moneyby Chellie Campbell

It is surprising how many improvements can come out of things that go wrong. – Anonymous

In the end, financial stress reduction is simply this: Earn more – Spend less.

Find another way to have what you want

When we’re doing all we can to satisfy the first two requirements and yet when we see things we want that cost money, what can we do to stay within our budgets and still get what we want?

This is where you earn your graduate degree from M.S.U. (Make Stuff Up).

In the habit of spending a lot of money on clothes? Learn to sew, or trade services with a friend who sews. Buy too many books? Go to the library or create a circle of like-minded friends with whom you can trade books. Is enjoying nature your priority? Instead of feeling bad that you can’t afford to buy a house with acres of land, live somewhere that is close to a park or wildlife refuge and take a walk there every day. Or rent the guesthouse from someone whose main house is on lots of land.

In my financial darkest days, I lost my home to foreclosure. I had bought when the real estate market (and my business) was high. (Doesn’t that sound familiar? Just like many people are now suffering from the current mortgage meltdown. You might want to forward this to anyone you know who is in that pickle today.) My loans totaled $160,000 and units in my complex were selling for $90,000. Oops. And my interest rate then was 16%!!).

When the recession hit and the market and my business plummeted (my biggest client that was 75% of my business left with two weeks notice, right after I had bought my partners out), I found I couldn’t sell it and I couldn’t meet the monthly payments of $1,650. Eventually, I had to give it back to the bank. It was a humiliating personal disaster. (But there are upsides to downsides too. I lived in the condo without having to make a mortgage payment for many months during the foreclosure process. I saved everything I could to try and survive the storm.)

One Friday night, I was playing cards with some girlfriends. They knew I was going through hard times, and one of the girls turned to me and said, “So where are you going to live now?” I said, “I don’t know.” She said, “Why don’t you move in here with Shelley?” And Shelley looked up from her cards and said, “Sure. You can move in with me.”

So I did. I moved into a gorgeous two-story, three-bedroom, three-bath, 3,000 square foot home in a beautiful hillside setting in a gorgeous neighborhood. The furniture was exquisite, the art to my taste and the Autumn color scheme looked made for me. It was the most beautiful, and most expensive, home I had ever lived in. Shelley and I got along great and it was fun having a roommate after years of living alone.

The rent? $200 per month. The value of the house does not appear on my balance sheet. But when I’m walking around in it, I can’t tell I don’t own it.

This particular scenario might not fit your lifestyle. Find one that does. Manage an apartment building in exchange for free rent. Be a professional house sitter. Don’t follow the “American Dream” of home ownership if it’s not your dream. If it is, and you do own a home, in an economic downturn you could find a roommate or two to share expenses. What else could you do? Think outside the box. Make something up.

A recent article in Parade magazine by Mike Hammer mentions that the popular myth is that renters are “just throwing their money away. But the reality is that when you buy a home, you’re paying for closing fees, mortgage interest, property taxes, private homeowners’ insurance and maintenance costs that return nothing on your investment. You’d be better off banking that money or putting it into the stock market.

In fact, a recent study by Fidelity Investments indicates that stocks provided investors with nearly 4.5% higher average returns in the last 45 years than real estate. (The catch here is that you have to take your extra money and really invest it in the stock market, which is sometimes difficult for human beings to do when faced with the potential for immediate gratification of our desires instead of delayed gratification.)

In addition to that, “a study by the National Multi Housing Council points out half of homeowners don’t get a break, because even with mortgage interest and property taxes, their total deductions do not exceed the standard federal tax deduction ($10,900 for couples and $5450 for singles).”

It’s important to make decisions based on what your lifestyle is and what your priorities are and not just blindly follow conventional wisdom. You may be able to live in a much nicer place, with more amenities, and in a better neighborhood if you rent than you would be able to buy.

You don’t have to be rich to live rich.

The thing I’d most like to share with you is this: I was broke, lost my home, almost lost my business, and was shocked and depressed at what had happened to me. I was 46 years old. But I didn’t give up on my dreams and continued to say affirmations and send out ships. Since then, I have built up my Financial Stress Reduction Workshops, licensed others to teach them, make a six-figure income, published two books, and am quoted in more than 35 books, including 2008 NYT bestsellers Happy for No Reason by Marci Shimoff and Harmonic Wealth by James Arthur Ray. As they say in poker, all you need is “a chip and a chair,” and you can make a comeback and win the tournament. Or win the Game of Life.

From Sarah: There’s a ton more of Chellie’s great advice at chellie.com

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