3 Simple Questions That Will Change Your Money Mindset

After compiling The Ultimate Guide to Managing Your Money (in Under 10 Minutes), I had one response in particular that was so useful, it deserved it’s own post. Here is Thomas from City for Millennials with his advice for how to manage your money in under 10 minutes (it’s absolutely GAME-CHANGING.)

Personally, my favorite way to improve my finances in under ten minutes is to have a conversation with your partner (or yourself) each Sunday before the week begins.

The most effective way reduce costs and get a hold of your finances is to focus your conversations on the top three spending areas (Housing, Transportation, and Food). Verbalize these questions, and try to answer them:

  1. Housing: How are we going to reduce housing costs this week (or month)? Would we be comfortable downsizing in the next few months? Can we rent a room out this week? Who can we talk to to learn about the local real estate market?

  2. Transportation: Do we really need to drive this week? Do we really need a vehicle at all? What are other ways we can get around this week? Can we rent out our parking spot?

  3. Food: What is our food plan for the week? Actually plan this out! Remind yourself that the average kitchen is 75-100 sq ft. If you live in a 700 sq ft apartment (say $2,000/month) then you are spending up to $280/month for your kitchen space. Make the most of this space, and cook in it more often! You can save big each month if you avoid eating out for one full week a month.

By verbalizing these questions, thinking about answers each week (takes 10 minutes), your money mindset will start to develop. Ultimately, you will find that you have a better grasp on your finances, especially if you reduced costs.

Another important questions to ask each week are as follows:  

  1. What do I need to do this week to make more money and increase my revenue streams? If you truly want to get ahead, your mindset needs to be focused on making more money, quickly. Maybe this means getting a second job to increase revenue streams. Maybe this means leveraging your position at work to increase your salary at a competing firm. When considering side hustles, it’s important to think about scalability. Can this grow into something that requires less of my time?

  2. What can we do to minimize our tax liabilities?: There are ways to decrease the amount of money owed to the government. It’s important to take some time to  understand how the tax system. What’s a tax credit versus a tax deduction? How do traditional versus Roth IRAs differ? Take some time each week to learn something new, and develop a strategy when it comes to taxes.

Rachael and I are getting married at the end of August. Now has never been a better time to talk about finances. While we are already living together and share in expenses, there are legal implications with marriage, and we want to make sure we understand them. We want to get ahead financially and have a successful marriage, so we talk about money each week.

Here are our strategies as they relate to the top three spending areas:

Housing: We live in an expensive city with high rent costs. A few years ago, we focused on purchasing a small, 1-bedroom condo. In two years, our condo has already increased in value by 22%. We are currently evaluating the market and might purchase a duplex so that we can cover half the mortgage through rental income, while building equity in the home. This is called house hacking. That said, expensive cities like NYC and SF are experiencing flat to decreasing rental trends, which might change our approach. We are asking questions to our realtor and reading up on market trends. We are also evaluating another option to increase our real estate investment exposure through real estate crowdfunding, particularly in the U.S. Heartlands.

Transportation: I lived without a car for the past 3 years. Since we live in a large city, I was able to get around on public transportation or ride share for significantly less than owning a car. I still walk or bike to work each day.

Food: We spend way too much on eating out each month. This is an important component to our weekly check in. We plan out food options for each day of the week. We do like to go out to eat at times, however, we found we can save $500 per month just by eating at home for 7 straight days a month.

What kinds of questions do you ask yourself that help with your finances? Share them below!

Bio: My name is Thomas, a Financial Freedom Fighter living in an expensive city. I knew costs in the San Francisco Bay Area (particularly housing, transportation, and food), were going to be extreme, so I planned ahead and paid off debts before making the move. In just under three years, I eliminated $80,000 student loan debt by house hacking, getting paid more at work to travel, saving more than 50% of my income, and legally paying 90% less on state and federal taxes. At 29, I moved to one of the most expensive cities in the world, bought more real estate, and now looking for my next housing hack.

By day, I am an Operation Manager and Market Strategy Analyst for a large engineering firm. By night, I attempt to encourage millennials to make more, do more, and spend less in expensive cities. In a past life, I worked as an ecologist to help save coastal salt marshes in Saudi Arabia impacted by the Gulf War Oil Spill. I also worked in Haiti with USAID after the 2010 earthquake, and responded as a scientist during the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. All of these jobs paid overtime, per diem, and travel expenses. Check out my blog, City for Millennials.


I get asked all the time: what are your favorite money management tools?

Charlie: My go-to (free!) budgeting tool that tracks your spending and progress towards goals.

Ebates: Gives you free cash back on almost all your favorite stores via a desktop plug-in.

Trim: You remember that time where I talked about how you should be negotiating all of your bills? (You should.) I know it's scary — that's where Trim comes in. Trim will negotiate cable and phone bills FOR YOU.

Status: Wanna see if you’re on track when it comes to your monthly spending and total savings? This (again, free) tool compares your financial numbers to others in your age group, city, etc.

Personal Capital: The tool I check daily, Personal Capital is the best tool for tracking your net worth and your progress towards goals like saving, debt payoff, and (yes!) $100K.

The $100K Club Facebook Group: Need some honest money conversations in your life? Join my free community to get your burning questions answered.

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