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The 7 Personal Finance Articles We Loved This Week

Happy February, everyone!

From what I can tell, people either love or hate this time of year. As a big fan of snowstorms and celebrating love (with both Valentine’s Day and my anniversary with my boyfriend this month), I happen to love it — but it also means my spending can go a bit off-the-rails if I’m not careful. As in, planning a packed day of anniversary surprises and seeing plenty of cold-weather Seamless orders on my horizon…it all adds right the hell up.

My occasional problem is that, when it’s time to celebrate something special, I justify spending a lot more than I normally would. But just because it’s a special time of year doesn’t mean I need to go crazy spending a lot in order to celebrate. “Special” doesn’t mean “expensive.” That’s why I really loved ESI‘s pick from The Money Habit this week, which details how happiness can be bought on even a small budget. After listing the things that make for a happy life, the writer had the following realization:

As I look at this list, something very interesting jumps out at me:

Most of the things on it are absolutely free.

Even for things that aren’t free, there are plenty of inexpensive ways to foster them. Spending time with family and friends doesn’t have to involve $300 nights out. They could be a casual board game night at home. Fulfilling and engaging activities tend to be activities where you produce rather than consume, which means they can be started inexpensively.

This is something I know to be true, especially as the managing editor of a money site that’s so focused on creative ways of spending and saving — but in our culture, it’s very easy to forget! Be sure to check out the full article below, as well as the rest of this week’s great picks.

1. The Three Levels Of Financial Independence: Because Money Is Only Part Of The Equation – Financial Samurai

“Contrary to what you may think, financial independence is not all about having enough money to cover all your expenses and then some. Financial independence also means being able to overcome your psychological fears to truly live free.”

2. Our “High School Rule” for Work in Early Retirement – Our Next Life 

“When I didn’t have to worry about keeping a roof over my head (because my dad paid the mortgage then, and now our house is paid off). When I didn’t have to worry about career advancement (that was yet to come then, and now it’s in our past). I could just follow my heart or gut. And that’s when I dubbed my early retirement work philosophy the ‘high school rule.’ Meaning: If there’s something I could do that looks like work, I’ll do it if I would have happily done it for free in high school. If not, then it’s a hard pass.”

3. How To Spend Your Money: A Thought Exercise on Happiness – The Money Habit 

“If this were the best recipe I knew for happiness, and I was striving for happiness myself, shouldn’t I be fostering the same things in my life and ignoring all the rest? How good was I at prioritizing the elements in this recipe when it came to myself? I’ll turn the same question to you. Are you actively fostering things that engage your interest in life? Are you investing time into nurturing relationships?”

4. The FIRE Movement Was Inevitable – Mr. Tako Escapes 

“The world needs clear answers and a way to cut through all the financial BS to get what it really wants — financial freedom. Thus, change gave rise to the FIRE movement — bloggers telling their stories about how they reached financial independence. Some of them retired early. Others kept working.  A few even traveled the world.  Real people, real lives, and real finances.”

5. Lump Sum or Dollar Cost Average Investing? – Actuary On Fire 

“Investing all the lump sum immediately is often more optimal that spreading the payments over a period of time. This completely changed the way I thought about drip-feeding my money into the market and I now invest all in one go.”

6. How to Celebrate Paying Off Your Mortgage Early – Marriage, Kids & Money 

“My family recently paid off the $195,000 mortgage on our home and we were asking ourselves this very question. We thought about painting our front door red or throwing a party with some close friends. After some spirited fun back and forth with my wife, we landed on four fun ideas that we could do together as a family.”

7. Adding 20 minutes to your commute is like getting a 19% pay cut – The Ladders 

“Researchers from the University of the West of England found that a 20-minute increase in round-trip commute time has the same effect on job satisfaction as a 19% reduction in income. [They also] found that with each additional minute of commute time, your work satisfaction plummets, as does the state of your mental health and how much you enjoy your free time. Meanwhile, your stress levels spike.”

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