This Saturday I turn 30. I’ve been thinking about this day for quite a while, and I know the only reason I’m not having a complete meltdown is because I’m in Paris stuffing my face with bread right now. Things could be worse, right?
Before I left for Paris for some much needed R&R, I wanted to write a post to reflect on some of the lessons I’ve learned during my 30 years on Earth.
It’s still crazy to me that I’m actually turning 30. How did the time go by so fast? At least I can take comfort in the fact that with every passing year I learn something new, do something I never thought I would, and being able to see my net worth go up doesn’t hurt either.
So because my mantra is “Money. Life. Balance.”, I thought I’d break down my 30 life lessons into those three categories. I’ve also got a very special podcast episode (and my last for season 2) on the same topic which you can listen to below or by subscribing on iTunes!
Check out my podcast episode
1. You Don’t Deserve Anything
This may sound a bit harsh for my first lesson, but honestly it’s so true. I’m sometimes baffled at how entitled I was in high school and university. Hell, I was still a brat in my mid-20s. I’d like to think that I’m over that stage, but it’s still a bit of a work in progress. In any case, a lesson I’ve definitely learned over the years is that no one deserves anything — especially when it comes to money.
Yes, some of us are born into wealthy families, and some of us not. But that shouldn’t determine anything. The one percent can just as easily fall from grace and go bankrupt as poor people can go from rags to riches. To gain wealth and maintain it, you have to work for it. And if you live your life complaining that you deserve a better job, a higher salary and more money in the bank, well good luck to you. I’d personally rather do something about it instead of complain about what I ought to have and go get it.
2. If You Don’t Track Your Spending, You’ll Never Know Where Your Money Goes
If you’re a human on Earth, there’s a good chance you’ve asked yourself “Where did all my money go?” I still ask myself that from time to time. Well, you’ll never know the answer and take full control of your finances unless you track your spending. Yes, it is work and will take up some of your time, but time is money as they say, so this is absolutely putting your time to good use.
3. Education Can Be a Good Investment (and Also a Bad One)
I’ve been to school a few times. I’ve been to university twice (once for my Bachelor’s degree and second for my certificate in Digital Marketing Management). I’m also currently enrolled in a finance course, so I guess I’m on my third round of post-secondary education.
For me, education has been an amazing investment, both personally and professionally. I’ve become more articulate, business-minded and creative because of it, and it also helped me into my current career path.
But here’s the thing, I never played the student debt game and that absolutely had a big impact. If I was $50,000 in the hole with a degree but no job prospects, I’d be pissed. Broke and pissed.
That’s why I always tell others that in order to make education a good investment, you’ve got to treat it like one. Go to school for something specific with actual job prospects, don’t take more courses than you’re required to cut down on costs, and try to find other ways to pay for your tuition besides going for that student loan. I’m talking scholarships, grants and a part-time job here, not stripping or anything crazy.
4. Giving Money Away Should Be Part of Your Budget
Giving back has always been a normal part of my life since we used to give money at church every Sunday when I was a kid. When I moved out I wanted to make sure I continued to give back, whether it be by volunteering or writing a cheque. I think a lot of people forget about how important giving back is, especially when making a budget, but it is honestly one of the best things you could do with your money I promise you!
5. When It Comes to Money, Leave Family & Friends Out of It
This is something I’ve come to understand and I don’t think I’ll ever change my mind on it. When money has come into play with family or friends, things get complicated, feelings get hurt and it just never turns out how you want it to. If you want to have happy, healthy relationships with the people you love, leave money out of it. But if someone you love does need some help in that department, offer your emotional support, personal finance education and a listening ear instead.
6. Use Your Free Work Benefits
I never used to take advantage of some of my work benefits, like massages, fitness reimbursements, work discounts, but as I got older I started realizing that it was just downright stupid not to. Massages would normally cost me $100 a pop, my work covers them up to $500! That’s 5 amazing massages for free. FREE people!
7. Don’t Spend a Ton of Money on Your Wedding, You’ll Regret It
I probably spent more than I should have as the frugal personal finance blogger that I am, but I spent nowhere near what some people spend. Listen, I loved my wedding, but it took a year to plan and cost $16,000. Would I take it back? No. Would I have scaled it back? Probably. Do I tell every newly engaged couple that I meet to elope and save their money? Yes, yes I do.
8. Ditch Negative Money People, They Are Not Your Problem
Preach! Negative people suck, and people who are negative with their money suck even more. They have a way of making their problems your problems, and off-loading some of their negative attitude to you. Your life should be rich in money, life and balance people, so ditch those lame money morons and walk on.
9. Debt Isn’t Normal
Listen, I know a lot of people have debt. That does not make having debt normal. We shouldn’t have debt. We should avoid it at all costs. So just because everyone you know has debt and doesn’t have a plan to do anything about it, that shouldn’t mean you should follow in their footsteps. Do something about it. Life on the other side is seriously the best.
10. You Won’t Always Be Broke (If You Put the Work In)
This was something I had to tell myself a lot the first few years I lived on my own. Luckily I was right. If you work hard, make a budget and stick to it and just do it (instead of just talking about it), you will move forward in your career, your savings and investments will grow and you will be richer than you were last year.
11. If You Don’t Do That One Thing That Scares You, You’ll Regret It
For me, this was moving away from my hometown. It was by far the craziest thing I’ve ever done, but I’m so glad I did it. My husband and I have been living away from home for almost 3 years now, and I can’t tell you how great it feels to say that as scary as it was, it was one of the best things I’ve ever done.
12. You’re Worth More Than You Think, So Give Yourself Some Credit
I’ve always struggled with confidence and perfectionist issues, and I know I’m incredibly hard on myself sometimes. But over the years I’ve realized that yes, I am good at things, and yes, I do need to give myself some credit (and so should you!).
13. The Key to Being a Good Friend Is Listening
I always thought I was a good friend, but it wasn’t until my late 20s that I truly understood what that meant. When I was younger I was sometimes selfish when it came to friendships. I was more focused on what I needed, without truly listening to what my friend needed.
Now, I try to make a concerted effort to ask more questions like “How are you really?” “How’s your family?” “How’s that specific thing we talked about last time?” It may not seem like much, but just think of how you feel when someone asks you about something that’s meaningful to your life. It shows that that person cares about you, so make sure to do the same.
14. It’s Okay to Say Goodbye to Old Friends
On the other side of the coin, it’s also important to know when you need to let go of a friendship. If you’re just giving and not getting anything in return, it’s time to say goodbye. It’s not easy and I’ve had to do this with a few friendships in my lifetime. As awkward and heartbreaking as it can be, if you want a life that’s filled with more positivity and balance, it might be necessary.
15. Don’t Waste Your Time with Negative People (They’ll Never Change)
This was a big lesson that took me a while to learn. For some reason I’ve always been that person who thinks the best of people and believe they can change. Some of them can, and I’ve witnessed this happen, but those people are the exception not the rule. So focus on the positive people you have around you, limit the time you have to be around any negative people, and no matter how you feel, be the bigger, nicer person.
16. Stay Calm When You Want to Freak Out
When I traveled to Thailand back in 2013, I found this book at a bookstore in Chiang Mai called If You Have to Cry, Go Outside by Kelly Cutrone. It’s a book about how to be a bad-ass career woman and how not to let your emotions get the best of you.
The book came at the perfect time for me because I was thinking a lot about my career and where I saw it going. What’s even weirder was when I went to buy the book, the bookseller said they didn’t even carry it. Someone must have put it in the bookshelf and stolen another book in its place. Serendipity perhaps?
The big lesson I got from the book was how to maintain composure under stressful situations. There have been plenty of times when I’ve wanted to cry or just freak out when the pressure was too much, but I don’t. I push those feelings down and get the job done. You’ll never find a solution to a big problem when you’re in full freak out mode anyway. It’s when you keep calm and carry on that things end up working themselves out.
17. Sometimes It’s Best Just to Shut Your Mouth & Let It Go
Along the same lines, when you get so worked up over something, sometimes it’s best to just keep your opinions to yourself (or someone you can confide in). Usually when some time has passed and you’ve calmed down, it won’t seem like such a big deal and you’ll be grateful you didn’t say something you couldn’t take back.
18. Therapy Is One of the Best Things You Could Do for Yourself
I’ve mentioned once on here that I’ve been to therapy. I sought out the help of a counsellor when I first moved to Toronto because I was having a really hard time adjusting. I only ended up going to 2-3 sessions, but it literally changed my life. I was able to work through some issues from my past and move on.
Don’t ever doubt the power of therapy and don’t ever be ashamed to reach out for help. It absolutely made my life better and I recommend it to everyone. And the people who are judgemental about other people going to therapy, well, they probably need it the most.
19. Meeting New People Is Incredibly Fulfilling
I’m a natural introvert, so moving to a new city and not knowing anyone was basically my worst nightmare. It was like starting at a new school as a teenager and trying to fit in. Looking back at the past few years, yes, it wasn’t always easy meeting new people, but I got better at it. And now I actually love it and feel incredibly fulfilled when I meet someone new and learn about their story. I think part of the reason I started a podcast was just so I could talk to new people every week!
20. Life Is Longer Than You Think, So Don’t Burn Bridges
You think you know everything when you’re young, but something you definitely don’t know is that life can be long. It can end in an instant, but it can also last for what feels like an eternity. Don’t be a jerk, don’t think you’re better than others, and don’t burn bridges. Because if you do, you’ll wake up one day and wonder why you don’t have any genuine friendships or fulfilling relationships. Be kind, say you’re sorry and treat others how you’d like to be treated — it’s that easy.
21. Vacations Aren’t Just Fun, They’re Imperative to Your Well Being
This may seem like a no-brainer, but I work in the downtown core of Toronto and believe me, a lot of people who work there probably haven’t had a vacation since 2001. It’s a city chock full of workaholics, and it is a struggle to find some balance amongst all of that.
That’s why no matter what, when I’m on vacation, I’m on vacation. I don’t look at my work email, I try to limit my access to the internet and social media, and I just chill out. There’s seriously no better feeling than unwinding for a good week then feeling rejuvenated when you get back.
22. Travelling to Unexpected Places Will Give You Some Much Needed Perspective
Most of the places I’ve travelled to, I didn’t actually want to go to. Paris is probably the first place I’ve been to that I’ve dreamed about visiting since I was little. Besides that, my trips to Thailand, The Gambia, even my most recent trip to Prince Edward County, I wasn’t thrilled to go to. But I wanted to be open minded and give them a chance, and I’m so glad I did.
It’s sometimes the places you least expect that become your favourite places in the world. Not to mention experiencing some vastly different cultures. Sometimes you can feel like you live in a bubble where everything’s the same, and when you feel like that, it probably means it’s time for you to jet off to someplace new.
23. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others (Social Media Isn’t Real)
I’m way better at this compared to my 20-year-old self, but it’s still something I have to work at. It’s hard not to compare yourself to others, even when you know that it’s unhelpful and you most likely don’t have the full story. Most of what you know about others is what you hear from mutual acquaintances or what you see on social media. Don’t waste your time thinking about all that stuff, focus on yourself and what’s truly important to your life and how you want to live it.
24. You Can Have It All, Just Not All at the Same Time
I love this saying because it is pure truth. It’s impossible to have everything you want at the same time. That’s just not how life works. No matter how much you try, you don’t have full control over life and things will happen when they are meant to. The key thing to remember is to be grateful for what you have. You can still strive for more, but do so while being thankful for what you’ve got right now.
25. Write Things Down!
Honestly, sometimes the only way to keep my mind from spinning is to write everything in a list. It may be a huge, scary list, but at least it’s written down and I know I can try to tackle it one item at a time. When I don’t use lists, I freak out and feel overwhelmed. Lists people! They are miracle workers!
26. Schedule in Time to Meditate
I’m definitely not a yogi, and I don’t think I meditate the “proper” way, but what I mean here is you need to make time for yourself where you can clear your head of all your daily stresses, relax and recenter. This could mean taking a bath and listening to music, it could mean reading a trashy book in bed, or it could mean literally meditating on a yoga mat in your living room. Whatever it is, schedule it into your weekly routine. It could make all the difference.
27. Compartmentalization is Vital for Survival
I don’t like the idea of compartmentalizing things, but it truly is the only way I’ve been able to survive adult life for the past several years. Adulting is hard. It just is. Especially when you don’t really know where your life is going and you live in a big city. But just like making a list, compartmentalizing things in your life can make it easier to handle.
My husband always makes fun of me because he says my brain is divided into houses. I’ve got my work house and my fun house. When I’m in my work house, I can’t be bothered until whatever I’m working on is done. When I’m in my fun house, I don’t even think about work and can focus solely on having fun and being silly. Brain houses people, it’s a thing.
28. You’ll Never Regret Asking for Help or Advice When You Need It
I am incredibly stubborn, and used to never ask for help. I feared it was a sign of weakness, and I always wanted to appear strong. The older I’ve gotten, I realize that’s now totally stupid. You’re not weak if you need help and ask for it. You’re smart. You’ve got a problem and you’re trying to see if someone has the solution because you don’t have it. It’s straight up math people. We’re all in this together, and most people are keen as pie to offer a lending hand.
29. Working Out May Not Be Your Thing, But Make It Your Thing
I struggle with finding a good rhythm when it comes working out. Sometimes I’m on fire for like a month and won’t let anything get in the way of my workouts. And some months I just eat carbs and sit on the couch. The thing is, I’m always happier and more energetic when I’m in my workout mode. I am not a workout person, but I want to be and I’m never gonna stop trying to be. It may be a lifelong struggle, but I’d rather at least try to get Rich & Fit, then not try at all!
30. Forgive, Let Go & Move Forward
You want balance in your life? Then you need to do these 3 things immediately. Forgive anyone who has wronged you, let go of hard feelings and move forward with your awesome life. Not everyone is nice or thoughtful in the world, but you can either let that get you down, or you can forgive, let go and move forward.
Ok, for the comments people, tell me one life lesson you’ve learned that you’d like to share. Make sure to also join my Facebook group to join in the conversation there!