From Financially Directionless to Stashing for a Beautiful Life

My name is Claire, and I love hiking, backpacking, cooking and traveling.

Over the last few months I've gotten out of all credit card debt, saved $2k and am on the stashing path to creating my beautiful life!

Here's my story.

 

Who are you? What's your money story?

At seventeen, I decided that I wanted to earn some extra spending money on the side. I worked at Nordstrom and loved the feeling of making my own money. 

But with my shortsightedness and limited financial understanding, I spent every penny that I earned on clothing and items where I worked.

I was seduced by my employee discount and access to the latest trends.

Once I turned eighteen, I stopped working at Nordstrom and moved to Santa Barbara to start college at UCSB.

My parents generously made sure I had all the basic costs of college covered — tuition, housing, and food. And to pay for the nonessentials that I desired, I began working part-time.

Fast-forward to four years later, college was over and my parents were no longer supporting me financially.

Pretty much overnight, I went from everything being taken care of to being cut off cold turkey. 

I had no concept of the value of a dollar. And needless to say, I was feeling lost.

I moved to Los Angeles, and landed a job at a yoga studio in Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades.

For two years, I was living paycheck-to-paycheck, breaking even at the end of each month. I was completely struggling to get by.

During this time, I was living with a woman who owned a beautiful home on Sunset Boulevard in Pacific Palisades.

On paper, this woman seemed to have it all: millions of dollars in the bank, valuable real estate in Los Angeles and Argentina, early retirement, the freedom to travel at the drop of a hat, and all the time in the world to do whatever her heart desired.

However, I soon realized that she was incredibly unhappy.

This was my first real-world experience with the point of diminishing returns when you spend more.

I began to wonder about exploring the concept of “enough.”

I had lived a content and happy (but broke!) life in college. And now I was watching a millionaire in Pacific Palisades who seemed to have it all, struggle with her own peace of mind.

At this same time, I was getting the common question, "What are you going to do next?" from parents and friends.

I always defaulted with the answer that I was going to go to law school and become an attorney.

I thought becoming an attorney would be a suitable profession for me since I had a knack for making skilled arguments.

In theory, it seemed like a great idea. But in reality, however, I learned the idea was not for me at all.

 

While working at the yoga studio, I met many attorneys who took yoga teacher training courses to become yoga teachers.

The common sentiment they expressed was how much they hated working in law. Even to the extent that they were starting over from square one! 

Despite the time, money, and stress they had invested into their law careers, they were starting over. It was eye-opening.

I began rethinking the law school path, and realized that my heart was no longer set on going to law school.

Once I realized this, I knew that there was no way I could bury myself in $250,000+ debt.

I knew that if I could barely bring myself to study for the LSAT, then it wasn't a good sign for going down that path. 

Ultimately, I returned to my hometown, despite never thinking that I would become a member of the Boomerang Generation. 

I ended up taking a paper-pushing desk job in the legal field to (even then!) further discover if law was the path for me.

And I can tell you... I have found out that it definitely is not my cup of tea.

While I’m not complaining about my current situation, I am privileged enough to change my situation, so that's what I've been making happen!

 

What got you interested in money independence?

In the past year, I have developed a passion for the pursuit of financial independence, but I didn’t know where to start.

I’d say that the impetus of this pursuit was after I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad.

At the same time I had connected with a friend on what it meant to have money work for you, instead of working your whole life for money.

In essence, I knew that I wanted to pursue a life where I could follow my passions, create a certain lifestyle and not have money be a roadblock that would prevent me from pursing my dreams.

I had grown accustomed to thinking that in order to earn enough money to live comfortably, one had to work the dreaded 9-5 until at least age sixty-five.

However, I’ve starting thinking outside the box.

 

I was a part of The Discover Your Hidden Green Beta Course. And in it, it asks the big question, “What would you do if money were no obstacle?”

This was huge for me.

I immediately learned that once you’ve come up with some ideas of what lifestyle you desire, you then can figure out how there is a way to achieve it.

Sometimes being at your wit’s end is the best motivator to start fresh and change course.

I knew that I had to make a change, and when I stumbled across The Hidden Green's blog posts, I immediately related to the topics presented.

 

At the point of writing this, we're only 6 weeks into the Course.

How have things changed for you? What's different about your life?

I’m realizing that how you spend your money is a direct reflection of how you live your life.

It reveals what your priorities, values, and goals are. And it is deeply intertwined with your emotions.

I have taken the time to think about how I’ve been living my life, and how I would like to live my life.

I’ve been thinking about the quote, “May the space between where I am and where I want to be inspire me.”

Whenever I feel like I am getting off track, I keep this mantra in my back pocket, and refocus.

I feel like I've been making great progress, although slowly.

I've definitely felt frustrated looking at my financial situation, but I’ve realized that it's part of the process. And it's great motivation towards making improvements.

I've assessed my spending these past few months, and I am reframing my perspective around how much I earn, spend, and save.

I've cut out many unnecessary expenses by meal prepping and exercising outdoors.

I absolutely love how this process brings out creativity and resourcefulness in order to do more with less.


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One neat thing I've done is use the same mentality that I used when packing for a backpacking trip in Yosemite: I think about each little item and how necessary it is, and how all the little pieces ultimately add up in weight when put together.

I've really noticed how casual I had become about making small purchases of $10-$20.

And how all those have added up to way more than I realized over the months because I had neglected to think about the opportunity cost of these seemingly innocuous charges.

However, the beauty in all of this is that it’s not about demanding an ascetic lifestyle, but rather a conscious one that reflects your true desires.

Am I still going to go on weekend trips this summer to start surf lessons in Santa Cruz? Hell yeah!

But I am going to do this in a way that fits into my larger financial plan.

Doing what I love, but in an economical fashion that gives me the ability to build a savings cushion.

 

You sent me an awesome update last week. What has been the most helpful part about the course?

The Hidden Green, with its community of like-minded people and helpful resources, motivated me to turn over a new leaf. 

What I’ve realized through the course is that it’s important to think about what you really what out of life and to realize that it is entirely doable with hard work, knowledge, and dedication.

You only live once. So why waste your time here doing something you’re not truly passionate about?

What has been most impactful to me has been aligning my money management with my values and goals. 

And then being dedicated enough to actually make the necessary changes!

It’s about learning a new way to be and to feel satisfied doing it.

I’ve also learned that instead of thinking about a daunting end destination, I can think in smaller, achievable steps.

 

I also didn’t realize the psychological ramifications of how people deal with money.

The course has revealed to me how money management comes from an emotional standpoint based on ones values and personality.

It’s not just an objective numbers game, with those who are best at math in the lead.

The course has reinforced the idea that the ultimate goal in learning how to manage and invest money is freedom — the freedom to do what you want with the time you have.

It’s not in any way about lusting after money or accumulating so much that you wouldn’t know what to do with it.

We've really delved into the concept of what “Enough” means to you, and how to achieve the point of having Enough.

To reach this point, you must confront your emotional hang-ups, which is challenging, yet super rewarding.

It's really has shifted the way I think about executing my goals by teaching me that the more you know, the less you need.

And that mindset is crucial to achieving financial freedom.

 

That's awesome. You've really made a huge shift.

If you could talk to 23-year-old Claire, knowing what you know now, what advice would you give her?

I would tell myself don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and take risks.

Don’t put things on hold waiting for the perfect moment or situation to arise, because those often don’t exist; instead, just do it.

Too often in my life I have waited too long to do something, only for the opportune moment to pass by.

I would emphasize two key points:

1. That you are never too young or too old to start saving, and
2. That having a goal and positive mindset is not enough — you need to follow through.

Finally, I would tell myself to make sure you don’t live above your means, just because everyone else is doing it — buying on credit, not paying it back and drowning in debt.

People get complacent and think that this status quo is acceptable for themselves.

But I'd make sure I knew to break out of the mob mentality. To not be afraid to be different. 

Just be sure about what you are doing. And your confidence in your actions and choices will carry you through the difficult times.

So to my twenty-three-year-old self, I’d end my conversation by saying, “Go be a trailblazer, and carve your own path. Hopefully it will lead to some hidden green along the way.” ;)

 

What's next for you, Claire? Where do you want to go from here?

My goals are to stay present and to continue surrounding myself with people that help me realize my potential.

I’m going to keep working on improving my work-life balance and increasing my connection to the people and places that mean the most to me.

I hope to come to a place in my life where I can answer, “What do you do?” with confidence, enthusiasm, and passion.

I can’t wait to explore topics such as travel hacking, saving, and investing.

I want to always be able to examine my life with an open mind and determine how to keep evolving and improving.

A former coworker of mine wrote something recently that I could not have said any better myself regarding the concept of freedom, so I will leave you with it to ponder:

“There is always someone out there that has it way harder than you do, yet is still going way further. They are able to do this because of their positive attitude."

Take the plunge. Climb the mountain. Change the currents in your life.

Cloud's Rest.png
 

Don’t let the fear of failure keep you from the opportunities that can only bring you one step closer to where you want to be.

The world at our feet
The wind lifts us up
We have no limits.

~ Claire Neves


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