The Jedi Mind Trick That’s Making Your Most Spendy Friends Rich
Every adult I know has always told me, “Save your money, kid.” And for me it just never stuck. I literally never did it. I just kept spending.
But one day that all changed.
What was the answer? You’re not gonna believe me, but it’s true — adopting a mindset of spend more.
Check this out.
Here’s my net worth before and after using this mindset trick.
Can you tell where the mindset trick kicked in?
Right around when I had $500 to my name.
Also known as Rock Bottom — when I sold all my surfboards, my trumpet and my car to make rent and pay off an unexpected major tax bill.
But that’s for later in this story.
So how can you use this mindset trick to actually start saving money?
Come with me and I’ll teach you exactly that.
- Step 1: Dream Up Your Freedom Life
- Step 2: Buy Freedom With Each Dollar You Put In Your Savings
- Step 3: Put Your Savings On Cruise Control
- Step 4: Don’t Miss Out On Life’s Experiences
Saving Money Felt Like a Sacrifice — I Was Doing It Completely Wrong
Back in college my friends and I had this spot we’d always hang at — this super good, locally famous mexican food joint.
And back then I’d get on these “I’m trying to save money” kicks.
One day I’d buy the super burrito with guac, and other days I’d make the excuse, “I’m trying to save money.”
Every time I tried to save, I felt like I was missing out on enjoying my life.
And I hated that feeling.
So what’d I do?
What any right minded college kid would do — I bought that damn burrito... with GUAC YO!
I caved on saving money all the time.
And instead I bought whatever the hell I wanted.
I bought a car for $8,400 after the owner said he’d sell it for $8k even.
I bought a suit for exactly $1,271.45.
(I’ve worn it twice in 5 years.)
And I bought 29 carne asada nacho plates for random drunk people one college night.
We won’t get into the story behind that one…
The point here is: I knew how to spend money.
I tried to “save money,” but it just never happened.
My life looked a lot like this chart from Ramit’s killer article on how to save money.
And I didn’t see it coming then, but I was on the fast track to disaster.
Yep, I Hit Rock Bottom
Rock Bottom looks different to everyone.
For me it came a few months after graduation inside a CPA’s office.
It was John Bostwick’s white walled office to be exact.
You see, while in school I won over $100k in scholarships and awards to pay my way.
Mr. Bostwick, that day, was figuring out my taxes.
After clicking away on his keyboard John looked up and with the shine of the screen on his face said, “Ryland, It looks like you owe $6,752.”
My stomach dropped.
I had spent everything. To be honest with you, I had spent more than everything. And I didn’t even know where it went.
I wasn’t raised like that.
I was raised to live within my means, to appreciate the small things by two beautiful parents in a lower-middle class home.
And there I sat, clueless as to how I had spent over $130,000 in four years. And scared because I had nothing left to pay that debt.
I left the office that day in tears, but knowing I needed to make a change.
My wonderful dad had always told me, “You never want to go into debt. Seriously, Ryland, if it ever happens, do whatever it takes.”
That voice was whispering over and over in my head.
And so over the next few days I sold my car. I sold all my surfboards. And I sold my beloved professional trumpet to pay off the debt immediately and cover my next few months of rent.
But my problems weren’t gone.
I had just graduated school and didn’t yet have an income.
All I knew was I need to figure out how to make money work for me — I need to figure out how to save.
The Math PhD Dad and His Spreadsheet
A few days into this new journey one of my best friends gave me a spreadsheet.
“Oh great… a spreadsheet.” You’re probably thinking.
But just wait.
It’s gonna blow your mind.
It was one his dad (a mathematics PhD) had given him named, Imagining Investment Portfolio Growth, One Ingredient for a Great Life.
Here’s the exact email. Pardon that one word in there…
You want to see it?
Of course. Here it is. Download it and use it yourself.
What I saw inside that sheet amazed me.
It all becomes easy when money works for you. Like stupid easy.
Here’s the first numbers I saw:
Invest $12k/yr from 25 to 65, end up with $4,054,589!
That’s the one that really caught my eye.
It seemed possible.
All I had to do was put away $1k per month, and I’d end up somewhere in the $4M ballpark.
That was insanely eye opening to see.
Here’s how to use the spreadsheet:
(Note: No matter how carefully you type numbers into any spreadsheet, including this one, they’re not going to match your real life.
Rather, the point is to find assumptions you like and then fight to make those assumptions come true.)
So what happened after seeing that $4M was possible?
Like anyone, I started to dream.
Dreaming Up My Freedom-Life
Right then and there, my mind went crazy.
I remember thinking,
“If I accomplished anything remotely close to $4M in my life I could totally…
- Travel the world!
- Wake up on Monday and work on projects I loved rather than be stuck at a job dependent on a paycheck.
- Have a sense of security and peace of mind if a big expense ever hit.”
I could have freedom!
Step 1: Dream Up Your Freedom Life
If you knew you were on track to end up with $4M by the time you were 65, how would you live your life different today?
Here’s some examples from people I’ve coached:
- Own a plot of land with a house, a garden and maybe some small livestock
- Explore 2-3 new places every year and stay part of the live music/festival scene
- Take a sabbatical to volunteer abroad without feeling irresponsible money-wise
- Feel secure that if my car broke down I wouldn’t go into debt over it
- Start up a freedom based business with a decent cushion in place
Think up your own! And write them down.
Seriously, getting excited about your dream life is part of bring it to fruition.
And also know that what you write down today may not be the same in 5 years or even 6 months. But that’s not the point.
The point is taking the action of dreaming up your awesome life.
So loosen up and just write what comes to mind!
Once you have something you’re stoked on, that’s what you’ll get when you start buying freedom.
Anyways… back to the story.
I was hitting a problem — to turn those dreams into reality I had to save that $1k/mo.
And before, that was where my dream would have broken down.
But not this time…
29-plate nacho-boy had a plan.
The Mindset Trick Working It’s Magic
The first thing I did was go off and get a post-college job.
You know, the kind of job that would make your mom and dad proud.
(If you need help there, here’s a killer article on how to land your dream job.)
I then went off and read countless personal finance books, blogs, news columns, etc. and heard the same grey-hair, shirt-tucked-in, suit-and-tie saying over and over again.
And they’re right.
Actually that guy above is a total legend, and his quote is on point.
But thinking of it that way just wasn’t me.
What was me was my dream of freedom and spending.
And that’s when it hit…
I needed to spend on freedom.
That was it — each time money went into my savings I was buying freedom.
Before I had seen saving as:
And after I saw saving as:
Buying $100 of Freedom
The same thing happened in both ($100 went into my savings account), but now I could see myself doing it because it aligned with my habits and had purpose — enabling my freedom dreams.
Step 2: Buy Freedom With Each Dollar Your Put In Your Savings
Think about it like this...
Each time your money moves, it's a transaction.
Pay for new kicks? Pay your friend back for ? Transfer money to your savings?
They're all transactions.
Think about it like having two cash registers.
You buy all your normal life stuff with one collective cash register. This is what that looks like.
With your new mental model you add in a second cash register where you can buy freedom. This is what that looks like.
You can buy freedom at this cash register anytime. The purchase happens when you transfer money into your savings account.
Spending money on freedom was the same thing as buying my dream life.
The more freedom I could buy the more confident I could be to live out my dreams — long term travel, working on projects I love on Mondays and simply having peace of mind with my finances.
So what did I do?
I started buying my dream life one paycheck at a time.
Where did that get me?
‘Spending on Freedom’ Has Let Me Live Out Those Dreams
After four years of adopting this mindset, I was able to leave work for 5+ months to caretake a surf resort in Indonesia and road trip the Western US with my girlfriend without a worry about money.
Yeah, James Corden, we got really, really good at carpool karaoke.
And now I own my creativity on Mondays, and have complete peace of mind with my finances.
If you want to buy this kind of freedom too, it is insanely possible with minimal focus on your finances.
Here’s likely the most important change I implemented.
Step 3: Put Your Freedom Purchasing On Cruise Control
The coolest part about purchasing freedom is it totally comes packaged like a Amazon Prime monthly subscription.
In other words, you can just automate it so it happens every month.
If you want to become a Freedom Prime member, you can pick the cost and here’s exactly how to do it.
I automated my finances on day 1.
And each month that I forgot to cancel my Prime membership, my dream life came closer and closer to reality.
But my journey wasn’t all cupcakes and rainbows.
Mistakes I Made Along The Way
So I saved $87k.
And I did that in just over 3 years.
But doing it at that speed caused me life-paralysis at times when my coworkers and friends were living out amazing experiences.
To be honest, I was just like what Ramit pointed out about this dude on Reddit:
But I like to think I woke up sooner.
(Personal note: Thank my awesome girlfriend for waking me up.)
Even so, that time wasn’t cool.
Looking back if I had taken part in those awesome experiences I would have only saved $87k, $50k, whatever…
That may be less money, but I would have enjoyed my everyday life more, and I still would have ended up with a secure, financially solid future.
The point here is money alone doesn’t matter.
What matters is that your finances give you the confidence to leave any situation that doesn’t serve you and replace it with one that does.
Spending on freedom every month does exactly that.
Step 4: Don’t Miss Out On Life’s Experiences
So look, you can ramp your Freedom Prime membership up to 30%, 50%, 75% of your income if you want.
Frankly I don’t care how much you put towards it.
What I do care though is that the amount you spend on freedom doesn’t steal your ability to enjoy the present nor, at the same time, keep you from living out your future dreams.
For some this may be 10% of their income. For others it could be 50%.
Your goal is to find the point at which you never feel guilty about spending money nor disappointed about your financial future.
You want to be happy in the present and on a clear path to a stress-free, happy life.
That’s the number to aim for.
And one last thing…
You should know your number (aka the percent of your income you’ll spend on freedom) is probably going to change.
Just pick one for now, start up your automated subscription and feel it out for 1-2 months.
Then, if need be, jump back into your Prime account and change your subscription price to whatever feels best (you won’t even be charged a fee ;) ).
If I were to go back in time, I’d have focused more on the big wins.
And the burritos and guac on a Saturday night with friends… I’d just go do it.
But this time, I’d probably just get one. ;)
Thanks for reading, and I hope this gets you amped to save money and started on the path to stress free finances.
P.S. — Does the mindset trick of “buying freedom” help you want to save each month? Let me know how it feels to you in the comments below.
Ryland is a writer, outdoorsman and surfer. He's also the founder of The Hidden Green, which helps you get your financial life in order so you can spend more time doing what you love. You can take The Hidden Green’s FREE 9 lesson course — Start Saving Money or reach out to Ryland at firstname.lastname@example.org.