There are plenty of articles on the subject of budgeting, living within your means, and how to have enough money to live comfortably. They all basically say the same things: Don’t spend more than you make; create a budget and stick to it; learn how to say “no”; and always save a portion of what you make.
All absolutely sound advice, which, when taken, can help you meet a large part of the challenge. These things keep coming up because they work.
But I want to come at this from another angle. I want to talk about where money actually comes from, and how to make sure that you’re putting yourself in a position to earn enough. If you are not earning enough, even with careful budgeting and sound financial habits, you will always hear the wolf panting at the door.
That’s my personal definition of prosperity: The wolf is very, very far away. There’s enough money for living comfortably, enough money for savings, and enough money to deal with those emergencies none of us anticipate but all of us experience.
So how do you make sure you make enough money?
1. Work your butt off. I hired a couple of teenagers recently to pull some weeds. One of them was the leader of the effort, and he brought a friend. I was working inside my office and had a view of the area they were working in. The leader worked the whole time; the other guy didn’t. He talked, he walked around, he texted. But I never saw him actually pull a weed. When it was time for me to pay them, I told the leader that I would pay him the full amount, but that I’d only pay the other guy half. (There were a few minutes where he was out of sight, and I gave him the benefit of the doubt.) I guarantee that the leader is going to grow up having enough, and the other guy—unless he truly wises up—is going to struggle. “Work is work,” I told him, giving him a copy of my book. “I only pay for work, not texting and talking and walking around.”
If you always work when you’re working, the people you’re working for will appreciate it and want you around. They will look for ways to make sure you’re happy and they will promote you. Work produces appreciation; appreciation produces monetary gain.
One note: Make sure you avoid working for jerks. Jerks are the exception, not the rule; most business owners are decent people who went into business to solve a problem. Jerks will not appreciate you when you work your butt off; decent people will.
2. Look for problems you can solve. People pay for other people to help them solve problems. Those with a fair amount of money are more than happy to pay someone to provide a service that they’d rather pay for than do themselves. Gardening, cleaning, plumbing, carpentry, sewing, babysitting, entertaining, cooking . . . these are just a few examples. When you’re starting out, don’t be afraid to take on whatever is needed; it will teach you a lot of lessons you can use to raise yourself up in the work world. You can even get so good at something that you can hire and manage others to do much of the work. Zillions of businesses have started up this way, and have continued to flourish for years.
3. Learn more to earn more. You’ll see this phrase at the top of this site. It is absolutely true. The more you learn, the more you will earn. Think of it this way: No one was born knowing how to build websites, or design technical components, or build a house. These are all skills that people learn. People with skills are in high demand. You could make a decent living providing them, if you learned enough to be able to charge for your expertise. Of course you have to enjoy doing that kind of work, which brings us to point #4.
4. “Do what you love” is really important. This phrase has become a cliche because it’s true. When you do something you love, you will get better and better at it. You will come up with solutions and new ways of approaching the work even while you’re taking a shower. You will look forward to going to work every day. Work won’t even feel much like work. You will still need to get a break here and there, to recharge your batteries and give you the perspective you need to figure out where you’re going and how to get there, but the work won’t be drudgery if you love it.
5. Put money in its proper place in your life. Money is a tool; it’s a way to keep score, so you know where the wolf is. But if money is the goal, things start to go wrong. The most rewarding life is one where the excitement of solving problems dominates your waking moments. Money is one of the positive results of this type of life. If money is the only focus of your life, you will never be satisfied.
6. Keep your eyes open for opportunities. If you are helping people, opportunities will spring up. Be open to new possibilities; don’t shy away from positive developments. If you are offered a promotion, take it. If someone offers you a position that feels like it will be a stretch, but you love the idea overall, take it. Of course, be careful of anything that sounds too good to be true. Those things usually are.
7. Think kindly of yourself. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen people walk away from opportunities or reject recognition because, deep down, they don’t think they’re worthy. It’s so sad. Listen to how you speak to yourself. Do you privately think you’re a “bottom of the heap” person who doesn’t deserve happiness? Do you think that you are not smart enough to be successful? Do you get angry at people who are more successful than you are? (If so, you are mentally making sure you’re not one of them.) Success doesn’t come from greediness; most success comes from helping others, and if that is what you’re doing, you have deserved the right to think kindly of yourself.
8. Take good care of what you have. If you do, you won’t have to buy more as often. My husband and I tend to keep our cars for twenty years or more, and when we finally pass them on, they are like new. It pays to take care of what you have; it helps you appreciate what your efforts have given you, and it makes you a more responsible person, which is always a good thing.
Money is a necessary part of our lives, so it has to be managed responsibly. It’s no fun to be caught short month after month. You definitely want to make enough so that the wolf is as far away from the door as possible.
All of this is achievable if you work your butt off and are constantly looking for ways to help others. This is the most rewarding kind of life to live, one that you will be able to look back on years from now with a smile on your face.