one of the most valuable skills to have. When you’re not there to speak up for yourself, the messages you send in written form will be there to do the talking for you–you need to make sure you’re capable of professional language and getting your message across clearly and concisely. People don’t have unlimited time to be spending on your words. Quick and to the point is exactly what you should be aiming for.

2. Get Down to the Specifics

Instead of saying something like “I think what we did should have affected us positively…”, say “We implemented the process two weeks ago. I’ve taken a look at the data, and it suggests that we’re trending to be more profitable this month based on a 4% higher conversion rate.” Between the two scenarios of ways you could approach presenting the information, one seems tentative and unsure, and the other proves you did your homework.

This approach will help you by leaps and bounds. You’ll not only state your assumption and recommendation, but also back it up with relevant statistics. Because of this approach, I’ve become a bit of a data junkie–so nerdy, I know.

3. Speak in an Even, Controlled Tone

The cadence by which you speak has a large effect on the way people perceive you. If you sound flighty and nervous, but what you’re saying is solid, people will still undervalue you and not fully trust what you are saying. If you are speaking to a group and can compose yourself enough to speak slowly and evenly, you can absolutely gain the ears of upper management.

To get good at this, people sometimes use public speaking courses/clubs like Toastmasters. I’ve never personally joined a Toastmasters, but have been thinking about it for some time.

Alternatively, you could just do it more. Purposefully place yourself in situations where you’ll have to talk a little bit in front of people. Volunteer a story when you’re hanging out with your social circle. Say something of importance or try to prove a point during a work meeting. All of these are opportunities to learn and grow. Take them now, and they’ll slowly snowball into a habit where you feel comfortable presenting information to people confidently.

Either way, best of luck in your journey to becoming more confident. If you have any other tips to share with me that have helped you become more successfully confident, let me know in the comments below.

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The picture above is of me trying out an aerial yoga class. We did some pretty cool and challenging moves that day!

REI Stoke 19A couple of months ago I visited the flagship REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc) in Seattle for the first time. It’s a great store that sells gear like backpacks, cycling accessories, and just anything you’d need to visit the great outdoors in style and comfort.

I was searching for the perfect backpack.

When I was a child, I curiously wondered what it would be like to travel urban and rural streets, or even venturing into nature with nothing but a backpack. I can’t tell you how many lazy afternoons I spent staring out from behind our screen door, hoping to take a journey but knowing that it was too risky to do so at a young age.

Enter REI and their vast selection of backpacks.

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