Small-town life may seem boring, but the reality is that you might be able to live larger. Lower living costs = more money to spend on life.

Like Dorothy and that rainbow, younger people often chase their dreams in the big cities. There’s much to see, do, and gain in major cities, but there can be downsides. Can a smaller city lead to a larger life?

Can a smaller city lead to a larger life?

Ditching small-town life.

That was the case for me. Having spent the first half of my childhood near a big city and the latter half in a small town in a land far, far away, I couldn’t wait to get far, far away myself!

As a young gay man, I thought I’d wind up in San Francisco –  with the Rice-A-Roni and all. But a friend of mine and I moved to Denver, Colorado in the late 90s instead. It wasn’t Philadelphia, PA, but it wasn’t Lebanon, PA, either. I was supposed to live here for two years, soak up the snowboarding, and then move onto “bigger and better” things.

But, I met a boy, and that’s a whole other story.

With about 549,000 people in Denver proper in 1999, Denver was big enough, but not too big. There was lots to do. Nightlife and dining scenes and all the great outdoors. It wasn’t yet expensive. Our first apartment cost less than $800 a month for about 1,000 square feet.

Denver has seen a population boom in the last decade, with a relatively consistent growth rate over 2%. That same 1,0000 square foot apartment now goes for about $1,800 a month. We’re no New York City, but the consequences of growth are evident.

A big city can mean empty pockets.

It is desirable to live in a city with half-a-dozen things to do all seven nights of the week with millions of people looking for the same; you may be surprised at how expensive it can be living in such cities. Here are the costs of living in premier locations, based on PayScale data:

  • New York – cost of living is 118% above average; housing is 341% above average
  • Los Angeles – cost of living is 32% above average; housing is 102% above average
  • San Francisco – cost of living is 63% above average; housing is 198% above average
  • Chicago – cost of living is 17% above average; housing is 38% above average
  • Seattle – cost of living is 24% above average; housing is 57% above average

All of those cities have a lot to offer, but at what cost?

More jobs are going to smaller cities.

With the combination with the dotcom bust, the 2008 housing crisis, and ever-increasing taxes in the above cities, more businesses are transferring some or all of their operations out of the bigger cities. This migration is called ex-urbanization.

Housing tends to be more affordable in second- and third-tier cities, like Denver, Salt Lake City, and Charlotte. Such cities offer a diverse pool of talent that isn’t isolated to bigger cities.

In many cases, the quality of life outside of work is appealing to many industries’ best and brightest. Denver and Salt Lake City offer skiing and snowboarding to give you your weekend adrenaline rush. Portland has amazing microbreweries to wind down your work week. Charlotte has a unique and vibrant foodie scene for those of us that love to love food. Richmond is a perfect place for runners and kayakers.

Businesses know that happy employees make for happy businesses. If employees have a high quality of life outside of work (and not just the Colorado kind), they’ll give their all at work.

Smaller cities allow for geographic arbitrage.

With the growing gig economy and online entrepreneurs, more people can now live and work from anywhere. One can charge big city prices and live on a little city budget. A virtual assistant who resides in Kansas City can charge a client who lives in Chicago Chicago-based fees. Or, they can offer competitive fees that a virtual assistant who resides in Chicago can’t.

Geographic arbitrage isn’t just a benefit for virtual assistants, virtually any online freelancing or IT job, and many contractors and consultants, can thrive off of charging big city prices with little city expenses.

If climbing the corporate ladder is more your style, get a job in a big city and then transfer within that company to a smaller city. Most companies will keep you at the same salary even though your cost of living will likely drop. I’ve seen many Denver friends leave for a few years and return, taking advantage of just this strategy.

Smaller cities can mean bigger pockets.

By and large, smaller cities come with lower living expenses. This is a big deal for things like saving money for retirement, owning your own home, and putting children through college. These financial goals are all easier to achieve with a lifetime of lower costs.

A personal, favorite perk of living in a smaller city, especially one centrally located in the country, is that we can quickly hop on a plane and get to any coast within less than five hours and many within three hours. So while I never moved to San Francisco, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been there because it’s cheap and easy to head that way.

Before you hop a jet plane over the rainbow to some major city far, far away, open your mind to second or third-tier cities elsewhere in the country. The costs may be more agreeable and open you up to a lifetime of bigger living. With transportation getting better and the internet making the world smaller, your opportunities may be greater.

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Yeah, it’s crazy to get up at 4:35 am. But it can work. You might be surprised at how much you can get down with just a couple extra hours in the morning.

Dear ‘The Early Bird Catches the Worm,’
The early worm gets eaten.
Sincerely, Sleeping In

My husband posted on Facebook the other day about some successes we’ve had recently. In posting his gratitude, he acknowledged that our rewards justified waking up at 4:35 a.m. most days of the week.

The point on which most people fixated was not the successes but his admission that we wake up so damn early.

You don’t need to wake up early to be successful. Legendary night owls include Leonardo Da Vinci and Bob Dylan.

For us, though, it works to wake up early. Someone asked why, on earth, we do this. So, here you go.

We’re in control of how our days start.

We began this hairy scary schedule when we were both employed by a W-2 and decided we wanted to start a business. Between the commute and the workday, we were always preoccupied from what we really wanted to do. The only way to squeeze more time into the day was to wake up early.

To be sure, we could’ve stayed up later, but by the time we were done with the bullshit of a day’s worth of work for someone else, we simply wanted a bottle of wine, dark chocolate, and Netflix. We don’t crave mimosas until 10 am, so even on weekends waking up at 4:35 gave us five and a half hours’ worth of work.

We’re in sync with New York City.

Both of our careers have been in financial service. We were both traders once and our personal business is personal finance. It’s not a big deal, but for us, we feel like we miss the day if we wake up two or three hours after the stock market does.

Plus, more than half the country is in the eastern time zone and it feels easier to sync up with them.

Idle hands and all.

Waking early means we have more work hours available to us because we have fewer play hours. Knowing that the alarm will go off early tomorrow ensures better decisions early tonight.

We typically eat less junk food and dessert at night. That way, we fall asleep more quickly and we won’t have a glass or two of wine.

On the flip side, we’re not above partying until the wee hours of the morning. When we did, though, we were less productive. Sticking with an early wake-up call helps us avoid the late-night bender.

We have time to take care of ourselves.

Now that our side gig became my main gig and my main man still works for The Man, we don’t wake up at 4:35 am anymore to work. We wake up at 4:30 am to workout.

Working out and staying in shape is important to us. Even just working one full-time job makes working out hard. Add to that more work and our brains can easily talk us out of hitting the gym.

Plus, see above our evening craving for wine, chocolate, and Netflix. Working out towards the end of the day would require a violation of physical law.

We have time to take care of our spirits.

We didn’t fully integrate this practice, too, until I quit my W-2 and we had more bandwidth. Until then, this was a weekend luxury. Now, this is a daily practice before the sun rises in most parts of the United States.

While we’re the most refreshed and rejuvenated, we do our morning ritual of meditation, journaling, and affirmations. Busting these out first thing in the morning ensures that we do them and we feel all the better for it. If we waited until later in the day, we’d skip them.

Now, when we wake up, they’re the very first things we do. So, even while we’re waking, we’re getting ready for our daily practice that keeps us centered and grounded throughout the day.

We avoid the crowds.

Especially when we were both working a W-2, being efficient with our time was a necessity. Only a few crazies are at the gym before 5:30 am. We happily admit we’re two of them.

We’re at the gym when fewer people are, and we bust out a duo superset of weights and cardio all within an hour. We leave before most people arrive. And, my husband still has time to get to work, which is the other benefit.

Rush hour traffic where we live anyway starts about 7 am. If the husband can get on the road by 6:45, he misses most or all the traffic to start his workday early and end his work day earlier.

Our best sleep is the sleep we get before midnight.

Studies show the sleep we get before midnight is more valuable than the sleep we get after midnight.

As we get older, this seems truer. Therefore, we strive to have “heads on pillows” by 9 pm. It doesn’t always happen and whether it does or it doesn’t we can tell the next day.

Everyone else is doing it.

Well, that’s not entirely true.

However, many successful people do it. An amazing boss of mine said to me once, “Find out what successful people do and do that.”

There are many people, such as the Da Vincis and Dylans of the world who rock it late at night. They seem to follow in the sleep cycle of the more creative types.

There’s certainly a strain of creativity in what we do for our side business, but there’s a lot of business, as well as critical and strategic thinking required. For this reason, we’ll follow in the footsteps of Mrs. Obama and Richard Branson.

For us for now, the early schedule works. Very soon the S.O. will quit his J.O.B. (just over broke). After that, we may wake up later, like 5:30 am.

Or, maybe not.

If it’s ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it.

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Looking for more quality time with your S.O.? Start a business together. Just make sure you’re really cut out for a shared business.

Many moons ago, actually 495 moons ago, my husband and I decided that we were done with our W-2s.

We were tired of working for someone else, seeking other people’s seemingly impossible approval, and letting someone else dictate our income and quality of life. So, we started our own business and haven’t looked back.

If you’re thinking of working with your life partner or spouse, you may want to know that it’s pretty awesome. It’s not just me who thinks that, as you’ll see. Others think it, as well. Here are some of the myriad of reasons to work with your partner.

You can spend more time together.

I’ll start with the most nauseous reason first. The first and primary reason we started a business together is because we want to spend more time together. We happen to like each other, so, why not spend more time together?

With traveling to and from work, preparing for work, working and sleeping, we were only seeing each other a few hours a day. We were living for the weekends, but the weekends were too infrequent and too short. So, we made an employment change.

Plus, rather than text each other all day from separate locations, we can now just look up across the table.

Masterminding.

There’s something special about growing something special with your best friend. This is usually why couples make babies. Growing a business isn’t too unlike raising children. They both take patience, perseverance, creativity, money, and love.

Holly Porter Johnson of the ClubThrifty.com says, “Working with your partner is awesome because you get to dream together! I love coming up with new ideas and bringing them to fruition with my husband by my side. There is no greater joy than growing something together and becoming successful as a team.”

We couldn’t agree more. Working with your life partner is a great way to boost all your ideas and make the most of life and business.

Dividing and conquering.

Even though it’s your own business, you still often must meet the expectations of others. Sometimes those expectations come with deadlines and sometimes they come with demands. In these circumstances, we divide and conquer.

Mrs. Frugalwoods of Frugalwoods.com says, “By dividing and conquering—and focusing on our individual strengths—as partners (in love and money), we excel at creating genuine, relatable content that not only expands our brands, but also deepens our relationship.”

We both understand our business and both have a vested interest in its success. Either of us can take the helm when necessary and we work well together the rest of the time. This makes for happier clients, better service, and a stronger bond.

Motivate each other.

Building a business is hard, but it’s easier when you build one with someone else. Getting out of bed is hard, but it’s easier to get out of bed when the person next to you is getting out of bed, too.

There are times when you just don’t wanna. Usually, we don’t have that feeling at the same time. So, when one needs a pick-me-up, the other’s there and vice versa. When it’s hard to see the bright side, the other is there to shine the light.

Working with your life partner is great when you have built-in support.

Complement each other.

There are some things he’s good at doing and there are other things I’m good at doing. This, like dividing and conquering, let’s us take advantage of each of our strengths.

Personally, my husband is great with coming up with a million good ideas. He fails on the execution of those ideas. I struggle with ideas and am good with execution.

Likewise, he’s good with technology and I’m good with words. So, with the foundation of our business being an online blog, he keeps the lights on and I keep them coming back for more.

Save cost-of-working costs.

The reason many families have multiple cars is because each family member has a different job. That’s more cars, more gas and more car insurance. When you’re a home-based business of two that shares a bed, you really only need one car.

Working with your life partner cuts down on other costs, too.

Aside from our public speaking, most of our business is behind a laptop. Therefore, we don’t need as many “work clothes,” packed lunches, and Tupperware or contracted services such as a cleaning person or personal chef. We had a personal chef for a year while we were building out business and both working a W-2.

Now we have the time to take care of these things.

Lunch dates.

Even though fewer people do work lunches anymore, some business partners have the occasional lunch date. When you work with your partner, every lunch (and breakfast and dinner) is a true-blue lunch date.

Usually, we eat lunch while we watch an inspirational talk or video on YouTube, but it’s more special watching these with your someone special than watching them alone. Likewise, when we’re inspired we have someone with whom to be inspired.

Not only are these lunch dates good quality time, but they’re also a relaxing time to brainstorm solutions to struggles we’re having. As Mrs. 1500 of 1500Days.com says, “The Mister and I have a pretty solid relationship. He’s my best friend, and I know that he has my back with anything. That part’s really important.”

If you’re considering working with your life partner, know that it’s a work relationship that can work.

It may not be for everyone, but the from the other co-working couples we know and our own personal experience, it’s pretty lit.

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Oops. There goes another failed relationship. It doesn’t have to be this way. Get out of your rut and take your next relationship to the next level.

Are you thirty-something and single, wondering when you’ll be married with children?

Is your life a broken record, repeating the same cracked relationship over and over and over and over?

Some people get stuck in a vortex of relationship sabotage. If this is you, how can you identify the problem and correct it? Here’s what may be keeping you from that happily ever after.

Here’s what may be keeping you from that happily ever after — and what you can do to fix it.

You make it all about you.

As a gay man, the idea of being treated like a queen sounds fantastic in theory. Our

Our kings need attention, too, though. We love it when he brings home flowers and when he opens the door to lets us in first. But, without reciprocation, after a while, he’ll feel like a chauffeur and not a partner.

On the flipside, gentlemen, your lady friend may relish taking care of you, but if you act like you’re the only one at home, soon you’ll be home alone.

If you make it all about you being treated like royalty, you’re sabotaging your relationship.

A healthy relationship is a relationship of equals. At any one time, it’s never 50/50, but we should seek an average of making it as much about them as it is about us. Once you focus on your partner as much as you focus on you, things will improve.

Your ego is more important than peace to you.

If you’re more concerned about having your way than having peace, you’ll eventually have neither.

Our egos seek to be right. The desire to be right is at the heart of most wars, big and small. Our higher selves want peace. A priority of peace is the core of everlasting love. Thus, the age-old adage of never going to bed angry with your lover.

Practice leaving your ego at the door. Seek peace in your relationship and focus on the good in your partner.

You’re guarded.

Relationships require intimacy. Otherwise, they’re friendships. If you’re don’t let your partner connect with the deeper you, the relationship will stay superficial and then become unofficial.

If you want someone to be with you through the thick and thin, you must be brave enough to let them see the good and bad. If opening up your deeper self seems too scary, let sharing that be your first step in opening up.

You don’t value yourself.

It’s impossible for us to let others love us when we don’t love ourselves. If we don’t love ourselves, we’ll never trust the love we receive from others. We’ll either be cynical or skeptical of the love we’re receiving.

It seems strange to think that lack of self-love is sabotaging your relationship, but it could be.

If you don’t love yourself, any relationship you pursue will be an exercise in futility. Take time to work on you rather than becoming part of two. When you find the love inside that you seek from the outside, you’ll find better love than you ever imagined.

You become your partner.

Assuming your current S.O.’s likes and dislikes, interests and disinterests, is a byproduct of not valuing yourself.

As outsiders, we’ve all seen the person who changes as often as they change relationships. It can be hard to see this in ourselves because we so desperately want our current relationship to work. But, if we can’t be ourselves or don’t know who we are, we’ll eventually hit a point of unhappiness.

Plus, in healthy relationships, you don’t want a clone. It gets boring. You’re sabotaging your relationship if you try to be just like your partner. You love each other for the spice and the differences. Figure out you, and don’t be afraid to do things without each other sometimes.

Your actions don’t match your words.

Sometimes we think we want a relationship because that’s what we believe we should want. Our culture is obsessed with love and marriage. This obsession is why nearly every song is about one love, and every television show eventually has a wedding.

If you’re a single woman in your thirties, people wonder what’s wrong with you. If you’re a single man in your forties, people assume you’re gay. There’s nothing wrong with being single and thirty or forty or fifty and many people live lives of happiness as a solo.

If you’re in a relationship because you feel compelled to be, your words may say something, and your actions will say another. Eventually, your partner will catch on, and one or both of you will let go.

Figure out what it is you want and then live your life accordingly. Both you and your current partner will be happier.

You keep your partner guessing.

Being coy or playing cat and mouse may add to the excitement at the beginning of a relationship, but eventually, even cats get tired. If your partner isn’t sure where they stand from day to day or sleep from night to night, they’ll eventually seek more certainty even if it means being certainly alone.

Either know when to move your relationship from the romance phase towards the stability phase or figure out what it is you truly want and then live your life accordingly (see above).

You have unrealistic expectations.

If your expectations of your partner set them up for failure, your partner will fail. All successful relationships must enter the “get real” phase, and we should want this.

Getting to get real is the phase when we can each be our authentic selves. When we’re our authentic selves, we can gain the validation we all seek. Because, whether we admit it or not, we all want someone to say, “You’re perfect just the way you are.”

Whether you’ve sabotaged one or multiple relationships, the cycle will likely continue until to you do some introspection and change your thinking and behaviors. Until you change internally, nothing will change externally.

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Debt doesn’t have to be a financial death sentence. You can overcome it. Put together a plan and get to work.

Twelve years ago, my husband, David, and I found our sitting on the floor of our basement apartment as two financial services professionals with $51,000 in credit card debt between the two of us.

Like the cobbler’s kids with unfortunate shoes and the emperor with off-the-rack clothes, we were helping other people with their money and not ourselves.

We put together a debt payoff plan and got rid of that debt in two and a half years and built a business based on our experience becoming and living financially free.

How did we pay off so much debt?

We’re often asked in interviews how we paid off so much debt so quickly.

The underlying question is, “What tools or tricks can you give us to help us become financially free?”

The problem with tools and tricks and that what works for us may not work for you and vice versa. That’s why our first response to that question is that we figured out what we most wanted in life.

We found our “why,” and as Jim Rohn says, “When you know what you want, and you want it bad enough, you’ll find a way to get it.” When we figured out what we most wanted and not what we thought we should want or what others thought we should want we had the motivation to pay off our debt.

When times were tough, and they were, we used our why as fuel to continue our path to being debt free and stick with our debt payoff plan.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t tips and tricks you can try. Here’s the five-part plan we used to become and live debt free. You can see if some — or all — of this plan might work with your own style to help you reach your financial goals.

Be money conscious.

My husband and I thought we coined this term. To us, it initially meant being clear on how much money we earn, have and spend. It meant having a basic understanding of the economy and how the economies of the world affect us personally.

We later learned that Napoleon Hill thinks he coined “money consciousness” in his book, Think & Grow Rich. Hill talks about money consciousness on a metaphysical level. The results on both a practical and metaphysical level produce the same results, as Hill says, “only those who become money conscious ever accumulate great riches.”

Live below your means.

Living below your means sounds outdated and old-fashioned, but it’s critical to getting and staying out of debt and achieving financial success. This rule affects everyone, rich and poor, black and white, gay and straight and everyone in between everyone else.

Living below your means is such a powerful principle that it brings down many seemingly successful movie, music, and sports stars.

Cash is king.

Living on cash gives most people a 20% raise. Studies show that individuals who use only cash spend less money in addition to paying less in interest fees. When we had our debt, we were paying $10,000 a year in interest payments. When we paid off our debt, we gave ourselves a $10,000 raise and dramatically improved our quality of life.

Have a financial plan.

Just like you can’t drive from New York City to Los Angeles without clear directions, you can’t achieve financial goals without a financial plan. A good financial plan includes knowing the starting point of where you are financially and the ending point or goal of where you want to go.

It wasn’t until we knew which direction we wanted to go with our financial lives and our lives in general that we could go from a negative net worth of $51,000 to a positive net worth over $700,000. Therefore, you need to have a financial plan.

Creating and maintaining a financial plan isn’t hard and doesn’t limit us from enjoying life. Our budget and financial plan help us do all the things we want in life by letting us know when we can have and do what we want. As Søren Kierkegaard said, “Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.”

Now, how do you pay down your existing debt?

The Avalanche and Snowball methods.

The Avalanche Method says to pay off highest interest rate debt first while making minimum payments on other debts. Then, proceed to the next highest interest rate debt and so forth until all debt is paid off.

The Snowball Method, popularized by Dave Ramsey, says to pay off the smallest debt first while making minimum payments on other debts. Once the smallest debt is paid off, proceed to the second lowest debt and so forth. The Snowball Method gives quick wins.

For my husband and me, neither seemed fast enough, especially because all our debt was credit card debt and we saw a loophole.

Our Debt Lasso method.

We first contacted all our credit card companies and asked them to lower our interest rates. The Debt Lasso method helped us to start saving money immediately. Any savings we had immediately went towards our debt.

Most companies obliged even if it took some explaining. It helped that despite having all that debt, we rarely missed or were late on payments. The only thing holding down our credit scores were our debt to income ratio.

It, also, helped that we explained how dire our situation was and that we didn’t want to miss or be late on future payments or file for bankruptcy. So, it was in everyone’s best interest to accommodate us.

Next, we looked for 0% interest-rate-credit-card-promotions with no annual fees. When we found a credit card and promotion that suited us, we calculated the cost of a balance transfer to that card. This strategy required reading a lot of fine print to be clear what we were getting.

At the time, 3% balance transfer fees were standard. There were some that charged less than 3% and even some that charged 0%. The 0% interest-rate-credit-card-promotions with no annual fees and 0% balance transfer fees were gold. Some exist today!

Most of the 0% interest-rate-credit-card-promotions lasted between six to 18 months. The longer the promotion, the more time we had to pay off our debt. Then, we diligently paid off as much debt as we could as fast as we could. When one card was paid off, we put more money towards our remaining debt. We continued this strategy until all our debt was paid off.

This is the five-part debt payoff plan we created to destroy $51,000 of credit card debt and, then, stay out of debt. If it worked for us, it can work for you. So, get working.

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Tired of all the negativity? Time to turn it around. Take steps to adopt a positive mindset.

You’re awesome!

Do you know that?

You’re so awesome that it took 13.8 billion years to create you. You’re awesome because you are star dust. You traveled through the far reaches of space to get here at this time and this place.

The world needs what you and only you can give.

These are truths to think about when you’re in a negative space. When you’re thinking negative thoughts about yourself or your life. We quickly forget about how awesome it is that we’re here on this Earth at this time. Whether part of a master plan or a cosmic accident, it’s amazing that you and I are here.

That doesn’t mean that some days, some weeks, some years are harder than others. Here are five tips to use when you’re in a negative mental place and need to adopt a positive mindset:

Happiness isn’t a destination.

You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: Happiness isn’t a destination. If you always wait to arrive at happiness, you’ll never get there. I may ruffle feathers with this, but happiness is a choice. If you want to adopt a positive mindset, start there.

Misery loves company. It’s easy to gravitate toward — or be — the Negative Nancy or the Kelvin Killjoy. If you want to bitch about work, about politics, about last night’s game or anything, you’ll find comradery quickly. Negative people feed off negative people, which can lead to a perpetual cycle of negativity.

People proudly, often too proudly, proclaim that they’re quitting Facebook, taking a social media hiatus or completed a mass-unfollowing. They’re shedding negativity in some way, shape or form. They choose to stop feeding off negativity.

When you intentionally choose happiness every day, you’ll be happier.

Even a fake smile helps.

So, you’ve chosen to go against your “tude” and be happy.

What do you do? For starters, fake a smile. Even a fake smile releases dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin into our bodies. These hormones are known as the “happy chemicals.”

Just when you don’t want to smile is the perfect time to smile. Force a smile for yourself and then smile at someone else. Smiles are contagious, and the world would benefit from a pandemic of smiles. Plus, it will go a long way as you work to adopt a positive mindset.

Connect with awesome people.

We’re social creatures, even possibly social aliens as we are all made of stars. As I said, misery loves company, and some company is perpetually miserable. As Bob Proctor says, you don’t need to cut these people out of your life if they’re important to you. Just spend less time with them less frequently.

Replace your time spent with miserable people with individuals who lift you up. Better yet, as Lisa Nichols says, “Surround yourself with people who make you stand on your tippy toes.” They’ll help you become a better version of yourself.

If you fill your life with more positive people, you’ll feel more positive, and you’ll produce better results. When you harness this power of positivity, you can use it to help your less positive friends and family.

Have positively positive thoughts.

We often think we’re trying to be positive when we’re negative. As Jake Ducey says, when we think positively about getting the things we want, we’re coming from a place of lack. For example, when you say, “I know I can be more positive,” you’re acknowledging that you lack positivity and you’re in search of it. You don’t have it now. So, act as though you already have it.

Oprah said, “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” Oprah made no mention of paying attention to or focusing on what you’re lacking, not even to overcome a scarcity mindset.

We all want to end war, right? As Ducey shared, Mother Theresa used positively thinking positive thoughts best when she said, “I will never attend an anti-war rally; if you have a peace rally, invite me.” Anti-war demonstrations, the War on Drugs, the War on Crime and the War on Poverty are all counter-productive because they all start from a place of negativity.

If we focus on uplifting each other and the world, we’ll get more positive results.

Motivate yourself in the second person.

We all talk to ourselves. The problem is, as Mel Robbins says, “If others heard how we talk to ourselves we’d be put in an institution.” Too often we consciously and unconsciously speak to ourselves, negatively and it’s the unconscious negative talk about which we really should be concerned.

Positive self-talk in the first-person isn’t enough, though. Internal dialogue like, “I’m happy,” “I’m a good person,” “I can do this,” and other positive statements are acceptable. They’re certainly better than the opposite. However, research shows that there’s a better way to talk to yourself and it’s a way many of the most successful people speak to themselves.

Dr. Srini Pillay says that research shows that talking to yourself in the second person produces even better results. We like to compliment ourselves, but we value compliments from others more. Use this strategy in place of receiving the same validation from others.

The good news is that it’s positively possible to change your negative mindset and adopt a positive mindset. It just takes a little bit of faith and trying some unique, even seemingly weird tricks to turn that frown upside down.

Oh, if none of the above helps, go to Toys R Us. One can’t stay negative playing with children’s toys.

Every single blade of grass,
And every flake of snow –
Is just a wee bit different …
There’s no two alike, you know.

From something small, like grains of sand,
To each gigantic star
All were made with this in mind:
To be just what they are!

How foolish then, to imitate –
How useless to pretend!
Since each of us comes from a mind
Whose ideas never end.

There’ll only be just one of me
To show what I can do –
And you should likewise feel very proud,
There’s only one of you.

That is where it all starts
With you, a wonderful
unlimited human being.

“One and Only You” by James T. Moore

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You might be a superhero and not even know it. Change the world one person at a time with the right career.

Simultaneous trends of millennials and GenXers are searching for more altruistic careers.

For millennials, they watched their parents suffer through the 2008 housing crisis, subsequent Great Recession, stagnant wages, high unemployment, and low national gross domestic product (GDP). Now many are saying, “If I’m going to struggle, I may as well struggle to do something good in the world.”

Millennials want to change the world, making a difference with what they do every day.

For us GenXers, it likely because, well, we’re older and seeking we’re more meaning in our lives. Many of us worked through the 2008 housing crisis, subsequent Great Recession, stagnant wages, high unemployment, and low national gross domestic product (GDP). Even though we may only have a small piece of our pie, we want to share some of it before we’re no longer here to share it.

For those considering more meaningful first or second careers, here are some jobs to consider:

Good samaritan.

You know how some days, weeks, even years are hard?

Social workers help people manage those times when we can’t manage on their own. From advocating for children who need an advocate to be there for the older adult who’s all alone to everything in between, social workers are there to care.

Life isn’t as easy for all of us and some of us find it harder to deal with than others. It’s social workers who help change these lives for the better.

Money maker.

Unfortunately, the financial professionals who break the rules get all the attention. They deserve the bad press they get.

Their honest, hardworking colleagues don’t.

Financial planners and the people who support them help everyday people with their money every day. Most financial professionals have their client’s best interest in mind, and that’s why this can be a rewarding career.

They help want-to-be parents prepare financially to have their children. They help fulfill the student’s dream of going to college. They assist the widow who lost the spouse responsible for managing the family finances. They help people make sense of retirement and legacy planning.

Financial professionals help make dreams come true, and nightmares go away.

Baby maker.

Among the many ways family planners help families, they help grow families.

Don’t let your high school years confuse you. Having children for many women isn’t easy, particularly since women and couples are having kids later in life.

Family planners can help these women and couples navigate the waters of growing their families with in vitro fertilization (IVF), various means of surrogacy, and any other medical advancements medicine has developed, including the different ways to adopt.

Fixer.

If you’re in pain or recovering from an injury, your physical therapist may just be your best friend. Like any decent best friend, your physical therapist sticks by you through the screams, tears, pain and frustration until you’re 100% again.

Physical therapists help their patients overcome negative conditions and achieve long-term health. Good health is consistently listed on the top of people’s most important things. If you’ve ever been in bad health, you know that returning to good health becomes the most important aspect of life second to family.

Modern-day Aristotle.

Christa McAuliffe, one of the seven victims of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, once said, “I touch the future. I teach.”

Anyone who’s ever amounted to anything is in debt to a teacher. Successful people from President Obama to Oprah Winfrey have publicly thanked particular teachers who helped them achieve their successes.

As a good teacher, the impact you have on a student could world-changing.

Healer.

Sure, doctors get all the glory, and the work doctors do is amazing.

It’s just that when you want that pain medication in the middle of the night and you’re stuck in a hospital bed, your doctor’s not coming to your aid.

That buzzer buzzes straight to a nurse’s station. When you need that very embarrassing, very necessary help in the bathroom, it’s your nurse who saves the day. When everyone else is gone, your nurse is still there.

Want to make a different in people’s lives? Be a nurse.

Sower and reaper.

Other than John Mellencamp, America doesn’t give farmers much love, and that’s a shame.

Everything healthy we eat is grown by a farmer. Growing healthy and nutritious food is an important and noble profession that helps all of us live from day-to-day.

If you’re scared you have to move far away from friends and family, don’t be.

Of course, the most abundant farming happens in the middle of the country, but you don’t have to uproot yourself to root some vegetables. Urban farming is a thriving industry these days, especially with more people in urban areas seeking more healthy food.

Space cowboy.

Being a space cowboy or cowgirl isn’t just for eight-year-olds. It’s for full grown adults, too. Space is the final frontier, and we’re finally making aggressive efforts to conquer space. Space exploration and space technologies already help millions in many ways. Someday, it may even save the human race.

Becoming a space cowperson or one who supports them isn’t easy, as space is only accepting the best of the best. But, if you can pass the test, helping the human race pioneer the space frontier can change the world and, possibly, the universe.

Superhero.

A lot of people do a lot of good work. Truth be told, there are a lot of superheroes out there.

However, police officers, EMTs, and firefighters save and protect lives every day. For many, their career is in their blood, having been passed down from generation to generation. For some, it’s an innate desire to help.

If you have such a desire, the world will be a better place with people like you in one of these jobs.

Many professions that make a positive difference in the world. Sometimes even a seemingly mundane job can make all the difference to someone.

Consider your skills and abilities and focus on giving to others. If you do, nearly any career will help you change the world.

 

 

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Sometimes those LTRs sneak up on you. Here’s how to tell it’s time to stop wasting everyone’s time and just commit to your S.O.

The event horizon between every STR and LTR is as awkward as a prepubescent’s first kiss.

The duel inside each person pondering “do I like them” and “do they like me” makes Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance seem sane.

The time comes in all relationships when each must decide if theirs is a temporary or long-term ride.

How does one know when it’s time to commit to being two? Here are eight ways to tell when you and your S.O. should gel.

When your laundry detergent and fabric softener have moved in together.

More often than not, do your clothes take a spin together? When it’s no longer necessary to go home to do laundry and to own four gallons of concentrated detergent, there’s a good chance it’s time to commit to sticking together. If you’re washing each other’s unmentionables, there must be a reason you’re clinging together.

When the only vegetable in your fridge is mold.

When your home fridge is as bare as a frat house fridge, and the only thing inside that’s not questionably nuclear is your Arm & Hammer, it may be time to unplug your ice box. That Sriracha sauce must be able to survive time eternal, so grab it, cancel your electric, and take your security deposit to your new life of “we,” “ours” and “us.”

You’re cooking most meals together anyway.

When the water in your toilet has evaporated and left a ring.

Has it been so long since you did a Number One or a Number Two in your own bathroom that there’s a ring around the bowl? It’s time to sublet, sell, or cancel. Your exit plan is becoming a waste and it’s time to shit or get off the pot (all puns intended).

When your pet has moved to your S.O.’s.

If your pet has packed their bags and moved in with your S.O., it’s time for you to do so. Your dog can’t stand a minute without you, and your cat pretends they don’t care if you’re there, but both want you around. If your partner sees you more frequently than your best friend, bring everyone together and become a happy family.

When your apartment looks like a wheat farm.

If your once green and luscious plants look like they’re one mill from a cereal bowl, it’s time to transplant yourself with your someone else. Even the hardiest of plants get sad without some TLC once or twice a week. Don’t let your plants die. Consolidate them with your S.O. and make your single home homier.

Everyone wins. Especially the plants.

When your mailbox looks like your inbox.

When your postal box has as much mail as your email inbox, and the post office wants to charge you rent, it’s time to pick an address. Let’s face it, keeping that Plan B is costing you time and money. Save time and money and live with your honey.

You start saying “let’s go home” instead of “let’s go to your place.”

When you act like you have one place but still have two, it’s time to make a move. We have so many decisions to make each day that we often self-select which decisions to make and not make. When decisions about here or there, together or separate disappear, you may have unintentionally picked an L/T S.O.

Your mom knows where to send the Christmas card.

When even your mom knows you won’t receive your Christmas card before President’s Day if she uses the same address as the IRS does, it’s time to commit to your S.O. and update the P.O.

Others can often see something about us better than we can. If your friends and family see you as more permanent than temporary, it may be time to commit.

Committing to an LTR is sometimes scary, but if any of these or other quirks suggest your LTR is your reality, update your relationships status on Facebook and in your head and put in 100%.

Life is too short for 50% and maybes. When you give your relationships your all, you’ll see how much your relationship has to give. Only then will you learn if your long-term thing will be a forever thing.

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Want to make more money without the hassle of a second job? A little ingenuity can go a long way. You might be surprised at what’s available to you.

I became a fan of multiple streams of revenue ever since I started hating my one, single W-2 job.

Even with my emergency savings account, I detested the idea of one person or one entity dictating my cash flow.

If you’re like me, or simply want to make more money on the side, here are seven recommendations for you to increase your income without getting another job.

Update your W-4.

The only thing I detest more than relying on someone else for all my income is giving The United States Government an interest-free loan.

Can I get a “Hell yeah?”

I’m sure I heard something.

Too many of us give Uncle Sam too many interest-free loans between April 15th and April 15th year after year. The IRS reported that it refunded $125 billion in tax refunds last year in 2015 with an average refund of $3,120.

A great start to seeing more money in your budget without getting a second W-2 is to update your W-4. Increase the number of allowances you claim on your W-4 so that you owe or are owed near $0.

You’ll keep more of your paycheck each month, resulting in better cash flow. Sometimes that matters more than whether or not you get a tax refund.

Sell stuff.

Most of us have more stuff than we need. Try watching Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things and tell me you don’t agree. Consequently, stores are bigger and cars are bigger and TVs are bigger, and everything is bigger.

Many of us have tools and exercise equipment we don’t use. We have clothes we bought a year ago that still have their tags.

Most of us have more gadgets than we know we have or need. When I got my first laptop, it was special. When we got our first iPad, it was special. For this article, I did a quick search, and my household of two has three laptops and two tablets. Laptops and tablets aren’t special anymore.

This overabundance is an opportunity to make money. All of these items, new and used, can be sold. You can sell used clothes on sites like Tradesy and Material World. Sell new clothes and gadgets on eBay, Facebook Marketplace, and Amazon.

Get a roommate.

A quarter of a million millennials live at home with their moms and dads. That sucks for them, but it’s an opportunity for you. If you have an extra-large closet, you can rent it to someone in need of independence. That may be an exaggeration, and it may be illegal, but you get my point.

People need a place to live and rent’s expensive. Having one or more roommates will either increase your income or decrease your expenses. Either way, you’ll have more money.

Airbnb.

If you don’t want a full-time roommate but have the space for an occasional guest, try Airbnb or competing marketplaces to make money on your extra space. Alternatives to Airbnb include VRBO, Tripping, and Couch Surfing.

After a vetting process, you can rent your extra space to travelers looking for a homier or a more affordable experience than a hotel. You can pick and choose what dates to rent your space, so you’re not constantly hosting. When you travel away from home, you can make money while you’re away.

This is a great way to make more money. And other areas of the sharing economy, including driving for rideshare businesses while you run errands, can be a good way to make a few extra bucks.

Blog.

My name is John Schneider and I’m a blogger. You should be a blogger, too. I think most people could make money blogging about their expertise, their hobby, or whatever they want.

I think most people could make money blogging about their expertise, their hobby, or whatever they want.

When you start a blog and create a following, your site traffic is money. You can monetize your site with affiliate advertising, such as Google Adsense, and Amazon.com affiliate codes. You can add particular affiliates that are appropriate for your particular niche. You can even sell your products and services.

If you make art, design clothes, are into woodworking, or do any number of creative things, you can monetize your hobby and sell your creations in a store on your website. If you already have a hobby, you may as well make money doing it.

Take surveys.

Data is king in these days of statistics and algorithms. Businesses and organizations want to know more things about more stuff.

Use their piqued interests to make top dollar. Rather than scrolling through Facebook or Twitter, go to sites like My Survey, Swagbucks, and others to earn money taking surveys.

Write a book.

This suggestion may be another version of monetizing a hobby, but Les Brown says that the graveyard is filled with a library of unwritten books.

With sites such as Smashwords and Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, it’s never been easier to publish a book. If you’re already writing or want to be a writer, publish your book.

Granted, for every story you read about a self-published author who rakes in $500,000 a year, there are thousands of stories of self-published authors who make nothing.

As a self-published author of three books, I know from experience that it isn’t easy. There is a social strategy, though, to get one book in front of a lot of people or gain a following by self-publishing books regularly.

As co-blogger Miranda Marquit would caution, don’t self-publish a book through a company that needs an unreasonable amount of money from you first.

If you’re already writing or want to be a writer, you may as well try to earn some money. If nothing else, you can tell your next date that you’re a published author.

These are just seven ways to have a second, third, or fourth income without needing an equal number of jobs. It just takes a little creative thinking. Hopefully one of more of these ideas will help you increase your income or, at least, inspire ideas of your own to make more money.

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More formal education isn’t always better. Before you take on even moar student loan debt for a graduate degree, stop and run the numbers.

The only thing better than bigger is more, right?

Depending on what we’re talking about this is arguably true.

When talking about a pint of Ben & Jerry’s with a dose of Golden Girls, more is better.

When talking about the housing bubble, student loan bubble, and Taco Bell, not so much.

Moar student loans? Maybe not better.

College tuition has been on a steady increase since the 1990s, and college graduates are graduating with more debt than ever. Between 2008 and 2012, the number of students to graduate with debt increased from 1.1 million to 1.3 million.

Too often now, college students graduate with a mountain of debt. They’re forced to move back home with mom and dad and take a job with pay not commensurate with their student loans. Many graduates are underemployed and are seeking a better future.

The daughter of a good friend of mine recently graduated with $100,000 in student loans with a degree in social work from a premier college in a major city. She moved back to her small hometown and took the first job she could get because she was afraid not to have money to pay her student loans. She currently earns $13 per hour. She’s now considering graduate school to increase her opportunities because her big city degree is too expensive for her little city job.

For many, the logical next step is to either kill time or make a better future is to get their graduate degree. This, often, requires taking on more student loans – and the cycle continues.

Is a graduate degree worth it?

As with any investment, one must look at the potential return on that investment. About 70% of undergraduates already have about $30,000 of student loans to repay. The cost for graduate school on the low end for public colleges is another $30,000.

Will $60,000 in student loans do for a student what $30,000 can’t?

One way to evaluate the return on investment (ROI) of a graduate degree is to look at the potential increase from a salary with an undergraduate degree to a salary after a graduate degree.

Considering that many employers pay employees just enough to get them to stay and that wages have been stagnant for decades, there’s a good chance a salary increase won’t help you pay off your student loans faster.

The second way to evaluate the ROI of a graduate degree is to compare the maximum salary potential with an undergraduate degree and the maximum salary potential with a graduate degree.

For this method, a 2015 study done by SoFi that compared the ROI of earning different graduate degrees based on wage increases for each of the first 10 years after graduation from graduate school may help.

It’s also important to determine if you have the stamina to complete a graduate program when your primary driver is income. The benefits of credits obtained for graduate degrees are reduced when the graduate program isn’t finished.

How can you keep your cost low if you must go?

If graduate school is in your future, it helps to lower your costs of school. If you’re considering graduate school and already have student loan debt from undergraduate school, you’ve likely exhausted all education savings and gift accounts, such as 529 Plans and Uniform Gift to Minor Accounts. However, it may help to find out if you have relatives or even friends with money in 529 Plans that aren’t completely used.

One benefit of 529 Plans is that they may be transferred to another beneficiary if the original beneficiary doesn’t pursue a higher education or doesn’t use all the money in their 529 Savings Plan.

It’s also helpful to exhaust grants and scholarships offered by the federal government, state governments, and schools.

Research www.grants.gov and apply for grants that are appropriate for you. You’re likely already familiar with FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Complete an application at www.fafsa.ed.gov to apply for federal student loan assistance authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 to help subsidize your graduate degree.

Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 covers Pell Grants, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, and the Federal TEACH Grant, along with other grants, loans, and work-study programs. Research www.ed.gov to find additional grants for which you may qualify. Simple ways to search grants and scholarships available through your state are through your state’s Department of Education or state grant agency website or with Scholarships.com.

Get that (scholarship) paper.

A trick to get the most money available through grants and scholarships is to be a bottom feeder.

Most people shoot for the higher, five-figure grants and scholarships. The competition for these higher-dollar grants and scholarships is stiffer. Fewer people apply for lower dollar scholarships and grants, which makes them relatively easier to win.

By creating systems and standard responses that just need to be nuanced from application to application, acquiring the lower dollar grants and scholarships may be your best strategy for keeping your costs low.

Get your employer to invest in you.

Finally, get an employer to pay for all or some of your graduate degree. If you’re currently employed, contact your human resource department to determine how your employer may be able to assist. Reimbursement usually covers up to a certain dollar amount in each year and doesn’t require repayment. It does typically require that the student meet a minimum GPA.

Tuition reimbursements over $5,250 a year may generate a tax payment for the employee. This will likely require that you work full-time and go to school part-time and will take you longer to complete graduate school, but it will mean less student loan debt for you.

If you aren’t currently working for an employer that offers tuition reimbursement, consider finding a job with a company that does. UPS, Home Depot, Starbucks, and Apple have businesses in most parts of the country and all offer excellent incentives, including tuition reimbursement.

It may be that more is better for your situation. If so, be strategic with how you get more because at some point it may get cost-prohibitive. It may be that more school isn’t necessary if you’re creative or strategic with your career planning. Don’t get so wrapped up in the “more mentality” that you don’t see this.

Have you gone back to school? Did it work for you? Or was it an unnecessary expense? Join the conversation in the #Adulting Facebook community.

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