Spending Smart During the Holidays is a Rich Habit

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The holidays are right around the corner. While we may enjoy the holidays, that enjoyment comes at a cost.

We spend more money on holiday-related things like gifts, dining, electricity for outdoor decorations, etc. What follows are a few Rich Habits to make sure you make the most efficient use of your money during this holiday season:

Stick to a Gift Budget

Set a maximum amount you will spend on gifts this holiday season. Even better, make a list of everyone who will be getting a gift and then budget how much you will spend for each person. This ensures you do not go over your budget. As a rule of thumb you should limit your holiday gift spending to 1.5% of your income. To find unique gift ideas within your budget visit sites like Gifts.com. These sites give you great gift ideas that are within your budget.

Use Credit Card Reward Dollars

Many credit cards have attached to them Rewards Programs. Typically, these Rewards Programs generate Reward Dollars that you can use at participating vendors. For example, the American Express Reward Program gives you about .88% back on every dollar you spend using an American Express credit card. One of the participating vendors with American Express is Barnes and Nobles. 50,000 American Express Rewards Dollars translates into $500 in Barnes and Noble gift cards. You can buy 20 $25 Barnes and Noble gift cards and give them out as gifts during the holiday season and it will cost you nothing.

Send e-Cards

Want to save on the cost of buying holiday cards and postage? Then send out a holiday e-Card this year. There are numerous websites that offer free cards such as BlueMountain.com. These sites offer templates and also allow you to customize your Ecards.

Unplug Holiday Lights After 10pm

Most everyone is asleep or in bed by 10pm so it makes no sense to keep your holiday lights on after this hour. This cuts down on the electricity costs for the holidays.

Interest-Free Financing

Sears, Home Depot, Best Buy, Lowes and certain Amazon partners offer up to 24 months of interest free financing. You must ensure that you pay off the interest free purchase within the free interest period and you must make your monthly payments on time. If you don’t you risk being back charged for ALL the interest you were saving on the purchase.

Dine at BYOB Restaurants

BYOB is an acronym for “Bring Your Own Booze”. Having your holiday meals at BYOB restaurants can save you and your family hundreds of dollars in liquor dining costs during this holiday season. You not only save up to 50% on the lower cost of the liquor but you also save on sales taxes and the gratuity. It’s a triple savings.

Holiday Parties

Transform this year’s holiday party into a culinary surprise holiday party. Ask each one of your guests to bring a special dish for the evening. You can even give out Awards such as a $25 Barnes and Noble gift card for the best dish. This will save you money on your party and add an element of fun and excitement.

Online Comparison Shopping

Thanks to the Internet you now have the ability to comparison shop without ever having to leave your home or office computer. Sites like PriceGrabber.com and PriceBlink.com will scour the Internet online retail sites for the lowest price for your gift.

Coupon Sites

There are many old and new coupon websites that offer coupons you can use to purchase gifts or for dinning. Some offer as much as 60% off the retail price you would otherwise pay.

Re-Gift

I know it sounds tacky but just because you didn’t much care for a gift you received last year doesn’t mean someone else won’t like it. After all it’s the thought that counts. Re-gifting is an obvious money savings strategy. If you feel embarrassed about re-gifting don’t. According to MSN Money, 68% engage in re-gifting. So, you’re not alone. For all you know the gift you are re-gifting may have been a re-gift of its own!

The Most Powerful Word in the World

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I’d like you to indulge me for a moment.

Imagine a life in which you have no obligations, no need to work, zero pressing matters to attend to.

As you open your eyes to face another day, what will be the first thought to greet you every morning?

What will I do today?

Do.

Do is the most powerful word in the world. Do is responsible for everything.

Do makes plants grow, flowers bloom and acorns rise into giant oaks.

Do creates families.

Do forges nations.

Do builds homes, skyscrapers, bridges and tunnels.

Do put a man on the moon.

Without do, nothing changes or moves forward in life.

The very essence of a life worth living owes its debt to the word do.

If you had no obligations, no need to work and no pressing matters to attend to, what would you do with your life?

Each individual has a special, unique purpose life. It’s usually wrapped around some innate talent; something that is easier for you to do than others. Something that makes your heart sing when you engage in it. It is a special gift hardwired into your DNA at birth.

But it only reveals itself through experimentation.

Experiment with different, diverse activities. Given enough time, enough experimentation, your special gift will be revealed.

And when you find it, DO it every day.

Finding Your Natural Talents – Here Are Five Clues

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I didn’t figure out that I had a hidden talent until I was age 47. That’s when I decided to write, what became a huge bestseller, Rich Habits, which also happened to be the first of many books I would go on to write.

For most of my adult life, I’ve been a tax specialist/CPA. My thing was numbers, not words. Or, so I thought.

Back in 2009, I had never written a book before. So, this was way out of the comfort zone for me. But, it didn’t take very long for me to realize that I had stumbled upon something I was innately good at doing.

How did I know I had found a natural talent?

Well, things you are brilliant at doing, reveal themselves in five different ways:

#1 – Brilliance Comes Easy

When you engage in an activity that is easier for you than for others, you’ve found your brilliance.

Writing came very easy to me. The words just flowed effortlessly from my brain and onto the keyboard.

We all have innate talents, or things we are just brilliant at doing. Most never discover them because, finding your brilliance, requires experimentation.

When you experiment with numerous, different activities, eventually you will stumble upon something that naturally comes easy to you; something you can do easier, faster and better than others.

#2 – Brilliance Provides You With Never-Ending Energy

When you find an activity that you can engage in for many hours, without losing energy or getting tired, you’ve found your brilliance.

I could write for five, six or even seven hours straight without tiring or getting bored. I never lost my energy. I never felt fatigued. It was as if I had tapped into some limitless supply of energy.

There is a little-known energy source that lies dormant inside each one of us, waiting to be released. This energy source is very powerful. It is controlled by the limbic system, one of the oldest regions of the brain.

In this region resides your emotions. When you find something you are brilliant at doing, you tap into the emotional centers of the brain, which then fuel all of your energy needs while you are engaged in your brilliance.

#3 Brilliance Makes Time Flies By

When you engage in an activity, and time seems to just fly by, you’ve found your brilliance.

My early morning workweek writing routine was (and still is) to write for two hours. That’s all the time I had during the workweek. Those two hours felt like two minutes. Time just seemed to fly while I was writing. In fact, it got so bad, I had to buy a timer that would go off after two hours. This way, I would not be late for work, which had happened several times.

#4 Brilliance Makes You Want to Practice

When you find your brilliance, you will desire to engage in it over and over again.

I enjoyed writing so much. In fact, I hated when that timer went off. It meant I had to stop writing and get ready for work. I just wanted to keep writing.

Because I never wanted to stop writing, I couldn’t wait to wake up the next morning to begin writing again. I started waking up earlier and earlier, every day. And amazingly, I sprang out of bed, down to my basement office and immediately began writing.

#5 Brilliance is Fun

When you find happiness and joy in doing something, you’ve found your brilliance.

Writing, right out of the gate, felt like fun. It definitely did not feel like work. Because it felt like fun, I noticed I was very happy when I was writing. Knowing that the very next morning I was going to be writing again, kept me feeling happy all day long, even when I wasn’t engaged in my writing activity. My wife was the first to notice that I seemed much happier since I had started writing.

These five clues only show up when you experiment with diverse activities.

“But I’m old. It’s too late for me.”

Stop worrying about your age. Don’t put that limiting belief in your head. I found my brilliance at age 47. Colonel Sanders (Kentucky Fried Chicken founder) found his brilliance in his early sixties.

The way I see it, ten years is going to go by no matter what you do. Why not devote a few hours a day, mining for your brilliance?

I can promise you this – if you find your brilliance, your life will improve in ways you never imagined. And, more importantly, you’ll be happy.

Success Requires Focus – How to Supercharge Your Ability to Focus

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Focus is way more than a just a habit. Focus involves an orchestra of variables that must all come together.

What makes focus so complex is the fact that it is dependent on the optimal performance of the most complex organ we possess – our brain.

Your brain never sleeps. It is constantly active. This activity can be measured by brain waves. Brain waves are the speed at which brain cells talk to one another. When you focus, your brain waves operate at a much faster frequency than normal, known as the Gamma frequency.

While in this Gamma state, your brain is sucking energy from the body at an accelerated rate, in order to provide itself with the fuel that focus requires.

Any little hiccup can throw a wrench into the brain’s ability to maintain focus. In my book, Change Your Habits Change Your Life, I list all of the Focus Killers. Below are the top eight Focus Killers:

#1 Distractions

Your environment can be a host to many distractions:

  • People – Wife, kids, co-workers, etc. can disrupt you while you are in the flow of focus.
  • Phone Calls – Ringing phones disrupt your focus. Even worse would be taking a phone call during your focus time.
  • Emails – Those annoying ding sounds you get every time you receive an email disrupts your focus. Focus becomes even more distracted if you decide to read or respond to those emails.
  • Text Messages – If you have any sound effects triggered by text messages, every chime or whistle will disrupt your focus. And, once again, reading and responding to text messages while in the flow of focus, disrupts it entirely.
  • Background Noise – If you have TV news on while you are trying to focus, those Breaking News Alerts will disrupt your focus. So too will music. Songs can trigger emotional responses that cause your mind to drift back in time to an old flame, a concert you attended, or any life event linked to a song.

The solution is to unplug from technology and block off two hours a day without any distractions. No phones ringing, hide your cell phone and turn off all background noise.

This is why I advocate waking up early and spending those early morning hours focusing on your  top priorities, which should be your personal and professional dreams and goals.

#2 Chronic Stress

Short-term stress can actually improve focus and concentration. But chronic stress is very different from short-term stress.

Chronic stress causes a cavalcade of chemical reactions within the body that produce cortisol, the chronic stress hormone. Cortisol is a chemical that impairs your ability to focus by redirecting your brain and your body’s resources. Thus, if you are suffering from chronic stress, focus will be very difficult. Death of a loved one, financial problems, marital problems, health problems, all produce chronic stress.

Study after study has concluded that aerobic (running, biking etc.) and anaerobic (weight lifting/high intensity training) exercises stifle the production of cortisol, alleviating chronic stress. Thirty minutes a day of doing both will reverse the effects of chronic stress.

#3 Sleep Deprivation

If you are not getting between 7 – 8.5 hours of sleep a night, you are very likely suffering from sleep deprivation. Since one of the most important functions of sleep is to clean the brain of toxins that build up during the day, lack of adequate sleep means toxins are building up inside and on brain cells, impairing their ability to function properly.

#4 Glucose Depletion

When glucose reserves become depleted, the brain sends a signal to stop engaging in an activity. This is commonly referred to as Decision Fatigue or Willpower Depletion. So, Willpower Depletion is really just the depletion of glucose reserves in the body.

Each individual has their own unique reservoir of willpower. Some naturally have more, some less. On average, willpower, or your ability to focus, lasts between 90 – 120 minutes.

When you run out of willpower, you essentially run out of brain fuel – glucose, and you must take immediate action to regain your willpower and your focus:

  • Rest or Nap – 20 to 30 minutes is all you need to restore your willpower reserves.
  • Eat a Sugar Snack – This quick fix should only be used in emergency situations because after 20 – 30 minutes you will find yourself even more depleted than before and your focus even more impaired than before.
  • Eat a Healthy Snack – This should be combined with rest or a nap, which will provide a maximum boost in willpower reserves, giving you another 90-120 minutes of focused thinking.

#5 Boredom

It is always very difficult to focus on anything you hate doing or that bores you. This is why I spend so much time writing and speaking about the need to find that thing that makes your heart sing and then figuring out how to monetize it.

When you like or love what you are doing, you turn up the volume on certain parts of the brain associated with emotions (amygdala, thalamus, hippocampus, hypothalamus, cingulate gyrus and ventral tegmental area). These emotional brain centers do not succumb to willpower depletion, which means you can focus for many hours without feeling fatigued.

#6 Poor Diet

Since the brain is such a heavy consumer of energy, a poor diet will deprive your brain of the nutrients it desperately needs in order to allow you to focus. Two out of every three meals should be vegetables with the third meal being high in protein (fish, lean meat, chicken).

#7 Inconsistent Exercise

Aerobic exercise is, next to sleep and diet, the third most important thing you can do for your brain. When you exercise aerobically, you feed your brain with oxygen, which is used by those cells to convert glucose to energy (Adenosine Triphosphate, or ATP for short).

If you are not exercising enough aerobically, that means you are not feeding your brain cells with enough oxygen, which then leads to an energy crisis inside your brain.

#8 Drugs/Alcohol

The use of drugs or alcohol causes the overproduction of certain neurotransmitters, such as dopamine. This throws the brain off kilter, making it nearly impossible to focus for any significant period of time. The problem is compounded with excessive use of drugs or alcohol. This puts you brain into permanent repair mode, which means it is using precious brain fuel for repair needs, leaving little left for focus needs.

Start Painting Your Masterpiece

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On October 18, 2000 Thomas Labrecque died at age 62. I knew Mr. Labrecque, so I was very sad at his passing.

His obituary highlighted only some of his accomplishments in life. Here’s a sampling:

  • US Navy Veteran where he served on a destroyer at Guantanamo Bay during the Cuban Missile Crisis and where he headed a section responsible for deploying ships in the blockade off Cuba
  • Graduate of Villanova
  • American University Graduate School
  • New York University Graduate School
  • Chase Management Trainee Program
  • Member of Chase Management Committee at just age 38, ten years younger than any previous member
  • President and CEO of Chase
  • Chairman of Chase’s International Advisory Council
  • Board of Trustees at the University of Notre Dame
  • Trustee of the Hospital for Special Surgery

There was much more, but I think you get the point.

Mr. Labrecque’s life was a masterpiece.

After reading Mr. Labrecque’s obituary, I remember thinking, “what the hell do I have to show for my life?

That question haunted me until 2004, which is when I began my Rich Habits Study.

That dream, to understand why some people are rich and some people struggle with poverty, pushed me in directions that completely changed the course of my life, and the portrait of my life.

And every day, thanks to my relentless pursuit of that dream, I am adding vibrant new colors to my portrait.

If I were to die today, I would be proud of my obituary.

If you were to write your obituary today, what would it say?

Would it make you proud?

Would a reader marvel at your accomplishments?

Would it be an exclamation point at the end of an amazing life?

We all have the same amount of time. We paint our life’s portrait by how we spend that time.

When your time is running out, the last thing you want to feel is regret – regret for not doing more with your life, for not utilizing your full potential.

Start painting your masterpiece today. Take that first step towards your new, amazing life. Take action on your dreams and your goals.

The pursuit and realization of dreams and goals are what transforms ordinary portraits into masterpieces.

Wealth Isn’t a Zero Sum Game – A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

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There are a lot of people who just don’t like the rich. They believe rich people become wealthy on the backs of the poor.

Is that true?

Because, if it were true, they should be hated. Right?

My family had struggled with poverty from the time I was nine years old and I grew to hate the rich. I believed that the rich were responsible for most of the poverty in the world because they took advantage of the poor by keeping them in low paying jobs or by figuring out a way to take what little money the poor had.

There are, however, a lot of other people who don’t hate the rich. In fact, this other group admires the rich and aspires to become one of them.

“If he or she can do it, so can I”, was the youthful mantra of Australian self-made millionaire, Michael Yardney, who, at a very young age truly believed that he could one day become rich.

I happen know this self-made millionaire very well. Michael is the co-author of our bestselling book, Rich Habits Poor Habits.

Michael had a very different philosophy about wealth. He would often tell me that just because someone gets rich, that didn’t mean someone else gets poor.

And, as it turns out, Michael was right. Just take a look at what’s happening in China.

China’s emergence as a world economic juggernaut began back in 1978, when eighteen farmers from a small Chinese village called Xiaogang gathered in a mud hut to sign a secret contract. The farmers decided to divide up the land among the eighteen families. Each family agreed to turn over a minimum amount of produce required by the Chinese government. Any excess produce, above the government quota, went to the families.

At the end of the season, they had an enormous harvest. Yen Hongchang, one of the eighteen farmers, said that year’s harvest was greater than the previous five years combined.

Local officials soon learned what the farmers had done. Word of what had happened in Xiaogang made its way up the Communist Party chain of command.

At one point, Yen Hongchang was hauled in to the local Communist Party office. The officials swore at him, treated him like he was a criminal and threatened his life.

Fortunately, for Mr. Yen and the other farmers, there were powerful people in the Communist Party who wanted to change China’s economy from a socialist system to a capitalist one. Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese leader who would go on to create China’s modern economy, had just come into power.

Instead of imprisoning or executing the Xiaogang farmers, the Chinese leaders decided to hold them up as a model for all to follow.

Within a few years, farms all over China adopted the entrepreneurial principles in that secret document. People could now keep what they grew. Throughout China, record harvests on nearly every farm, resulted.

Encouraged by this success, the Chinese government launched other similar economic reforms, in other industries. China’s economic revolution had begun.

As of 2018, there were 819 billionaires and over 1.7 million, millionaires in China.

Since 1978, 500 million people in China have been lifted out of poverty and thrust into the middle-class.

JFK, a hero in my family, once famously said that a rising tide lifts all boats.

When you succeed in the pursuit of your dreams, that success doesn’t just lift you up, it lifts everyone up. It creates new jobs, boosts the economy and inspires others who have their own dreams, to pursue those dreams.

For those of you, like myself, who struggled with poverty growing up, don’t hate the rich. Wealth isn’t a zero sum game. If anything, wealth is a multiplier that helps lift people out of poverty.

Are You a Slave to Technology?

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Not too long ago, when families, friends or even co-workers gathered around a table, conversation dominated everyone’s attention. Today, as an independent observer, you would see that has changed – cell phones, not conversation, now has everyone’s attention.

And it’s doesn’t have to be a table. It could be a bar, coffee house, a stadium, theatre, park, a gym, the local diner, etc.

It also doesn’t have to be a cell phone. Since the 1950’s, watching TV became a daily habit for millions, replacing conversation and reading.

In the 1980’s, video games have slowly dragged kids in from libraries and ball fields, enslaving them to a video screen.

So too has computers and their latest apps. People now spend hours surfing Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, news feeds and other sites, in lieu of interacting with others, face to face.

New technology has a way of changing behavior. Whatever you were doing before the new technology, ends; replaced by the latest technology.

The change is subtle at first. But after enough time, that change in behavior grows, eventually becoming a habit.

There are many ways to thwart the technology habit:

  • Cell Phone Baskets – This is where the cell phones go every night, while the family is having dinner, sharing information about their day.
  • Media Fasting –  Isolating two or three nights a week where everyone in the family disconnects from video screens, allowing the family to spend quality and quantity time with each another.
  • Weekend Hikes – Weekend days spent hiking with the family, distracted only by nature and each other.
  • Library Excursions – Taking the kids to the library once a week, re-installs the reading habit.

Awareness of how new technology alters your daily behavior is the key to preventing that technology from consuming your life, disconnecting you from those you love and becoming a time-wasting Poor Habit.

Ending This Poor Habit Will Make You a Multi-Millionaire

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Slickdeals, an online couponing site, commissioned a survey of 2,000 American adults in an effort to better understand impulse purchases.

One startling find was that the average American engages in three impulse purchases a week. This impulse spending habit costs the consumer about $450 per month, $5,400 per year and $324,000 over their lifetime.

Now, let’s flip the switch on this. What if you were an average 25 year old who didn’t have this Impulse Spending Poor Habit and, instead, invested that $5,400 every year in something that grew at a rate of 6% a year?

After sixty years, that 25 year old would have $3,057,026.

Eliminating one Poor Habit, Impulse Spending, and adding one Rich Habit, Saving $5,400 a year, would make the average person a multi-millionaire over the course of their lifetime.

Habits are the reason your are rich or poor.

Habits are the reason you are lean or overweight.

Habits are the reason you are knowledgeable or ignorant.

Habits are the reason you are skilled or unskilled.

Habits are the reason you are healthy or unhealthy.

Habits are the reason you have an abundance of friends or very few friends.

Habits are the reason you live in a home by the beach, or a shanty in the inner city.

Habits matter. They determine the quality of your life.

You’re in a War You Didn’t Know You Were Fighting

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Go to school, get good grades, go to college, get a good job after graduating college, get a car, get engaged, have a wedding, rent an apartment, furnish that apartment, after three years – buy a home, furnish that home, have 2-3 children, buy a bigger home further from work, buy a 2nd car – a van or SUV, every five years buy or lease new cars, commute 30 – 50 minutes to work from your bigger home, repair and improve your bigger home, repair your cars, enroll your kids in sports, take vacations, send your kids to college, retire.

These are the stages of life for many around the world.

At each stage, is a battle for your time, your money and your mind.

At each stage, your enemy seeks to force you into certain habits that ensure they win the battle for your time, your money and your mind.

Their weapon of choice is habits.

Their goal is to force you into habits that will enable them to capture your time, your money and your mind:

  • Bankers – The habit they force upon you is the Debt Habit. They offer debt to help you fund each stage of your life. Once that Debt Habit is forged, they win the battle for your future earnings.
  • Retailers – The habit they force upon you is the Spending Habit. They offer you products to purchase at each stage of your life. Once that Spending Habit is forged, they win the battle for your current and future money.
  • Media – The habit they force upon you is the Time Wasting Habit. They offer you content to watch, hear or listen. Once that Time Wasting Habit habit is forged, they win the battle for your mind.

These enemies use habits to enslave you for life.

But there’s a new counter-weapon that can turn the tables on your enemies. This counter-weapon is called Rich Habits. And I am its commander-in-chief.

Don’t surrender to your enemies.

Don’t become their slave.

Join my army.

And win back your freedom!

Start Living Your Unique, Authentic Life

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In a 2013 American Workplace Study by Gallop, 70% polled admitted to not liking their job.

Why?

There were many reasons, but the #1 reason why people didn’t like what they were doing for a living was – they were pursuing the dreams and goals of someone else – their employer.

When you put your ladder on someone else’s wall, climbing it eventually becomes a chore.

How many have spent the better part of their adult lives climbing a ladder that is resting on someone else’s wall?

A parent, a teacher, an advisor, a friend, relative, or some other significant presence in your life, very likely directed you to the wall you’ve been climbing the better part of your adult life.

Most people do what they do for a living because they followed the well-intentioned advice of some influencer; someone they respected and looked up to.

Those who mean well are offering advice they believe is best for you.

But, honestly, how could anyone, but you, know what is best for you?

When you pursue someone else’s dreams or goals, you are living someone else’s life.

You are not living your unique, authentic life.

When you are not living your unique, authentic life:

  • You are unhappy
  • Work becomes a chore
  • Your life lacks purpose and fulfillment
  • Money scarcity results

When you pursue your own goals and dreams, only then are you truly living your unique, authentic life.

The first thing you will notice is that your perception of work changes. Work ceases to be a chore, when it’s built around your dreams and goals. You will like or love what you are doing for a living because your efforts now have a purpose and work brings fulfillment.

The second thing you will notice is a shift in your mindset from negative to positive. You will suddenly become upbeat, optimistic and enthusiastic. You will shift from a problem-finder to a problem-solver. You will see opportunities around every corner.

The third thing you will notice is that you feel happy.

Lastly, you will begin to experience success and the fruit success produces – wealth. Money is no longer a scarcity.

Living your unique, authentic life by pursuing your dreams and goals is the key to a life filled with purpose, happiness, success, and the byproduct of success, wealth.

“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bounds. Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.”  Patanjali