We are on the final leg of the grandparent’s 2019 tour. First Jordan’s parents came out to London for 5 weeks and now my mom is at the tail end of her 10 day stay. Luckily, we really like our family.

As my mom and I were out and about earlier this week, we stopped into a cafe for an early lunch. There was only one other duo dining in the restaurant and I have a horrible habit of eavesdropping. The newly retired woman was dropping gems of wisdom, my favorite of which was, “stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. Bring them down to your level. It’s cheaper.” (a quick google and I found that it’s actually by author Quentin Crisp).

When Jordan and I moved to London five years ago, I was struggling with massive student loan debt. To make matters worse, I was having a terrible time finding a job and this city isn’t known for being inexpensive. Meeting new people and getting to see a new city initially left us feeling very stretched financially. We didn’t want to become shut-ins, but we couldn’t keep going at our current rate.

So, we came up with a new plan: 40 in 40.

40 activities in 40 days over the summer. The catch? We were heavily biased to free activities and we put a spending limit of £10 per person (roughly $14 pp). I honestly think this summer of fun completely changed how we spend our money. Rather than focus on lack, we focused on filling our days with high-value, low-cost activities.

We went lawn bowling, rang church bells (deceptively difficult), went stand up paddle boarding in the Thames (not recommended), had a 4 am pint at a pub (it was open for people working at the market), watched the sunset from the top of Primrose Hill, and more.

Sometimes it was just the two of us doing these activities. Other times we had new friends join in, bringing the Joneses down to our level. (I swear they enjoyed it).

Aside from being fun, this exercise helped solidify one of my money mantras, “It’s easier to add than to subtract.” I originally heard this related to food — if you fill up on healthy things you won’t have an appetite for the less than healthy items. But to me, I really see this as a money (and life) lesson. Rather than focusing on what I can’t spend money on, I should focus on filling up my life with high quality, low-cost adventures.

While this isn’t going to fix all financial situations, this has created one of my healthiest mindsets around money and helped me dig my way out of debt.

Speaking of that debt…in this week’s podcast, Jordan and I talked about this strategy and more, with the six lessons we learned from paying off six figures of student loan debt. If you’re struggling with debt or living in that paycheck to paycheck cycle, this one might be for you.

And, if you’re in a relationship where your earnings are anything but balanced, you also might want to give this a listen. We talk about what it was like for Jordan to marry into my debt, how disconnected we were about money, and how we finally figured things out

Make Me Smart

smart-ish reads from around the internet

What’s the best money you’ve ever spent? This author spent $5,929.10 moving back home to the midwest, and it was her best spend. I appreciate her budget breakdown as well as her candor about what this move represented. I’m ready to pack my bags.

I appreciated this article’s perspective on why we need to save money. Nothing is revolutionary (yes, we need to save money), but the tone is what makes all the difference. “One of the most powerful ways to increase your savings isn’t to raise your income, but your humility.” I should’ve read this when I was 22.

How many do you know? Here’s a list of 15 things everyone needs to know about their money. When Jordan and I calculated #3 on this list, we realized that yes, we can make our move. And life is going to be just fine.


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Erica Gellerman, CPA

Erica Gellerman Bio The Worth Project

Erica Gellerman is a CPA, MBA, personal finance writer, and founder of The Worth Project: a weekly money newsletter you actually want to read. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Money, Business Insider, The Everygirl, The Everymom, and Lifehacker. When she’s not writing about personal finance you can find Erica exploring Europe from her temporary home base in London.

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